Liberian president opposes Christian state plans

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a United Methodist, says efforts to declare Liberia a Christian state would create “division among the citizens based on religious belief.”

She made her comments when she submitted the report of the Constitution Review Commission to the National Legislature on August 18, 2015, five months after the commission met in Gbarnga and approved a proposal to make Liberia a Christian country.

In an eight-page letter to the Liberian Senate, Sirleaf said the founders of the Republic did not put into the Liberian Constitution a declaration of Christianity as the nation’s religion.

“The constitution has always allowed freedom of religion and worship without seeking to describe or prescribe one religion as the official religion,” she said, adding that Article 14 of the Liberian Constitution correctly separates religion and state, and provides specifically and unequivocally that the Republic shall establish no religion.

Proposals go to National Legislature

Sirleaf’s letter is expected to be discussed by the National Legislature as part of their efforts to hold a referendum on amending the Liberian constitution. Though the National Legislature is dominated by Christians, many Christians, including United Methodist Bishop John G. Innis, have opposed the proposal to make Liberia a Christian state.

Innis had said that constitutional provisions were not needed to practice the Christian faith and expand The United Methodist Church in Liberia.

“Our Lord Jesus Christ did not force people to follow him, so Christians should not advocate for legislation that will create conflict for our nation.”

Baptist, Catholic and Muslim leaders have also expressed opposition to the proposal according to news reports.

Earlier, the Constitution Review Committee presented Sirleaf, who is a member of First United Methodist Church in Monrovia, with its final report on all the recommendations from the National Constitution Conference on August 17, 2015.

The supporters of the changes to the Liberian constitution said they were simply trying to restore language that was originally in the preamble to the Liberian constitution that the nation was built on a Christian foundation. They say that language was removed in 1986 when the constitution was amended.

“We are not asking for a statute legislating Christianity,” said Sen. Jewel Howard Taylor.

Swen is editor and publisher of West African Writers, an online publication about United Methodist happenings in West Africa and assists the denomination in Liberia with coverage for United Methodist Communications.

News media contact: Vicki Brown, [email protected] or 615-742-5469.


Like what you're reading? Support the ministry of UM News! Your support ensures the latest denominational news, dynamic stories and informative articles will continue to connect our global community. Make a tax-deductible donation at ResourceUMC.org/GiveUMCom.

Sign up for our newsletter!

UMNEWS-SUBSCRIPTION
Theology and Education
Africa University graduates show off their diplomas during ceremonies June 11 at the United Methodist university. The 28th graduation class included 712 students from 18 countries across Africa. Photo courtesy of Africa University.

Africa University celebrates its 28th commencement

Graduating class includes 712 students from 18 countries across Africa.
Theology and Education
The Rev. Julio Andre Vilanculos (center) stands with Bishop Joaquina Filipe Nhanala (right) and the Rev. Jamisse Taimo (left) during his inauguration as rector of the United Methodist University of Mozambique in Cambine, in 2018. Vilanculos graduated from Africa University in 2009 with a degree in theology and a masters in arts and religious studies. File photo by Francisco Cumbe.

Africa University graduates share their gifts

AU alumni are making a difference in many fields and sharing their blessings with The United Methodist Church in Mozambique.
Global Health
Dr. Eliot Chikati (left) and Dr. Tongai Chitsamatanga visit with Portia after a surgery for burn complications at Cure Children’s Hospital of Zimbabwe. Chitsamatanga, a pediatric orthopaedic surgeon, is one of two top surgeons from Zimbabwe who are United Methodists. Photo by Cure Zimbabwe, UM News.

United Methodists enrich health care in Africa

Two of the foremost cardiothoracic and pediatric orthopedic surgeons from Zimbabwe are active United Methodists.