29 Mar 2010

Baha'i in Samoa want government to uphold freedom of religion as review process starts

4:45 am on 29 March 2010

Submissions have begun for the controversial Commission of Inquiry review into Freedom of Religion in Samoa.

The government says the freedom of religion has somehow posed a direct challenge to the autonomy of the village council.

Karen Te'o with the Baha'i of Samoa says in their submission they are encouraging the government to continue to uphold freedom of religion.

She says over the years some Christian groups as well as those in the Baha'i faith have been discriminated against by village councils.

"Sometimes it's been where they've been told the Baha'i community is not allowed to function in a village. In the more distant past there were occasions where Baha'i families were banished from the village just because they said that the Baha'i faith was not allowed there so the Baha'i families had to leave the village. There had been instances where Baha'is were fined for not going to church and every Sunday they would have to pay money because their family members didn't attend a church."

Karen Te'o says they feel the breaching of their rights are down to a lack of understanding and education.

The Commission of Inquiry will look at whether Freedom of Religion is being exercised too widely and whether there is a need to institute corresponding laws or regulations.