Grand Cape Mount Senator H. Varney Sherman has described Liberia as a country that has been, since its beginning, “very tolerant about individuals’ religious beliefs. There is, therefore, no need to ignite any fire in the country by placing in the Constitution that Liberia is a Christian state,” he declared emphatically.
“One thing we ought not to do is to ignite any fire in our country; one thing we ought not to do is to give a certain group of people in our country the suspicion that we are little by little creating a situation where one day we will discriminate against them; we shouldn’t do that.”
Cllr. Sherman made the statement yesterday at his Capitol Building offices when he hosted Daily Observer’s Legislative reporters and Senior Staff for an exclusive interview.
“I don’t know how we are thinking about that (a Christian State) in 2015, honestly; to gain what? This is one country in my mind that is very tolerant about what your beliefs are, and we need to keep it that way.”
Senator Sherman, who is Christian and a practicing Episcopalian who hails from a predominantly Muslim county, wondered whether Christian state advocates believe that if it were placed in the Constitution that Liberia is a Christian state the Pope would take half of the resources of the Vatican and contribute them to Liberia; “or the United States government will say now that Liberia is a Christian state, this is what we will do for them that we haven’t done before?”
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, who spoke on the Christian state issue for the first time, said if the question did not come up during the interview with this newspaper, he would not have commented on it until it was brought before the Senate. “Nothing,” he cautioned, “goes to referendum unless there is a law passed in this chamber. “We don’t need that—a Christian state!”
Speaking about the Constitution that declared Liberia an independent state in 1847, Senator Sherman clarified that the circumstances of 1847 or before then are significantly different from now. He referenced a part of the present Constitution which provides that there should be no state religion; that the government shall not support any religion in preference to another religion.
He further reflected that the 1847 Constitution did not say Liberia was a Christian state, but rather stated that “we have been endowed by certain inalienable rights, blessed by God Almighty.”
Senator Sherman, who is chairman of the ruling Unity Party, further reflected that even the framers of Liberian Constitution of 1847 crafted it as similar to that of the United States Constitution, which guarantees freedom of thought, conscience and of religion. It did not say that Liberia was a Christian state. “Professor Samuel Greenleaf of Harvard University who drafted the 1847 Constitution,” recalled Counselor Sherman, “did not talk about that; why are we thinking about something like that in 2015, especially given our most recent past?”
Liberia, he emphasized, must never think about going back to its most recent past when certain tribes were linked with certain warring factions and religions.
The Grand Cape Mount lawmaker said Liberians need to remember the past, and reflect on those things that were responsible for the more than fourteen years of conflict. He declared that it was time to do away with the negatives of the past and put on a progressive posture. “So I won’t support anything that says Liberia is a Christian state; I won’t support it if it says Liberia should be an Islamic state.”
Senator Sherman recalled how during his campaigning in his Muslim-dominated Grand Cape Mount County, some people expressed fear that electing him would give the county two Christian Senators, after Senator Edward Boakai Dagoseh.
Today, Senator Sherman noted, the county has five Legislators—four are Christians and one is Muslim, even though the county is predominantly Muslim.
Some people tried to play on the sympathy and emotions of Cape Mountainians, failing to accept the reality that there is no Cape Mountainian who does not have a Christian or Muslim relative.”
He recalled that long ago, those who went to Christian mission schools in the county were fortunate to have received Christian education, hence automatically became Christians, and that many of those who did not get Christian education remained Muslims.
But the two groups, Christians and Muslims, have brothers and sisters, uncles, aunts and cousins who belong to one of the religions or the other. Yet they live in perfect harmony and have done so all of the time.