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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i


Australian Church Reportedly Bans Spoken Samoan Language
Mormon church in Brisbane ‘violating human rights’: lawyer

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA, Samoa (Talamua, August 6, 2013) – A ban of the Samoan language by a church in Brisbane, Australia, has reached the Pacific nation’s prime minister.

Leulua’iali’i Olinda Woodroffe lawyer for the Samoan members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Days Saints – or Mormons – in Brisbane Australia has met Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi twice over the matter.

She will continue to discuss the matter with the Prime Minister, Leulua’iali’i said.

The Mormon Church in Brisbane has banned its Samoan members from reading the Bible in Samoan, sing or pray in the language.

"It is discrimination of a highest level and a violation of our human rights," Leulua’iali’i said.

"I believe the Mormon Church in Brisbane have trampled on our human rights," she said.

The lawyer believes Samoan is a "God given right – (a) right to a very special language for us to practice culture and live by."

"How dare anybody want to take this away from us?"

The New Zealand-based lawyer came to represent the upset Mormon Samoans in Brisbane members after the church had taken the dispute to the Federal Court.

A court decision is awaited.

According to Leulua’iali’i, the church believes that Samoan parents living in Brisbane are forcing their children to learn Samoan against their will.

"This is very wrong information because several children made testimonials that although born and raised in Australia and New Zealand, the Samoan language is very important to them," she said.

The testimonials, which the presiding Judge stopped, were taken before she took the case, she said.

The lawyer said she asked the church lawyers to mediate rather than take court action but was rejected.

"I have been banned from speaking about the issue in New Zealand," said Leulua’iali’i.

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