In recent days, we’ve seen the reemergence of a “Christian State Campaign” by some group of people calling for the imposition of Christianity as the state religion of the Republic of Liberia against several provisions of our organic law of 1986 and its preamble. Those unpatriotic and un-nationalistic group of people are attempting to justify their anti-peace and divisive demand through the misconception of CHAPTER XII articles 91 and 92 subtitled, “AMENDMENTS, which read Article 91: “This Constitution may be amended whenever a proposal by either (1) two-thirds of the membership of both Houses of the Legislature or (2) a petition submitted to the Legislature, by not fewer than 10,000 citizens which receives the concurrence of two-thirds of the membership of both Houses of the Legislature, is ratified by two-thirds of the registered voters, voting in a referendum conducted by the Elections Commission not sooner than one year after the action of the Legislature.”
And Article 92 “Proposed constitutional amendments shall be accompanied by statements setting forth the reasons therefor and shall be published in the Official Gazette and made known to the people through the information services of the Republic. If more than one proposed amendment is to be voted upon in a referendum they shall be submitted in such manner that the people may vote for or against them separately.”
In order to understand Chapter XII articles 91 and 92 of the 1986 Constitution, one must understand the Preamble of the 1986 Constitution and several of its provisions. We will be coming later to explain articles 91 and 92 two of the 1986 constitution thereby serving as the mirror to reflect their true meanings on the minds of our brothers and sisters who are engaged in this oppressive campaign that they do not understand.
We will begin with the preamble of the 1986 Constitution and because of time factor, we will only be discussing those very important lines or phrases that are more relevant to this discussion. The preamble of the 1986 constitution reads, “We the People of the Republic of Liberia:
Acknowledging our devout gratitude to God for our existence as a Free, Sovereign and Independent State, and relying on His Divine Guidance for our survival as a Nation; Realizing from many experiences during the course of our national existence which culminated in the Revolution of April 12, 1980, when our Constitution of July 26, 1847 was suspended, that all of our people, irrespective of history, tradition, creed, or ethnic background are of one common body politic; Exercising our natural, inherent and inalienable rights to establish a framework of government for the purpose of promoting 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; and
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, Do hereby solemnly make, establish, proclaim, and publish this Constitution for the governance of the Republic of Liberia.”
Let me begin from the top to the bottom. The first paragraph of this preamble is an acknowledgement to God from the Liberian people (including Muslims, Christians, Traditional believers, Bahais, Buddhists etc., market women, the 16 tribes including the Americo -Liberians, government officials, business community, and you name the rest) first, for their existence and second, for their survival. Why existence and survival? One must be in existence before he or she can survive and this also applies to a country and its people.
Survival from what?
Again, this brings us to paragraphs two and three of the preamble which read, “ Realizing from many experiences during the course of our national existence which culminated in the Revolution of April 12, 1980, when our Constitution of July 26, 1847 was suspended, that all of our people, irrespective of history, tradition, creed, or ethnic background are of one common body politic; Exercising our natural, inherent and inalienable rights to establish a framework of government for the purpose of promoting 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; and” These two paragraphs explain from WHAT Liberians survived and for which they are thanking God and as a result, this constitution and its preamble were written. The “Many experiences during the course of our national existence (from 1847) which culminated in the Revolution of April 12, 1980” is referring to the same practice our brother are trying to bring back.
Those experiences included but not limited to dominance by one religion, taxation without representation, corruption, nepotism and other divisive practices. Let Liberians be warned that of all those practices or experiences listed above, religion is the most explosive and uncontrollable one!!!
“The exercising our natural, inherent and inalienable rights” is referring to our rights to worship a religion of our choice, our right to belong to a tribe, our right to be treated equally as other citizens, our rights to self-defense, have families, to live happy lives and etc. What happens when those rights are taken away? One loses his morale as a human being and begins to choose alternatives to confront those who took those rights. By natural rights, we mean rights that were given by God and only He should take those rights, not human beings. By, inherent rights, we mean rights that are intrinsic or inseparable from their bearers and by inalienable rights, we mean rights that cannot be transferred from one person to another. Declaring Liberia a Christian state will be taking or transferring those rights from Liberians of other religions to those of Christianity. Those were the rights that were taken away from a huge chunk of the Liberian people from 1822 and in April of 1980, they demanded those rights in a very violent coup. So, it is abundantly clear that when those rights are taken away, the result is trouble!!
I think Liberians should think above that. Those rights are not meant to be taken away. When those rights are taken away, then the “purpose of promoting 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” portion or element has been stolen. Who is in Liberian today that doesn’t believe that those elements are vital to the survival of Liberia? Should we change this section of the preamble to “for the purpose of NOT promoting 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”? Then what kind of people are we?
Paragraph four continues, that as the results of these injustices which cannot go unchallenged especially with violence or chaos thereby erasing all of what we as Liberians have worked for and by putting us behind countries that we started breathing before, as, “having resolved” which means in this context “decided” 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,”. In the absence of us deciding to live in harmony to practice fraternal love, tolerance and peace, we have chosen violent and chaos. I don’t think our international partners who have invested so much in Liberia would like to see this.
Another area that I want to look at is article 14 of the Liberian Constitution which reads, “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.”
Are the Campaigners for Christianity as the state religion of Liberia arguing that no other group of Liberians other than Christians should be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and that of religion and that even if Liberians from other religions conduct themselves peaceably in the practice of their beliefs or religions will not get equal protections as their Christian counterparts even if they do not obstruct anybody? Is this different from a satanic and a violent campaign? Are they saying that Muslims and other non-Christians will be subjected to taking test in Christian Religious Knowledge (CRK) in order to get to public offices? Then what’s the essence of being citizens? Where is the fraternal love, peace, Unity and tolerance that our constitution is about as enshrined in our preamble? Where are their senses of patriotism and nationalism?
Finally, I wouldn’t like to end this debate without tearing through the main articles (91 and 92) that those religious extremists have misconstrued as a result of their lack of love for Liberia and its future. When it is said that one has the right to make changes to the constitution, that doesn’t mean that he or she must use that opportunity to undermine the existence of that constitution and the survival of the people that constitution seeks to protect. The constitution of Liberia or any other country exists to protect the natural, inherent and inalienable rights of its citizens. When the constitution seizes or fails to protect those rights, then it is abrogated! There is no constitution!!! The constitution of Liberia was written to promote unity, peace and stability through fraternal love, tolerance under the rule of law with opportunities for political, social, moral, spiritual and cultural advancement of our society, for ourselves and for our posterity. So, from the preamble to the end of the constitution, the main ideas are peace, unity, stability and tolerance against which a religious state is opposed.
Article 5 of the United States Constitution subtitled Amendment reads, “The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.”
Does that means that when Republicans or Democrats believe that they can get two-thirds through both Houses of Congress or through the states, that they should call for a constitutional amendment to make the United States a Democratic or a Republican Nation? No, because it is the natural, inherent and inalienable rights of other citizens to be equally treated under the laws as their Democratic and Republican Counter-parts. Even the United States Constitution talks about separation of states and religion and this is why no religion will ever attempt to establish itself as a state religion despite the US being a predominantly Christian nation.
The same applies to Liberia. CDC or the Unity party should not petition the National Legislature on a constitutional referendum to make Liberia a one party state under a CDC or a Unity Party Government because there are articles which give each party the right to call for amendments. This is because, said party will be violating the natural, inherent and inalienable rights of other citizens and partisans from other parties. The same applies to religions.
To conclude, it is totally disappointing and shameful that after more than 150 years in existence, we as Liberians have not decided as to the kind of country and future we want for prosperity .The rest of the world is watching and not waiting for us and God too is not waiting for us. Every day that passes by is lost forever. We need to be serious and focus on nation building so that we can catch up with or pass by all of those nations that went ahead of us as a result of the 14 years of war. We need a nation that will promote peace, unity and stability through fraternal love and tolerance as enshrined in our constitution, not the one that will see brothers killing brothers and later taking us back to the drawing table. With that said, I am calling on all truthful, patriotic and nationalistic Liberians to stand up against those agents of destruction and confusion and say no to their divisive and war-mongering campaign.
I am also calling on members of the National Legislature to throw the Christian State campaign petition out of the window as it undermines our constitution and our existence as a nation and people. It threatens every plan we have for prosperity. The Government of Liberia must also respect article 10 of the 1986 constitution which talks about the teaching and disseminations of the constitution by inculcating its teachings in the national curriculum for every school throughout the length and berth of Liberia as stated is said article. Focuses or efforts should also be made to teach Liberian histories in all of our schools. These are some of the issues that are causing all of these power struggles. The failure of central government too to put more efforts is reconciliation is also another factor. This campaign by some Liberians to Christianize Liberia is evidence of the fact that some people still have bitterness against their fellow citizens as a result of all the war. We need reconciliation now!!
Long live peace in Liberia, Long live our Religious communities in harmony, Lon Live Liberia
Thank you all!!
Manyou MAS Bility
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