Article 14 of Liberia’s current Constitution, the 1986 Constitution states: “… No religious denomination or sect shall have any exclusive privilege or preference over any other, but all shall be treated alike … Consistent with the principle of separation of religion and state, the Republic shall establish no state religion.”
This provision makes Liberia a secular state. Liberia is not a Christian state, not a Moslem state, not a Jewish state, not a Buddhist state or some other religious state. In short, Liberia, as a political entity, has no specific religion.
However, information reaching our Issues Desk indicates that some group of Liberians, led by certain leaders of the Christian Community, have vowed to launch a campaign geared toward de-secularizing Liberia; in other words, they want Liberia to be declared a “Christian Nation.”
They are seeking about one million signatures from like-minded individuals to strengthen their position and change Article 14 of the current Constitution so that it can read something like this: “Liberia is a Christian nation, although other religions will be accommodated and tolerated.”
The proponents of this idea say that the campaign to legalize gay marriage in the country has reinforced their resolve to launch the campaign. Others say this is not a Moslem country, but the Moslems are acting “frisky.”
This is a new development, and it seems to be gaining traction, as many professed Christians and anti-Moslem figures join the crusade.
Behind the Christian-Nation Campaigners’ Move
Those campaigning to give Liberia a state religion proffer a few arguments which they reason warrant declaring Liberia a Christian nation, and three of which are given below, with comments:
1. They argue that those who established the nation were Christians and, by virtue of that, it suggests that Liberia was a Christian nation.
Comments: It is true that the pioneers who came to Liberia – or nearly all of them – were Christians.
In fact, Mr. Findley who established the American Colonization Society that sponsored the return of the freed slaves to Liberia was a Presbyterian clergyman. It’s no wonder that the nation’s capital was originally called “Christopolis,” meaning, “the City of Christ.”
That said, it has to be borne in mind that Liberia being founded by Christians does not necessarily mean that those Christians declared it a Christian nation. There are no documents – at least not to our knowledge – that indicate that the officially declared religion of the new state was Christianity.
The 1847 Constitution does not even mention anything about Liberia being a Christian state or about the state religion being Christianity, as they themselves, although Christians didn’t even want Liberia to have a state church.
Article 1 Section 3 of the 1847 Constitution says: “All men have a natural and inalienable right to worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences …all persons … are entitled to the protection of law, in the free exercise of their own religion; and no sect of Christians shall have exclusive privileges or preference, over any other sect; but all shall be alike tolerated…”
But, even if the 1847 Constitution contains “Liberia is a Christian nation,” does that mean that we, in this age and time, should embrace it? Doesn’t the same 1847 Constitution exclude the natives from the citizenry, saying “We the people of the Republic of Liberia were originally the inhabitants of the United States of North America”?
Should we accept this provision and return to it, all because it is found in the Constitution? Man evolves, and because man evolves, society evolves. And the evolution springs from various variables giving rise to new laws and policies, all aimed at helping the state, as the 1847 Constitution says, to promote “unity, liberty, peace, stability, equality, justice and human rights under the rule of law, with opportunities for political, social, moral, spiritual and cultural advancement of our society, for ourselves and for our posterity.”
Let’s not forget, also, that, although America was built on Christian principles – or at least established by Christians – it doesn’t have a state religion; it is a secular nation because the people realize that America’s citizenry comprises Moslems, Christians, Jews, other religious groups and non-believers, including atheists. That makes America a free society – for all – although many Christians dislike, or have resentment against, members of other religions, especially Moslems.
2. They also contend that Liberia was founded on Christian principles, that the nation has drifted from those principles and that there is a need for it to be spiritually resuscitated; simply stated, they want Liberia to be returned to the Christian principles upon which it was established and, returning it to those principles means declaring Liberia a Christian nation.
Comments: This particular argument would be hilarious, if it didn’t come from some of those considered to know better in our society, especially Christian leaders. They say it as if declaring Liberia a Christian nation would translate to the people of Liberian being godly and morally upright. Will declaring Liberia a Christian nation prevent pastors and bishops and other church leaders from stealing church money or from enriching themselves on the church’s funds? Will it stop pastors and preachers and others from loving to the members of their church, as well as in their communities? Will it stop the church leaders and members from continuously backbiting, envying and fighting over positions and titles? Will it stop or minimize fornication and adultery in our society?
Will it stop priests who say they cannot get married from secretly having sex outside and bearing children in the process? Will it end violence in our society? Will it cause government to be corrupt-free? Will it cause journalists not to receive money from people just to blackmail others? Will this cause the Legislature to be a morally clean place? Will it cause the Executive to be transparent, and for the Judiciary to always dispense justice fairly? Will declaring Liberia a Christian nation cause all Christians to live the life of a true Christian? Funny!
We human beings have always been funny creatures, and we never stop indicating that we are funny creatures. Vigorously campaigning to declare Liberia a Christian country because it was built on Christian principles, as if that declaration would make Liberia a highly moral society, is like saying that changing “Zaire” to “the Democratic Republic of Congo” would make the country democratic or would make its citizens to respect democratic principles. Funny!
If Liberia has drifted away from the Christian principles upon which it was founded, have these Christian leaders asked themselves, “Why”? What caused the Christian principles and teachings to be ignored? The presence of Moslems? The campaign to legalize gay marriage? The presence of UNMIL and, before it, ECOMOG?
Hasn’t the church failed the nation spiritually and morally? Some individuals relish blaming others for their failure, and it’s clear most of those behind this Liberia-should-be-declared-a-Christian-nation campaign want to blame others for the dismal performance of the church over the years. Maybe the nation has drifted away because the church is not doing its job properly. And if the church leaders behind this campaign think declaring Liberia a Christian nation will do the job for them, then it shows how detached they are from reality. Most of them enter the church sector for their bellies. They are materialistic. Their words and deeds are ungodly, unchristian and immoral. Many non-Christians and non-believers are by far better morally than most of the so-called men and women of God mounting pulpits Sunday mornings, teaching Bible classes regularly and singing “praises to the Lord.” Their hypocrisy is seen and known by almost all, yet they want us to believe that by declaring Liberia a Christian nation will spiritually transform the nation. What nonsense!
Instead of demanding that Liberia be declared a Christian nation, let the church and its leaders return to the Christian principles set out in the Bible. There is too much division in the church. Too many church leaders engage in promiscuity. Many of them involved in black magic to control the church and its resources. It is the church and its leaders and members that should return to the Christian principles. Let us stop the rampant sexual sin going on among Christians. When that happens, the nation will follow, as most of those in the society are Christians. It is the church that should influence society, not the other way round; hence, let returning to the Christian principles mentioned start with the church and its leaders and members.
Let returning to “the Christian principles” begin with the Christians, that is, in their lives. Most of our corrupt and wicked leaders have all been Christians. Most of our police officers, immigration officers, soldiers and other security officers are Christians. Our corrupt and immoral ministers, deputy ministers, assistant ministers, managing directors, presidents, vice presidents, legislators, judges and so forth, have all been Christians. Most of our journalists are Christians, actively participating in their various churches. Let the church make these people return to “the Christian principles” talked about. If they think God is stupid, they deceive themselves.
Sadly, too, those quick to talk about Liberia being “founded on Christian principles” have miserably failed to identify what those Christian principles are, and how they were lived or observed by the Americo-Liberians who founded the country. Is seems they are only interested in uttering the quite meaningless expression “Liberia was founded on Christian principles.”
3. Those behind the campaign also argue that Liberia should officially and constitutionally be declared a Christian nation because there are more Christians than Moslems in Liberia.
Comments: It is true that there are more Christians than Moslems, for, according to some 2011 information gleaned from the US State Department, the population of Liberian is about 3,786,000. The same State Department information says that Christians make up 3,218,100 (about 85%), Muslims are 454,320 (about 12%), and the figure of all other religious groups combined is placed at 56,790 (1.5%). Meanwhile, the number of Liberians with no religions is also at 56,790 (about 1.5%).
That said, to argue that Liberia should be declared a Christian nation because there are more Christian than Moslems is like saying that America should be declared a “White nation” because there are more Whites. And when it changes hands one day, and there are more Blacks, then it should be declared a “Black nation.” If there are more Lorma people in Lofa, then the county should be declared “Lorma country.” If there are more Gola citizens in Gbarpolu, then the county should be declared “Gola county.” Isn’t this hilarious in our time?
The Campaign – A Very Bad Move
We live in peace in our country. There are no seriously continuously violent engagements between Moslems and Christians in this nation. It is not like in Nigeria or other countries that we hear about. In view of this, why seek something that has the propensity to brew trouble and disunity, when we are all talking about reconciliation? This idea is anti-reconciliatory. What do individuals pushing such an idea at this stage of our nation’s existence and history hope to achieve? Those behind this may not know, but they are fermenting problems for our nation.
Also, this move is a sign of intolerance and hatred. I have heard some say, “This is our country; this is not their (Moslems’) land.” And all those making such a statement are Christians, people quick to talk about returning to the “Christian principles.” Yes, that’s what people who live by “Christian principles” say about God’s other creatures. It is pathetic, especially when such remarks come from people who one expects to know and do better.
Instead of vaingloriously wanting to be considered as the religious leaders who fought for Liberia to be declared a Christian nation, we would expect the church and its leaders and members to live a real Christ-like life. Second, let them vigorously evangelize the land. Third, if they feel that wickedness has increased, we want them to pray for the nation, asking God to send the power of the Holy Spirit to prick the hearts of sinners so that they can repent and return to God.
To conclude, a passage from the Preamble of the !986 Liberian Constitution will be cited: “Having resolved to live in harmony, to practice fraternal love, tolerance and understanding as a people and being fully mindful of our obligation to promote African unity and international peace and cooperation.”
Believe me, my people. We will never stop following the issues.