ALL AFRICA REPORT: President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf says there is no decision to stop the teaching of the Holy Bible in Liberian public schools. The President, in a meeting Thursday, October 28, with members of the Liberian Council of Churches, dismissed reports that Government had banned the teaching of the Holy Bible in public schools.
The President informed members of the clergy that at no time has there been any directive from Government ordering a halt to the teaching of the Bible in public schools. “There is no order, decision, instruction, authorization that talks about taking the Bible out of schools; I don’t know of any,” the President declared when she addressed more than a hundred officials and members of the Liberian Council of Churches during a meeting at the C. Cecil Dennis Auditorium in Monrovia. The President said the Government is being questioned for having Bibles in the schools by people of other faiths who feel this should not be. “So here we are, being criticized by both sides for something we’ve never done,” the President stated, adding that had the clergy contacted her office, whatever misinformation being circulated would have been addressed appropriately.
An Executive Mansion release quotes the President as saying the 1986 Constitution, which refers to Liberia as a secular State, was not written or influenced by her Government. The issue, the President maintained, could have been raised when the Constitution was being adopted or thereafter. She reminded church leaders that because Liberia is a secular nation, Government was obligated to protect the interests of all religions without discrimination.
“We do have a secular bi-population that is non-Christian; we cannot deny them. We have to accept the fact that they are Liberians too, without compromising our own historical leanings and the basis of our faith” The President expressed the hope that there would be constitutional reform at which time some of the contentious issues contained in the 1986 Constitution could be addressed.
President Johnson Sirleaf also clarified reports that the Government was demanding the use of a portion of land in the Paynesville area where a private Christian Mission – ELWA – is located. The President said Vice President Joseph Boakai is spearheading discussions between Government and the Management of ELWA for the use of an unoccupied, 11-acre parcel of land for development. The Government of the People’s Republic of China, the President said, has offered to build an office complex to house several government ministries.
The Vice President will also work with church authorities and the Ministry of Education in reaching an understanding regarding the use by churches of public school facilities. The President clarified that churches conducting services at public buildings will continue to do so until proper arrangements can be reached on the matter.
In separate statements, members of the clergy thanked the President for clarifying the issues, which some agreed should have been discussed among Council members before raising them in the media. They welcomed a suggestion by the President for more interaction to address issues of mutual concern.
The President thanked the churches for the contribution they continue to make toward Government’s efforts to develop the country, and assured the clergy that Government would do nothing to undermine the collaboration between it and the church.
Thursday’s meeting, convened by the Liberian President, was attended by Vice President Boakai; the President of the Liberian Council of Churches, Rev. David Daniels; officers and members of the LCC; as well the Ministers of Lands, Mines and Energy and of Education, and the Superintendent of Montserrado Country, Mrs. Grace T. Kpan. The discussion was moderated by the Spiritual Advisor to the President, Rev. Jarvis Witherspoonhttp://allafrica.com/stories/201011030952.html