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Fiji Time: 5:26 PM on Friday 25 April

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Academic defends separation of church and state

Felix Chaudhary
Saturday, December 07, 2013

THE 2013 Constitution clearly defines the separation of religion and State for the first time ever in Fiji's independent history.

Speaking at a panel discussion on religion and secular state at the 15th Attorney-General's Conference, Professor Vijay Naidu from the University of the South Pacific said in his view, countries such as Fiji, where there were a multiplicity of religions and those with no adherents at all, the best form of government was a secular state that was neutral with respect to religion but, at the same time, defended religious freedom.

"Past constitutions did not make the separation crystal clear, although none sought to privilege a religion or religious denomination over others," he said.

"So since independence, over four decades ago, Fiji's constitutions have maintained the separation of religion and the State.

"However, in terms of the country's recent history, there was a strong campaign to make Christianity the State religion.

"This was especially so during the period immediately following the 1987 and 2000 coups."

Prof Naidu said submissions to the Professor Yash Ghai Constitution Commission in 2012 included pleas to make Fiji a Christian state.

"However, the Ghai draft constitution made explicit provisions on the separation of religion and the State.

"These have been further clarified and detailed by the 2013 Constitution on the secular State."