Ban on Samoan in Brisbane Mormon churches confirmed
by Alan Ah Mu
APIA: FRIDAY 9 AUGUST 2013: Use of Samoan in worship services was several years ago banned by the Mormon Church in Brisbane, Australia.
It followed administrative changes prompted by shifts in membership numbers in certain wards of the church.
As a result Kingston, Woodridge, Ipswich Second, Goodna and Moreton, described as “Samoan speaking wards” – where worship services were conducted in the Samoan language – were discontinued.
Wards are formed into stakes.
Further, English was to be the sole language for worship though for those fluent only in Samoan, translation was available.
To discontinue the wards was a recommendation made by a Church subcommittee made about 2005, because apart from the need to restructure existing stakes and create an eighth stake, many of the Samoan youth who attended these wards were unable to speak Samoan.
Samoan church members of the wards affected in Brisbane took their Church to court over the language issue.
It is the court ruling over the matter, delivered November last year, which provides background information of what took place.
The media affairs section of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints or Mormons here are unaware of the details of events in Australia.
“But I’m in the process of trying to find out,” Assistant Director, Responsible for Media Relations, Tupuola George Hunt, said today.
“But once I’m in a position to put out anything I’ll let you know,” Tupuola said.
Reporters surprised him when they raised the issue with him yesterday.
Tupuola said the only thing he caught in a brief look at the television yesterday morning was lawyer Leulua’iali’i Olinda Woodroffe – who the Mormon Samoans in Brisbane have hired – saying the Mormon Church had banned Samoan from being spoken and taught.
That was incorrect, he told reporters.
But he’d asked them not to report that comment until research into the matter was done – and after he was authorised to speak on behalf of the Church.
But back to the details of the dispute between the Brisbane Mormon Samoans and their Church – as contained in the court ruling of the case that followed:
“In August 2007 members of the Brisbane Australian Logan Stake and Eight Mile Plains Stake were advised that the recommendations of the sub-committee had been accepted, and in March 2008, members of the Ipswich Australia Stake were advised that the recommendations relating to their stake had been accepted.”
“Following the decision to cease the Samoan language wards, however, the ability to continue to worship as a group in the Samoan language was removed in each ward. Announcements were made that the applicants were no longer allowed to use any language other than English, and could no longer use the Samoan language to pray, sing or testify.
“Mr. Willoughby, a bishop on the Church expressly accepted that he told his congregation that the Samoan language was no longer allowed to be used in services, and that all services were to be conducted in English. Mr Willoughby also accepted that he wards to be English speaking and any Samoan conducting a service should use English or have the Samoan language translated into English. As he said in his affidavit, those who were those who were challenged in using the English language would use their own language, but were to be invited to “give talks in sacrament meeting with the assistance of a translator.”
Two sets of Mormon Samoans filed legal action against their Church but their complaint was the same: their right, to pray, and sing as one, in their Church, in their native language had been denied.
The court agreed with the Mormon Church that “the provision of public worship services, meetings, preaching, teaching, hymn singing and prayer in the applicants’ Samoan language does not constitute a human right ….”
The Court says “The applicants’ freedom to freely practice their religion has not been the subject of any interference. The applicants (Brisbane Samoans) are not prevented from attending any service offered by the Church. They remain at liberty to manifest their beliefs in practice.
“I accept,” says the Judge, “the respondent’s argument that the applicants’ desire to have services provided by the Church in their native Samoan language must be balanced against other competing rights and values such as:
“a). the lights (sic) of those who not who do not understand the Samoan language to worship;
“b) the rights of the Church to offer religious services in a way that best accords with its aims, doctrines and teachings.”
The court decision is printed in full below.