The Fale Iupeli at the Congregational Christian Church headquarters at Malua
By Lagi Keresoma
APIA, SAMOA – TUESDAY 23 JANUARY 2018: The Congregational Christian Church of Samoa (CCCS) is calling on its church ministers to boycott paying taxes under the recently passed law now taxing all church ministers.
The issue was raised by Member of Parliament for Gagaifomauga No.3, Laaulialemalietoa Leuatea Polataivao to delay executing the law until the CCCS annual conference in May 2018.
The MP told Parliament that despite the law being passed last year, it was only last Sunday where a letter from the General Assembly of the Congregational Christian Church was discussed that asked to boycott the law.
He informed Parliament today that CCCS Elders wish to address this matter in their upcoming General Assembly in May 2018 and he asked Government to give the church more time.
The Speaker Toleafoa Faafisi told the former Cabinet Minister that the law has been debated and discussed and that he was present during the debate and he did not voice or speak against the law.
Laauli however clarified that he did not speak out at the time as the Minister in charge of the law assured government and parliament that everything has been agreed to.
“But that is not the case. There is dissent out there,” he said. He also said it was difficult for the church ministers to decide where to stand especially when the mother church gives a direction as they are answerable to the church.
The Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi confirmed in Parliament today that he also received the same letter from the church. But the law was passed in June 2017 with intention to execute it this month, and he believed six months delay for the law to be executed was ample time for the church to discuss whatever was needed to be addressed.
He also explained that only the church minister is answerable under the law and the church members.
Tuilaepa also said that there are church ministers who have been paying taxes for some time.
“If church ministers do not pay tax, then the penalty falls on their heads, because this is not a burden for the church but for church ministers only,” said Tuilaepa.
Parliament Speaker Toleafoa Fa’afisi intervened and pointed out to Laauli that the law has already been passed.
Tuilaepa wanted to know if Laauli was wearing his political hat or that of a deacon.
“This is the wish of all church ministers in my constituency and I must obey them by relaying to Parliament their wish,” said La’auli.
Laauli said that man make laws and man change laws, and calls on Government to consider an extension for the church.
Tuilaepa however insisted that the time for extension was over.
He also encouraged the CCCS General Secretary that he said was a former ‘professor’ at the National University of Samoa, to use his expertise as a professor to explain and clarify to the Elders of the Church what the law says.