Senator Varney Sherman Rejects ‘Christian State’

first_imgGrand Cape Mount Senator H. Varney Sherman has described Liberia as a country that has been, since its beginning, “very tolerant about individuals’ religious beliefs.  There is, therefore, no need to ignite any fire in the country by placing in the Constitution that Liberia is a Christian state,” he declared emphatically. “One thing we ought not to do is to ignite any fire in our country; one thing we ought not to do is to give a certain group of people in our country the suspicion that we are little by little creating a situation where one day we will discriminate against them; we shouldn’t do that.”Cllr. Sherman made the statement yesterday at his Capitol Building offices when he hosted Daily Observer’s Legislative reporters and Senior Staff for an exclusive interview.“I don’t know how we are thinking about that (a Christian State) in 2015, honestly; to gain what? This is one country in my mind that is very tolerant about what your beliefs are, and we need to keep it that way.”Senator Sherman, who is Christian and a practicing Episcopalian who hails from a predominantly Muslim county, wondered whether Christian state advocates believe that if it were placed in the Constitution that Liberia is a Christian state the Pope would take half of the resources of the Vatican and contribute them to Liberia; “or the United States government will say now that Liberia is a Christian state, this is what we will do for them that we haven’t done before?”The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, who spoke on the Christian state issue for the first time, said if the question did not come up during the interview with this newspaper, he would not have commented on it until it was brought before the Senate.   “Nothing,” he cautioned, “goes to referendum unless there is a law passed in this chamber. “We don’t need that—a Christian state!”Speaking about the Constitution that declared Liberia an independent state in 1847, Senator Sherman clarified that the circumstances of 1847 or before then are significantly different from now. He referenced a part of the present Constitution which provides that there should be no state religion; that the government shall not support any religion in preference to another religion.He further reflected that the 1847 Constitution did not say Liberia was a Christian state, but rather stated that “we have been endowed by certain inalienable rights, blessed by God Almighty.”Senator Sherman, who is  chairman of the ruling Unity Party, further reflected that even the framers of Liberian  Constitution of 1847 crafted it as similar to that of the United States Constitution, which guarantees freedom of thought, conscience and of religion.  It did not say that Liberia was a Christian state. “Professor Samuel Greenleaf of Harvard University who drafted the 1847 Constitution,” recalled Counselor Sherman, “did not talk about that; why are we thinking about something like that in 2015, especially given our most recent past?”Liberia, he emphasized, must never think about going back to its most recent past when certain tribes were linked with certain warring factions and religions.The Grand Cape Mount lawmaker said Liberians need to remember the past, and reflect on those things that were responsible for the more than fourteen years of conflict. He declared that it was time to do away with the negatives of the past and put on a progressive posture. “So I won’t support anything that says Liberia is a Christian state; I won’t support it if it says Liberia should be an Islamic state.”Senator Sherman recalled how during his campaigning in his Muslim-dominated Grand Cape Mount County, some people expressed fear that electing him would give the county two Christian Senators, after Senator Edward Boakai Dagoseh.Today, Senator Sherman noted, the county has five Legislators—four are Christians and one is Muslim, even though the county is predominantly Muslim.Some people tried to play on the sympathy and emotions of Cape Mountainians, failing to accept the reality that there is no Cape Mountainian who does not have a Christian or Muslim relative.”He recalled that long ago, those who went to Christian mission schools in the county were fortunate to have received Christian education, hence automatically became Christians, and that many of those who did not get Christian education remained Muslims.But the two groups, Christians and Muslims, have brothers and sisters, uncles, aunts and cousins who belong to one of the religions or the other.  Yet they live in perfect harmony and have done so all of the time. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

Atkins contributed ‘enormously’ to Fort St. John

first_imgHe was also a board member with the North Peace Cultural Society, sitting as its secretary.“He went about all the work without making a fuss, you could always count on him,” said Ruth Ann Darnall, who chairs the PVEA, and taught with Atkins at Alwin Holland.Darnall said news of Atkins’ passing is resonating back to his family in Australia, friends on Vancouver Island, and even former students in other provinces.Dawn Ljuden, who worked with Atkins with Stage North, called him a mentor and a confidante, a man who never sought to soak in the limelight, instead preferring to quietly donate his time and his tools.“He would never admit it, but he was amazing at designing sets,” she said.Advertisement “As much as he hated being on stage, he promised me he would be in it if he had the same three lines he had in high school,” Ljuden said.“This is a big loss for Fort St. John, not just for Stage North. We’re going to feel it for years to come,” she said.Atkins integral in local fight against Site C.In a statement, Diane Culling, also with the PVEA, said Atkins in the fight against the Site C dam project from the start, and will remain so until to the end.“The fact that the PVEA executive must scramble to ensure that the many balls that Tony always “kept in the air” do not drop now, at the very time we are trying to come to terms with his unexpected death, is a measure of how important he was to the campaign to save our beloved Peace River Valley,” Culling wrote in a statement to members.“So now Tony is gone. As was Leo Rutledge, and so many people that spent that past forty years working to stop Site C. They have passed the torch to us. And we cannot let them down,” Culling continued.“Let’s put this damn dam to bed once and for all, before another person that loves that valley has to die without knowing that it is safe.” “He never looked for thanks. A lot of what he did was quiet and soft in the background, it just made him feel good. He didn’t want to be on stage. He wanted to make things happen so every one else could join.”Stage North President Gilles Francoeur said “generations of volunteers owe Tony a great debt of gratitude, for without him they literally would not have had a stage to perform on.”“Tony was a consistent and unwavering presence in my own life for the better part of twenty years,” said Francoeur.“I found him to be a profoundly intelligent and funny man. Quick with a joke or a pat on the back. He could lift your spirits with barely a word or none at all.”He may not have liked the stage, but Atkins was planning to stand upon one this season in Ljuden’s fall production of Macbeth. Atkins had a small role in the play back in his high school days. Ljuden says she’ll be dedicating the show to him.Advertisement Sloan said Atkins would always joke that he was “retired, not buried,” and remained active in the schools after his retirement.“He continued to volunteer with the elementary track meet, was the timer for the district speech contest, and even up until this year, he was active as a judge at the C.M. Finch Science Fair,” said Sloan.Atkins a founding member of Stage NorthOutside of the classroom, Atkins was an active member of the community — involved with both the Peace Valley Environment Association (PVEA), where he sat as treasurer since the 1980s. He was also a founder member of Stage North in 1978, where he helped bring productions to life through his set designs, and was volunteer with The Workshop Players in the 1970s.Advertisement He traded in the subtropical airs of Australia for the cooler climes of British Columbia’s Peace Country, building a reputation over decades for his dedication to his students, the arts, and the environment in Fort St. John.Long-time resident Tony Atkins died Thursday morning following a fight with cancer. He was 71.“He was just one of those wonderful people that we were blessed to have,” said Dave Sloan, superintendent of School District 60.- Advertisement -“His passing is too soon.”Atkins was just a young school teacher from Australia when came to Fort St. John with a pair of friends in the 1960s, landing a job teaching at Alwin Holland Elementary School. He would later serve as principal of C.M. Finch Elementary until his retirement.Sloan remembered Atkins for his quick wit and dry humour, and for being a pillar of support for new teachers and administrators coming into the district. Atkins mentored many who are senior staff today.Advertisementlast_img read more