In the midst serious controversy over the religious foundation of Liberia, a group of Church leaders here are hearing [gearing] up to launch a campaign to solicit “one million signatures” from the Christian community to petition the House of Representatives to repeal a constitutional clause, which states that Liberia is a secular nation.
The luncheon, which is slated for Saturday, 18 February, is expected to be held in the Old Providence Baptist Church on Ashmun Street, where the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1847 by 11 men, in conformity with Christian beliefs and principles.
That clause was however, amended along with other provisions of the constitution in Gbarnga, Bong County in 1985 by a special constitutional review committee chaired by the late Dr. Edward Binyan Keselley.Well, there's a thought. What exactly would constitute a Christian State? Options include:
- The exclusion of non-Christians from government (e.g. Great Britain before 1828).
- A State which sought to apply in public life principles drawn explicitly from the Bible. Of course, the question of which principles is a tricky one and would immediately become the substance of politics in such a State. For example, would there be Christian banking in parallel and contrast to Islamic banking?
- Theocratic government, i.e. government by those whose qualification to govern is formal recognition by Christian churches.
- A State which privileged one particular Church over all others and wove it into the fabric of governance (e.g. Britain now, however tenuous the threads have become).
- Or, less precisely, a State which privileged Christianity in general over all others. For example the old Ottoman empire was, for long periods, largely tolerant of non-Muslim religions but subjected them to various disabilities, not least taxing them more heavily.
Of course, none of these options are compatible with democracy. Democracy has some roots in Christian theology but it's dominant motif has been the rejection of religious rule. Which perhaps puts the question the other way round: is it possible to be a Christian, to aver 'Jesus is Lord', in a democracy?
And Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights would certainly not be applicable:
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.
2. Freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitation as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
|Guarding Christians in Iraq|
Fair enough, from the complacent comfort of a white man in the UK, I can treat these issues a bit flippantly. But I know that these are key issues: one of the deep things dividing the Anglican Communion at the moment is divergent attitudes to the place of the Church in / against / over the State.
I think democracy and human rights are important. Whilst force is never absent from a State I believe it's a good thing to reduce violence to a minimum - and, on the whole, democracy and human rights together tend in that direction.
Religious countries are liable to persecute members of minority religions because the simple presence of such people represents an existential threat to the State. That too is the basis of the violence of North Korea's atheism.
The New Dawn has also published a long article arguing against the proposals and the principles beneath them. Its introduction says,
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.
Liberia has seen too much recent bloodshed and this proposal can only inflame tensions and cause minority groups anxiety and fear.