It is a well known fact that any sin anyone commits is another nail in the body of Jesus. Christians especially should know this. For wasn’t it Jesus who commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves? He punctuated that philosophy in the parable of the Good Samaritan. The story teaches us that EVERYONE WITHOUT EXCEPTION is our neighbor.
So these Christian bigots in Gbarnga who are insisting that Liberia be declared a ‘Christian state’ by law are behaving exactly as the Pharisee whom Jesus severely criticized. He chastised them for sticking to law, while at the same behaving wickedly to other people, especially the poor or people different from themselves.
That is exactly what “Christians” did, who voted in Gbarnga last Thursday for Liberia to be declared by law a Christian state. Because of their bigotry (intolerance, prejudice, narrow-mindedness), they decided to turn their backs against their Muslim brothers and sisters. They also totally forgot that Jesus did not condemn Zaccheus because he was not a follower but a greedy and corrupt tax collector and staunch Jew. Rather, Jesus visited Zaccheus in his house. That was too overwhelming for this despicable sinner. He immediately confessed his sin of extortion, offered to pay back fourfold what he had extorted from others and, more importantly, announced that he and his entire household would immediately follow Jesus.
The bigots in Gbarnga forgot Jesus’ sterling example and by doing so committed one terrible thing more on Thursday: they took the Articles on Freedom of Religion in both the 1847 and 1986 Constitutions of the Republic, scrapped them and threw them into the Atlantic Ocean. In doing so, they proclaimed themselves as more knowledgeable and more constitutionally righteous than J.J. Roberts, a staunch Methodist who convened the first Constitutional Convention in January, 1847, S. Benedict, Elijah Johnson and all the other 11 signers of that document.
These so-called “Christians” in Gbarnga also portrayed themselves as more intelligent, patriotic and more Christian than Amos Sawyer, Chairman of the National Constitutional Commission of 1982, Albert Porte, Tuan Wreh, J. Rudolph Grimes, and the other 21 Liberians who drafted the 1986 Constitution. The “Christians” in Gbarnga scrapped the Article on Freedom of Religion in the 1986 Constitution, too.
We say that because the drafters of both of these Constitutions—1847 and 1986—took pains to declare Liberia a secular state, in which ALL Liberians and foreigners were free to practice religion according to their consciences.
Here is what Article I, Section 3 of the 1847 Constitution said about freedom of worship: “All men have a natural and unalienable right to worship God, according to the dictates of their consciences, without obstruction or molestation from others: all persons demeaning themselves peaceably, and not obstructing others in their religious worship, are entitled to the protection of the 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: and no religious test whatever shall be required as a qualification for civil office or the exercise of any civil right.”
Here also is what Article 14 of the 1986 Constitution says about religion:
“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.”
Do we now see what those delegates in Gbarnga have done? They have thrown away our HISTORY. And what is a nation or people without history? They are lost, doomed—lost and doomed because by trying to constitutionalize religious INTOLERANCE, the Gbarnga delegates have threatened nearly two centuries of religious harmony and peace in Liberia, and exposed the country and people to the deadly religious conflicts we see all over the world today.
We are doomed because if this new law is passed, Liberia will return to instability and conflict.
We call on the National Legislature to REJECT this Gbarnga vote and restore constitutionality and tolerance to Liberia’s religious practices.