A recent bill introduced in the Liberian Senate, seeking national holidays for Ramadan and Ibrahim Day – to major Islamic celebrations observed around the world, continue to suffer public criticisms.
Nimba County Senator Prince Y. Johnson, is the crafter of the bill, but immediately after it was introduced, people from Senator Johnson’s county, condemned the move. Now a prelate of the Bethel World Outreach Ministry has termed the bill as ‘harmful’, arguing that legislating such law will violate the Constitution of Liberia.
Pastor David Benitoe told a news conference at the Winner’s Chapel-Liberia edifice in Monrovia that for the bill to be accepted by the senate is worrisome, noting it is, in totality, a gross violation of the organic law of the land.
He did not cite any specific reference to substantiate his argument, but asserted that if Senator Johnson meant well, he should seek for a national referendum to amend the constitution which states that Liberia is a secular state otherwise; the bill, he added, is in gross violation of the constitution.
Article 14 of Chapter Three (III) of the Constitution of Liberia under the title Fundamental Rights states: All persons shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion and no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment thereof except as may be required by law to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others. All persons, who, in the practice of their religion, conduct themselves peaceably, not obstructing others and conforming to the standards set out herein, shall be entitled to the protection of the law. No religious denomination or sect shall have any exclusive privilege or preference over any other, but all shall be treated alike; and no religious tests shall be required for any civil or military office or for the exercise of any civil right. Consistent with the principle of separation of religion and state, the Republic shall establish no state religion.
Pastor Benitoe reminded that Liberia is a secular state, and that no religion within the Republic shall have dominance over other religions. He then wondered if Senator Johnson, who is a lawmaker, understands the law he’s making or his current campaign is only aimed at seeking political relevance at the expense of other religious groupings here.
The Bethel World Outreach Ministry pastor challenged Senator Johnson to show any legislation that gives holiday to Christians or any religious group in the country, adding “This would a bad precedent because tomorrow, other religions will want their major event days to be declared national holidays. This will create unnecessary tension for our young democracy and for a country we all are praying for.”
He noted that the quest for Islamic holidays is only intended for the senator to amass Islamic votes in the impending 2017 Presidential and Representatives Elections, which he is expected to contest as a presidential candidate.
Senator Johnson, who came third in the 2011 Presidential elections, has since announced his quest for the presidency, and has already established a new party- Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction or MDR.
“I consider the bill as mere political interest and more to that, harmful and dangerous for us as country and people; interestingly, why would a lawmaker, who we consider to be in the know of the law, want to violate it for no reason; is that he does not understand the law or just for votes from our brothers in the Islamic faith?”, he asked.
Meanwhile, Pastor Benitoe has announced in collaboration with the Association of Progressive Youth of Liberia and in partnership with Winner’s Chapel International-Liberia the launch on Monday an Anti-drug abuse and awareness campaign.
Also speaking at the news conference, the senior Pastor of Winner’s Chapel-Liberia Johnson Audu, noted that use of illicit drugs is eating up the human resource fabrics of Liberia and warned if nothing were done; Liberia may suffer a serious brain drain.
He stressed that the Liberia is losing its future to illicit drugs, so it should be the full responsibility of every Liberian to help in combatting dangerous drugs.
-Editing by Jonathan Browne