You are here


Tonga proved that the Church support politics

Nuku'alofa, Tonga


Tonga is unique in its history, culture, church, and politics.  While the world trashed monarchy as evil, and idolized democracy as the best form of government, Tonga proved otherwise.  While world trashed the Church as detrimental to politics, Tonga proved that the Church has immensely and positively supported politics. 

With such uniqueness, we need to carefully assess our history according to its time and context without unfairly bashing our past with our 21st century Westernized and Americanized eyes as Sione Mokofisi does, if we want to build a better future.  

By saying that, it does not mean that I’m trying to sugarcoat the mistakes and shortcomings in this romantic dance of the Church and State.  I’m simply arguing that this relationship between Church and State in Tonga had done far better job in accommodating the common good than what had happened in Europe’s history.

Keeping the Sabbath holy, though rooted in Judeo-Christian heritage, keeps Tonga ahead of the rest of the Pacific and the world in our political game.  The benefits we get from this decision trump all the objections that Sione Mokofisi has suggested. 

With that in mind, here are seven reasons why bakeries closure on Sunday takes Tonga back to the Future. 

1.     Tonga Needs Rest.

Science has proven that no human being can continually work seven days a week without destroying herself or himself.  Having a national weekly day of rest complies with the law of nature.  It’s a day to celebrate the fruits of our labour by resting

2.      Tonga Needs to feed her Soul.

Sunday is a day where everyone is given the opportunity to be reminded that we are not just a material being only.  We have a soul to feed.  We need to cultivate our national character which is the “enduring personality characteristics and unique lifestyle found among the population of a nation.” 

3.     Tonga Needs to Remain Free.

Working for seven days a week is a sign of slavery in Biblical view, unless it is necessary for survival.  The Israelites in Egypt had no day of rest since they were slaves.  Sabbath highlights the freedom that God has given them.  Sabbath elevates human dignity that he is a free being. 

4.      Tonga Needs to Keep Her National Identity.

Keeping the Sabbath separates us as a nation from the rest of the world.  Our culture, our tradition, our history, our language, our form of government, our national character, and our Constitution define who we are as a nation.  Keeping the Sabbath holy makes Tonga unique. 

5.      Tonga Need to be Healthy.

Since Tonga is the fattest nation on the planet, and obesity has become a national epidemic, closing the bakeries on Sunday is a wise decision.  Having lu sipi for brunch and bread for dinner is a national suicide.  Tonga is on the death row not because of hunger but because of overeating. 

6.     Tonga Needs to Anchor in a particular World view which accommodates the Common Good.

Europe is reaping the consequences of building a wall of separation between Church and State.

First, they started idolizing man as the point of reference to define right and wrong, good and bad, and morality, ethics, and justice.  They desacralize life, and they push every moral boundary to its limit.  They eliminate the weakest members of the society through abortion, and tossed away the belief in God as myth for the ignorant. 

Relying on secularism to strip naked the public square from anything sacred, they provide a cultural vacuum ripe enough to become a breeding ground for Muslims to Islamized their country and youth in particular.

 Sabbath keeping is not about sending people to heaven; it’s about providing a safety net from powerful destructive religious or irreligious ideas that can destroy our common good.

7.  Sabbath Keeping Can Improve our Economy.

There is no empirical evidence that Keeping the Sabbath have been detrimental to our overall economy as compared with other Pacific Islands. 

Utah is one of the most Sabbath Keeping states in U.S yet she remains as one of the top 15 best economy in U.S

n 2015, Chick-fil-A dominated the fast food restaurants in America and sold three times as Kentucky Fried Chicken according to Business Insider. 

Comparing with other popular restaurants, Chick-fil has only 1,887 restaurants while McDonald’s has more than 14,000 locations, Taco Bell has 5,921, and Kentucky Fried Chicken has 4,370, and yet Chick-fil-A outsold them in 2015.  And most if not all of them open on Sundays while all Chick-fil-A restaurants close on Sundays since the owners are Christians

The Challenge

A sign of intellectual and political maturity is the ability to thinking independently, assess our political situation independently, and making judgment based on the facts we gather from our history, our experience, and our current events without copying the experience and the judgment of others.    

Just because everyone else say that democracy is the best form of government means that we should believe their solution.  Just because France and atheistic Americans of the 20th century believe in building a wall of separation of Church and State so Tonga must do what they believe.

Tonga can move forward politically with her own political solution, custom made in Tonga, by Tongans, for Tongans.

Respectfully Yours

Senituli Penitani



Unfortunately and sadly the persecution of Wesleyans is historical fact. Government telling local authorities to beat and flog Wesleyans until they converted to the new free church. It isn't false or a westernised version. These events must be remembered so we can learn how to not repeat it.

The separation of church and state is for Government to be neutral when it comes to religion, to a person's choice of religion. To not support one church over others, to not support one doctrine of some churches over others. The closure of bakeries is not just about bread but also is a fear that Government is moving further away from neutrality.

Whatever laws we use won't affect the truly faithful, they don't need laws to keep their Sabbath day holy, but we shouldn't end up hurting people who have less strict rules or who want to do a little work because their sabbath was a different day.. God bless

The country wasn't given to a church but to God. Doesn't matter how well-put any argument, governments should never legislate religion/faith. It's a bad idea to force others to believe what you believe regardless. It will never be from the heart, you only do it because you're being forced to. God didn't do it to us why you want do it to others? Do you think the God you worship isn't powerful enough to force everyone to worship him? Yet he give man free will to choose. Jesus said, give what's God's to God and What's belong to the government to the government (paraphrase in my word). Putting a historical context on the relationship between churches and government doesn't make it right or justify anything. It seems the church leaders today believe in a different Jesus from the Jesus of the bible. Like Jesus told the Pharisee "You Pharisees and teachers of the Law of Moses are in for trouble! You’re nothing but show-offs. You lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. You won’t go in yourselves, and you keep others from going in."

I write in full support of Mr Penitani's letter in upholding the Sabbath Law in Tonga. Globalization is a force that puts pressure upon poor countries such as ours, some times through the UN or other more economically privileged nations to comply with their atheistic and godless values. This pressure almost always comes in the form of financial aids and other economic privileges. But, we must learn to resist.

Tonga has been unique in the Pacific and in the world ever since. We were never colonised by any of world superpowers in the nineteenth century. Despite what this world is saying about monarchy, our Constitutional Monarchy has proven to be the means whereby order and harmony is maintained in our culture and society. So, with the Sabbath Law in place, we must be thankful to God that our Government is bold enough to take the step and assert its god-given authority, namely, to uphold the Law of the Land. Article 6 of our Constitution which mandated no business dealings on the Sabbath day has been there since 1875. It is the Government's duty to ensure, its' citizens abide by the Law since the Law protects their freedom.

I am not sure what the above comment means by the need for the Government to be "neutral when it comes to religion" or "to person's choice of religion". No one, not even the Church is forcing our Government in its decision-making, including the re-enforcement of the Sabbath Law. The Church acts in accordance with its line of duty as the "spiritual conscience" of the Land, and remind the Government to activate Article 6 of our Constitution.

Regarding "a person's choice of religion", Article 5 of our Constitution is still in place. We are free in terms of choosing what religion you may wish to adhere to as long as those religions may not promote impropriety and violence. In deciding to re-enforce Article 6 of the Constitution, the Government is not interfering in anyone's personal choice of religion. In fact, the Sabbath Law has nothing to do with one's personal choice of religion. It only gives you more opportunity to practice the religion of your choice, especially on the Sabbath day.

The claim for neutrality is an old-fashioned idea of those who wish that any organisation or a collective body of people was at their disposal to turn them whichever way they want. Every Government has Laws and policies that govern and shape its operations on a day to day basis. In any civil Government that upholds the Christian value of freedom, like ours, we need to trust that its laws and policies are set forth in order to maintain justice in the Land.

People who have less strict rules or who want to do a little work because their sabbath is different from the rest, can still do that. The Sabbath Law is not forcing anything else upon them. But if they are law-abiding citizens of Tonga, they must also learn to comply with the Sabbath Law and trust, that Laws of the Land are made to protect their freedom and not to hurt their feelings.

Soli Deo gloria,

Rev Dr Ma'afu Palu

Christianity may be declining in the West but it's not because they no longer enforce church laws on their citizens, there are plenty of other more likely reasons for its decline.

Firstly, I want to emphasize the Sunday law in Tonga is totally unnecessary for Sunday worshipping Christians, they will keep their Sabbath holy without the need for a law. So then if it isn't useful for Christians then how has it been useful for the country?

The reasons we survived the worst of colonisation we can argue using historical facts from the past, but the legislation of a Sunday law is quite far from one of those reasons we survived colonisation. We can find times a monarchy helped us from avoiding colonisation and we can find other times it almost cost us our independence, it wasn't that unique of a history and was far from perfect. The important thing now is learning from past mistakes so we don't repeat them.

The Constitution can say one thing but when Government is biased it can end up doing something else, e.g. where was the Constitution when a number of Wesleyans were persecuted, where was their freedom of religion?

What do we learn from that part of history? We see sometimes laws are not good enough to protect our people's freedoms, we also need checks and balances and in this case it takes separation of church and state to makes people's religious freedoms more secure. We should instead focus on freedom of religion rather then support laws made from Christian doctrines that don't benefit Christians at all, what benefits Christians and all other people is giving people their freedom of religion, not just promised in our laws but also made more secure by separating church and state. God bless's picture

Even if Tonga becomes a Communist nation, I'd defend Article VI of the Constitution not because it accommodates my Christian belief, rather it accommodates the Common Good.

Article VI cannot make anyone holy nor does it make Tonga holier than the rest of the world. Rather it provides an environment conducive to positively cultivating the "habits of the heart."

It does not force anyone to worship the God of the Bible, or to go to Church, or stop sinning.

When the Constitution says that, "The Sabbath Day shall be kept holy in Tonga" we should not rush to interpret it as if it's forcing your or me to be holy in the way that Christians define the word "holy." Holy according to the Constitution means, "no person shall practise his trade or profession or conduct any commercial undertaking on the Sabbath Day except according to law; and any agreement made or witnessed on that day shall be null and void and of no legal effect." That's it. Does prohibiting of trade and commercials on Sunday make you and me holy?

Now, we have to ask ourselves what are the pros and cons of this decision? What benefits we get from it as a nation?
What about the rate of criminal activities on Sunday as compare to the rest of the week?

Remember a free society is also virtuous society. And even though morality can't be forced, but the Sabbath law provides an environment that encourages humans to live a moral life.

Article VI does not violate your and my religious freedom. If you don't want Sabbath and holy to be there, I'd suggest that we can reconstruct the wording of Article VI to say that "Sunday must be kept a work and crime free day and no person shall practise his trade or profession or conduct any commercial undertaking on the Sabbath Day except according to law; and any agreement made or witnessed on that day shall be null and void and of no legal effect."

The social cost and emotional cost of trying to temper or to get rid of the Sunday Law just because it's rooted in Judeo-Christian faith is too much to bear.

Claiming that the Sabbath Law violates the principle of Separation of Church and State is a straw man argument. Of course it's a Christian idea but it does it violates freedom of worship? No. Does it detrimental to the Common Good? No

May I challenge you to define the Separation of Church and State in our Tongan Context. Do we need to be like U.S to stripped anything religious from the public square? How far should you push this idea to our Tongan politics?

I have news for you. Atheistic public square, the naked public square, is worse. From the French democracy of the 18th century to U.S of today, you will find the strict harsh separation of Church and State is worst of all the evils.

It would be good if Penitani considers the following
1. According to Google there are 27 monarchies in the world today.
2. All Democratic systems are "works in progress", Tonga's democratic system is still an infant - the jury is still out deciding whether it is still crawling ... or maybe just taking baby steps!
3. The role of the "church" varies from country to country - it's influence wanes when the people consider the conduct of its leaders hypocritical, self serving and ignoring the realities of people's lives. Indicators that the shepherds have not been looking after their flock include the widespread violence against women and children, increasing crimes, alcohol and drug abuse etc - look at a few headlines on Matangi Tonga and other news outlets
4. People who make wide sweeping generalisations on behalf of all Tongans are presumptous and not to be trusted. Tonga, like all countries consist of many types of different people. Tupou IV actively allowed all Tongans to get educated, use our brain and not blindly follow the loudest and most vociferous bible bashing thumpers who consider that they have a monopoly on wisdom and that their interpretation of the Bible is the correct one.
5. The vision accepted by our King Tupou VI and Government for all Tongans to work towards is a more inclusive society. This means that people can choose not to bow to the pressures from an elite powerful influential group and pursue ongoing dialogue with like minded people to change bad decisions.
6. Your point that Tonga needs a rest assumes full paid employment for all ??!! Seems totally insensitive to me. How can those who do not have a paid job and are struggling to put food on the table, pay school fees, meet social and church obligations etc rest on any day let alone just on the Sabbath?
7. Thank you en123 & siumafua. Heartwarming and encouraging to read your posts.

Lao Sapate 'E lava nai ha taha 'o tokoni mai ke toe mahino ange e lea koeni " Ko e 'ongo 'Olive 'e Ua kae malohi ha Fonua" na'a tokoni mai ki he talanga

After reading all the responses to Mr Penitani's letters, including my own, I can see that what distinguishes our contributions is our personal belief systems - our Worldviews, ie. how we make sense of the world we live in. This needs to be acknowledged in order for respectful dialogue and discussions to continue in this and other issues.

To say that we should not force our views on anyone else is self-contradictory at best. You're, in effect, forcing upon us all, that view, namely, "don't force your views on me". We are not forcing our views in discussions like this but freely expressing them in the hope that others - even those of a different persuasion from us may take them into considerations or freely choose to reject them. So, how do I make sense of the world we live in?

1) Civil Government is established with the divinely given responsibility of upholding justice in the Land (Romans 13). So, the Law naturally becomes its tool for fulfilling its God-given duty to its citizens. The Sunday Law is Article 6 of the Tongan Constitution. Thus, our Government (whether is crawling, baby-stepping or sucking its thumb) is obligated to uphold this Article as it is expected to do, for the rest of the Constitution.

2) The Government may choose to amend its Laws including the Sunday Law if it totally interferes with the freedom of its citizens. But how does Sunday Law interfere with our freedom as citizens? What economic growth is inhibited in our country by the reinforcement of the Sunday Law? In fact, Sunday Law capitalises on our freedom to worship by ensuring that we rest one day a week and not to exploit ourselves and our fellow citizens in the senseless pursuit of much-needed funds which, in reality, we can never obtain, even if we are doing paid-work on Sunday.

3) Civil Governments enforce its Laws because that is how it maintains order and protects the freedom of its citizens. A Government in which everyone does what seems best to them is one in which chaos and lawlessness is bound to prevail (Judges 21). So, for our Government to enforce the Sunday Law as it does with the rest of the Law of the Land, is the fulfilment of its duty to maintain order and protect its citizens' freedom.

4) We are all biased one way or another. What matters is the right kind of bias. A Government which upholds justice by enforcing its Laws, including the Sunday Law, is espousing the right kind of bias for a Civil Government, is it not? To say that a Government is biased is like saying that the "Pope is Catholic". That is to be expected. If a Government is biased towards enforcing its Laws including the Sunday Law, is it not a good Government, shall we say?

5) To enforce Sunday Law in Tonga is not a bad decision but an extremely wise one for a Government which is founded upon basic biblical principles. Better still, we should say that our Government is extremely brave to restore the Sunday Law to its full force in this day and age in which biblical principles are seen by this atheistic world to be old-fashion and insensitive. The God of the Bible gives us Laws and therefore morality. Without God, Dostoyevsky is right, "Everything is permissible". Sunday Law does not make us holier. But it does show that Tonga, despite all its problems, failures and soaring crime rate, is indeed a God-fearing nation.

6) Indeed, we must cherish, be proud and therefore seek to maintain the fundamental biblical principles upon which our Constitution was established in 1875. This of course includes the Sunday Law. When the God of the Bible and his values are utterly removed from the public square, Atheism sets in, as we can see in the merciless killing sprees in the US. Or, worst still, another religion with a totally different set of principles (even one that inhibits our sense of freedom) seeks to replace it as we can see, for example, in France. In both cases, one must say that secularism has proven to be profoundly dissatisfying as a guiding principle for securing order and freedom in any given civil society.

This is how I make sense of the world in relation to the reinforcement of the Sunday Law in Tonga. What about you?

Soli Deo gloria

Rev Dr Ma'afu Palu

Firstly I'd like to point out that I don't know anyone that goes to, and reads Tonga's laws to specifically learn about God, or for religious reasons. Its important to understand that if we removed Church doctrines from our laws it doesn't mean a Christian will suddenly become atheist, nor does it mean they suddenly have urges to take off their clothes.

We should not fear religious freedom, those that defend the Sunday law paint a picture of Godlessness and immorality if we took away church doctrines from the law. Id like to urge them to understand an individual's religious choice will not be affected. Also if Christianity can grow and spread during eras of persecution then why can't it keep growing in an environment where Government is neutral to all religions? How is it evil for Government to be fair to all people in terms of their religious choices?

If our Sunday law is only good for appearances, is it really something worthy to boast about to others as a sign that we are a God-fearing nation? I would say our sunday law is not even a good sign of being a God fearing nation, actually it is probably a bad sign since it seems we need a law for Sabbath keeping.

How does the Sunday law impact an individual? Firstly what if that person does not worship on that day? Why must the law keep them from doing a little work on a day that they themselves do not believe as "holy". Or if they do worship on Sunday but they are less strict, why do they need to be stopped from working just because the law backs a stricter version of Sunday worship. If for example we legislated another religious doctrine into law, lets say forbidding the consumption of pork. One might argue that too, that this law doesnt  force a particular religion on anyone, people are free to worship whichever way they believe is right, they just wont be allowed to eat pork. That to me is not a good enough argument.

The argument that our Sunday law is beneficial for the common good and that holy is merely a definition in law, I would argue that if that is so, lets remove the word "holy" from that law, which is a religious word and for many of us Christians the word holy belongs only to God. And after, when its no longer connected to a religion, what if we change this "compulsory national day of rest" to another day, say on Tuesdays?

The problem here is we can't ignore its origins, that it was chosen from a particular Christian doctrine and any attempt to disconnect it from it being a religious doctrine would be like kicking the stool from under it, and whatever reasons we had in keeping it there comes crashing down.

The safest thing for us to do to secure our freedom of worship is to remove religious doctrines from our laws. Let's learn from our difficult past to build a more inclusive society, as mentioned in an earlier comment.
God bless

It would be more interesting if the opponents would read the Bible at its entirety. When I read through your arguments and how you've used bits from the Bible I understand that you have not truly read it, study it, and live it out.

Sabbath in Tonga. We grew up in this land and we had been taught by good parents to love God at that is why Tongan are Sabbath day observant. Tonga should not separate God Laws and Tongan Laws. The Constitution clearly stated the Sabbath Law and if you have other interpretation for that clause it is for you only. The minority who opposed this issue ask this question to You who is benefit from the Sabbath Law, You or the majority of this nation. If your fear is your business think again.

For the contributors to this discussion who insist that because it is in our Constitution and because it is legal, we should all accept the present interpretation of the powers that be, (the majority?? on how we should all keep the Sabbath Holy, please remember that for many years, centuries in some cases::

Apartheid was Legal,
Slavery was Legal,
Colonialism was Legal
Segregation was Legal,
The Holocaust was Legal,

All were accepted, implemented and executed with gusto, in the name of the Christian God.


Pule'anga mo e Lotu (State & Church) kae tu'uloa a Tonga 'i mamani - Romans 13:1; Matthew 7:9; Luke 11:11. Head of state (King in the form of Govt.) and his son (people of Tonga). "Jesus Policy" is the best policy in the world. Tau ako mei he talanoa malie koia ne hoko ki he Tu'i 'iloa: Nepukanesa etc. Ka 'oku ke manasi'i ko ho'o pisinisi - 'Oua - Mark 12: 17; Matthew 22:21. Ko e 'uhinga ia e moto 'a Tonga (Sila Tonga): Ko e 'Otua mo Tonga ko hoku Tofi'a (God and Tonga are my Inheritance - King George Tupou I). Tau ako mei he ngaahi Fonua 'oku nau hanga 'o "Separate State from Church". PS - ko Tonga e fonau hau 'i mamani he tokolahi taha e kakai kalisitiane (percentage) fakatatau ki he tokolahi hono kakai (total population). Hail Tonga.'s picture

These are fallacious analogies Mr Vete and some people call it a straw-argument. You brought up how people misused the Bible for their own selfish gains and shot it as if that's how God of the Bible works. Of course we cannot defend the illogical misapplication of the Bible. History is filled with abuse and misuse of every great ideas and world-views including the Bible.

If we want to attack any idea or any world view, do not argue against its abuse and misuse because that's a straw-man argument. Instead attack it's core teachings etc. Did the Bible mandate Apartheid, Slavery, Colonialism, Segregation, and the Holocaust? How can you compare the Sabbath Law to those abuse in history?

Properly applied, the Bible was and is instrumental in setting people free. May I introduce you to William Wilberforce who was influenced by John Wesley and John Newton to abolish slavery in England.

Talking about segregation in America, who is Martin Luther King, but a pastor and a follower of Christ. I'm glad you brought up the holocaust. Just read the biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was executed by Hitler for his fearless resistance against him because of his convictions as a follower of Christ.

To sustain liberty, we need a virtuous society. Since we cannot legalize morality, we can only provide an environment where people are encouraged to aspire to their most noble selves. No one is forced against his religion or what he believes. Everyone is simply told not to do business and it's a great thing for the country. Am I right that comparing Sunday and other six days of the weeks, the crime rate drop on Sunday?

Who is enslaved or who is unfairly treated by the Sabbath law in our Constitution? We all miss something but we gain more. To change the Sabbath is to change a way of life. It's okay if that's what we want Tonga to become like NZ, Aust etc.

To say that we need to let those who want to gain a few more dollars to work on Sunday should be permitted, what about those who want a bit more fish? or to plant a bit more kava?

Some people politicize the poor by saying that the "poor" need to work for survival and we should allow them. Here is the problem. Once we allow those "poor" to work for a few more dollars, the poor in Nomuka would like to fish for few more fish and the poor in Tofua wants to plant a few more kava on Sunday. The whole Sabbath culture would collapse.

Business will become the driving force and guess what, the rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer, and we can easily experience this brutal reality--the enemy of liberty is liberty itself.

Imagine the Chinese stores open from Sunday to Sunday. How will it affect the rest of us Tongans who value our sleep more than our wealth?

May the Sabbath be kept holy forever

Senituli Penitani