Against amending the Constitution to make PNG a Christian country

Church meeting in New Britain (NTM Papua New Guinea/Facebook) (Featured image: Against amending the Constitution to make PNG a Christian country)
Church meeting in New Britain (NTM Papua New Guinea/Facebook)
Written by Robin Oge

In a recent article, Dr Eugene Ezebilo of the Papua New Guinea National Research Institute (PNG NRI) asserts that “PNG’s Constitution does not recognise Christianity as the country’s religion”. He proposes that if PNG wants to be a Christian state, Section 45 of the Constitution should be amended to specifically recognise Christianity as the state religion and a state church be established.

Following this, the PNG National Executive Council recently approved a proposal to formally declare PNG a Christian country under the Constitution. While this may seem logical for a country like PNG where 97% of its people identify as Christians, the framers of the Constitution understood that it would result in religious authoritarianism, a pernicious consequence.

The PNG Constitution finds its origins in God. It protects every man, woman and child and gives them certain unalienable rights while simultaneously conferring upon them certain obligations and duties towards fellow humans.

One could certainly argue, and indeed I would, that the PNG Constitution is founded on objective moral laws, values and duties, and the idea that God is the source of objective moral laws, values and duties, and, therefore, that God is the source of the Constitution of PNG. The Preamble to the Constitution states in no uncertain terms that this nation was established under the “guiding hand of God” and pledges to pass on to future generations the “Christian principles that are ours now”.

Beyond these references in the Preamble, however, Dr Ezebilo is correct that Christianity or God is not explicitly part of the PNG Constitution. Section 45 deals with freedom of conscience, thought and religion, and makes no reference to Christianity. This omission is intentional. First, an explicit preference for a particular religion in Section 45 would be a direct contradiction of that very clause. Second, Section 45 emanates from rich Christian concepts that find their origins in God. The freedom to choose was given by God so that humans can decide to love and obey Him freely, for without the freedom to choose a person cannot truly love. It ultimately follows that a person can decide to not love and obey his fellow humans and God. Therefore, Section 45 when referring to the human right of freedom of conscience, thought and religion is not in contradiction with Christian principles and teaching. It is consistent with them.

The case of Somare v Zurenoc 2016, regarding the removal of sculptures from the National Parliament, hinged on the National Court’s interpretation of Section 45 of the Constitution. The court’s interpretation is as follows: that everyone has the right to practise, manifest and propagate their religion and beliefs. However, they are subject to a number of restrictions including not interfering with the freedom of others, not intervening in an unsolicited way into the religious affairs of other persons who have different beliefs, and, finally, not forcing their religion on other persons. This interpretation is in harmony with Christianity.

The unification of the church and state would present several significant problems. Throughout history, it has resulted in states usurping power by claiming divine authority for political use. The inquisitions throughout Europe at the beginning of the twelfth century are evidence of states managed by tyrannical clergies and evil politicians.

Second, the separation prevents undue influence on the church by the state. Every government measure is compelled by the use of force, which stands in direct contradiction to the principles of the Christian church. The union of the church and state would result in the latter corrupting the former. History is replete with the desecration of churches by the state, such as the infiltration and corruption of the early Christian Church by Roman government. Third, which church would actually be selected as the state church? PNG is home to a number of thriving and in some ways competing denominations.

The American legislator Thomas Jefferson recognised the importance of the separation of church and state. Thanks to his and others’ efforts, the First Amendment to the US Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …”. This ensures both that the government does not show preference to a certain religion and that the government does not take away an individual’s ability to exercise religion.

In other words, the church should not rule over the state, and the state cannot rule over the church. With the separation of church and state, the freedom of religion and conscience is assured, conflict becomes less likely and cooperation for the common good is much more likely.

Christianity contains the foundational principles that permeate the Constitution of PNG. A lack of preference for Christianity and establishment of any official religion in the PNG Constitution is crucial for the sustenance of order and harmony in PNG. It would be unchristian to amend the Constitution to give preference to Christianity.

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Robin Oge

Robin Oge (B.Med.Sci, MBBS, MSc GHS, PGDipEM) is a medical doctor and public health scientist at the Port Moresby General Hospital.

19 Comments

  • Everything were created new including body of human. God created Adam and Eve, God gave them the power of choice or freedom to choose. God never imposed on Adam and Eve to worship him. Throughout history, people’s power of choice or freedom were tremble upon when there was a Church and State Union. Earthly bodies have died on the hands of clergymen and the state apparatus.

    Our Constitution is Homegrown, drafted by our Forefathers, many of them were former clergymen. They had the power to include PNG as a Christian country but chose to only include “we adopt the Christian Principles” in the Preamble of the Constitution as opposed to “Christianity as State religion”. They made the decision to enshrined the divinely power of Choice as freedom of expression in the Constitution. This must be protected at all costs.

    This decision to amend the Constitution to officially make PNG a Christian Country is not divine but evil. It’s the idea of certain Evangelical fundamentalist to impose their distorted unbiblical doctrines on the people using the State apparatus and is clearly wrong, very dangerous and evil. People must not take the position of the creator.

    State and Church must remain separated. State must not make laws on religion or religion must not imposed its fundamental doctrines on the State.

    This proposed constitutional amendments to the Constitution should not be allowed.

    There is nothing wrong with the current provisions of the Constitution which clearly separate the Church from the State.

  • Ah but Adam, what you are missing is the “Facts of Reality” Fact, Most people on Earth are NOT Christians. Fact, Israel is a Jewish Nation and they DO NOT accept Jesus Christ as The Son of GOD, to them He is ONLY to be considered as a Prophet. Fact, in ALL of history when Religious Leaders get into positions of Political Power, People Die. Fact, one of the first Public acts of PMJM on 26th. August 2019, was to “Call Down Curses” in the name of Christianity. Fact, YOU are assigning to YOURSELF the power of Infallibility. Your belief that YOU are right gives you the RIGHT to force upon ME your Beliefs. But you would deny me the right to my beliefs, even when they do no harm to YOU ???. During the Spanish Inquisitions (which went on for more than 100 years) Christian Leaders tortured people untill they converted to Christianity and then killed them to put the Non-Christian out of their Suffering as an act of “Christian Mercy”. Do you not see any similarity to our own situation in parts of PNG where mostly Women are being brutalised because some people “say” they have practiced sorcery ??. Therefore you can not say “We would never do that”. History is a great teacher. Look at History. And then may I suggest that the separation of State and Church is in fact the results of History and the lessons it has taught. And to close I will quote from a very wise man, who said “God NEVER interferes in the affairs of MAN, because IF he did then GOD would be interfering in MANS right of Choice and in doing so GOD would render MAN back to being an ANIMAL again”. Oh and that same Wise Man also said “Never argue with a Religious Man”

  • This decision by the State is very interesting, and could be fulfilling Bible prophecy in regards to One World Government & Religion. State/Religion amalgamation is one of the catalyst for the Biblically-prophecied New World Order

  • Well written article!

    The current administration has opened a can of worms. Radicalized Christian groups will use this decision by the Marape-Steven Government to attack other religious groups resulting in religious conflicts.

  • Great piece, however, with few comments/observations.

    First, whenever a concept is not defined but is left open for human interpretation, illiberal practices a likely – people interpret the concept on their own hence applied it different. The democratic world is facing this problem right now: democratic ideas/concepts such as rights to association, religion, conscience, thought, movement, expression and speech, etc, etc, are been left open for interpretation (and therefore application) at the whims of an individuals or a group of individuals. This is creating social chaos. Cases in point are gayism, lesbianism, transgender, abortion, decriminalisation of prostitution (or prostitution per se). These are examples of issues that the society knows are wrong but are being defended all in the name of [human] rights. In the end, people are now arguing that ‘it is one’s right to marry a doll, computer, a tree, or a robot’. This is nonsense.

    Coming to PNG Constitution, especially Sections 45 – 52, these sections does not defined those rights; rather they are left for public interpretation and application; and so goes a prostitute, gay, lesbian, transgender, terrorists, etc do their business and then cover under these provisions all in the name of “rights”. Concept of region needs to be defined in order to establish perimeters within which that concept can be applied. You cannot allow a concept to be undefined as this will lead to unscrupulous interpretations and misapplications in life.

    Second issue is the “separation of church and state”; this is the result of 1648 Westphalia agreement. This treaty came into being because of human effort to mismanage what was originally an ideal divine intern to have God as the King over His children (earth), as Israel was before if became a state in August 1948.

    Thus, when talking about separating and state, the issue is not about whether they should be kept separate; the issue is “whether the church is the state and therefore must play an important role in managing the earthly affairs just as God would be interesting in directly dealing with and managing the affairs of the people (a microcosm)”.

    This issue must be addressed because “you ascribe to God as King, meaning a Government, and then keep Him or His Agency, the Church, from politics on Earth”. Earth is God domain and therefore is He is the King, then His Agency the Church has the right to involve in politics in order to execute His Kingdom will on Earth.

    So whether you keep the Church and State separate really depends on how one sees them.

  • When God created Adam and Eve, God gave them the power of choice or freedom to choose. God never imposed on Adam and Eve to worship him. Throughout history, people’s power of choice or freedom were tremble upon when there was a Church and State Union. Millions of have died on the hands of clergymen and the state apparatus.
    Our Constitution is Homegrown, drafted by our Forefathers, many of them were former clergymen. They had the power to include PNG as a Christian country but chose to only include “we adopt the Christian Principles” in the Preamble of the Constitution as opposed to “Christianity as State religion”. They made the decision to enshrined the divinely power of Choice as freedom of expression in the Constitution. This must be protected at all costs.

    This decision to amend the Constitution to officially make PNG a Christian Country is not divine but evil. It’s the idea of certain Evangelical fundamentalist to impose their distorted unbiblical doctrines on the people using the State apparatus and is clearly wrong, very dangerous and evil.

    State and Church must remain separated. State must not make laws on religion or religion must not imposed its fundamental doctrines on the State.

    This proposed constitutional amendments to the Constitution should not be allowed.

    There is nothing wrong with the current provisions of the Constitution which clearly separate the Church from the State.

  • An excellent piece and well written. The evils of state sanctions of religions/denominations are well documented historically (christianity resulting in expulsion and massacre of Jews and muslims following Spanish reconquest, Catholic massacre of huguenots in France, Protestant persecution of catholics in England and Ireland) and are a shameful part of christian history that was only possible when state sanctioned a particular religion or sect. One cannot force an individual to be a better christian; it has to be a matter of choice. The increase in religious fundamentalism in PNG is a concern and is partly fueled by poor education (a population that is said to be literate but does not read widely enough to be able to make conscious and independent conclusions on important issues in life).

  • Align section 45 of the constitution to our belief system in the country. Freedom of religion is encouraging so many immoral and unethical practices like that of USA which is hit hard the most on earth.

    Too many brilliant ideas & findings opposing Christianity wholly or partially are not solving the societal problems and this problems are now on the rise. Christianity is the way to ” take back PNG” through christian practices.

  • Dr Robin Oge has brought out the crux of the matter; politics and christianity must be separated. PNG must not change its constitution to make it a christian country. On the onset, PNG does not qualify itself to be a christian country when there is blatant taking of human lives without remorse, ingrained beliefs in sorcery throughout PNG resulting in torture and killings and systemic corruption in all levels of governance and societies. There needs to be a new generation of people and leaders that have respect for humanity, respect for the rule of law and reverence of duty to others, then PNG can qualify to be called a christian country.

  • Section 45 of the constitution allows for freedom of religion. God gives us the freedom to choose to worship Him & section 45 upholds that. That is the reason why we enjoy spiritual freedom in serving & living for God in PNG. Please, let’s not mess around with section 45 of the constitution to have it changed. Because if we do, the price we pay will be higher & bitter.

  • When the arguments surfaced as a result of the current Government’s intentions on this matter I was fathomed on turning to this Section of the constitution to figure out where the issue collided on with the Goverment’s initiative.

    I’m so glad that this article clarifies and defines it between the lines on a very high academic level.

    A well written piece of article.

  • The law under section 45 leave as it is , may add additional laws for the Government to ensure the Christian/Bible Principles teaching be taught at home, churches & schools

  • Do amendments on Christianity in PNG in accordance with the interest of our own citizens and not outside interest.

  • Dr Oge you are right on point. Those so called salvation propagators must know that religion and politics never mix. We only have to learn from history to know the evils of Medievial Crusades and Inquisition ignited by the insistence of those who wanted a certain faith to become the state religion.
    And our fore fathers who drafted the Constitution knew that well. So lets respect them and appreciate the uniqueness of our Constitution and respect the freedom of choice of life for all citizens.

  • The constitution is well thought out and covers world best practises, allows us to do things the PNG way, customized to our customs and is geared for the benefit of PNG yesterday, today and tomorrow. Our biggest problem is that we inherited white man laws that were not aligned to our constitution after gaining Independence. PNG needs total REFORM of our implementation laws to align with the constitution and the organic laws. Then and only then will PNG BE TRULY TAKEN BACK in that context

  • That article sinks and settles many misunderstanding especially that section of the Constitution section 45.
    That was what I was struggling to figure out and here it is. Thanks so much for this clarity.

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