Court rules in favor of CCCAS in case against one of its own

Orders Rev. Amaama and his family to vacate the church home by this Friday
ausage@samoanews.com

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The dispute between the Congregational Christian Church of American Samoa (CCCAS) and former CCCAS General Secretary Rev. Amaama Tofaeono and his wife, which started last March has come to an end, after the Trial Division of the High Court ordered that Rev. Amaama and his family vacate the designated CCCAS General Secretary home no later than Friday, March 30th.

Failure to do so will result in the Court Marshal removing Amaama and his family.

Acting Associate Justice Elvis P. Patea handed down the order during a status hearing last week; and Amaama was given 10 days to remove himself and his family from the home, which the family has occupied since Amaama took over the post of General Secretary in July 2016 following the church's general assembly.

STATUS HEARING

Charles Alailima represented Rev. Amaama while Gwen Tauiliili-Langkilde served as attorney for CCCAS.

During the hearing, Alailima requested that the court delay its order to remove his client from the house until the General Assembly could review and make a decision on whether to accept Amaama's resignation.

Rev. Amaama tendered his resignation letter this week to the Chairman of the CCCAS General Assembly. (See yesterday's front page for details)

It took the court 15 minutes to consider the matter and deny Amaama's request.

When asked for a comment, Alailima told Samoa News that the court ordered Rev. Amaama to pay a bond of $35,000 if he wanted to stay in the General Secretary home while the appeal for the case brought against his client by the chairman of the Elders Committee of CCCAS is pending.

“Amaama was not able to make such a high bond so the court issued and ordered him to leave in 10 days, otherwise the marshal of the court would remove him,” Alailima wrote in an email to Samoa News.

According to Alailima, a few days before last week’s hearing, Rev. Amaama sought to resolve the crisis in church governance, by having him present the following resolution.

“He would formally submit his letter of resignation to the next General Assembly meeting in July and if it is accepted he would consider his service as General Secretary ended. However, Rev. Amaama will respect the court’s order to leave the house and will do so this week,” Alailima said.

When asked for a comment, Rev. Amaama told Samoa News that he respects the court's decision, but he questions the truth behind it because he feels that the latest decision contradicts its prior ruling, where the court specified that there are issues pertaining to the church itself, and there are also issues that the court has jurisdiction over.

“I believe the issue between the CCCAS and myself is not an issue that the court has jurisdiction over; this is a matter that pertains to the church itself. The church constitution is clear, the Elders Committee is under the authority of the General Assembly, and the Elders Committee has no authority to terminate my ordained minister position,” Amaama said.

According to him, he tried very hard to find a way to resolve the issue between him and the Elders Committee because it's something that must be done when it comes to the work of church ministers; but they still wanted the court to handle the issue instead of solving it in a Christian way.

“I sought to work with the Elders Committee to reach a harmonious solution among us who are members of the clergy, but all those efforts failed, as my request for such solution was rejected,” Amaama said.

“They accused me of something but they don’t have facts to support their accusations. I never assaulted my wife nor did I abuse my daughter. I didn’t commit adultery and the Elders Committee has not a single evidence to support their decision to remove us from the house and suspend my ministerial duties. God is watching from afar and He knows the truth.”

BACKGROUND

The conflict between CCCAS and Amaama made headlines last year because of the events that led to the case landing in court.

The complaint was filed by the CCCAS along with Rev. Elder Eveni Mamoe, Leatulagi Faalevao, and Fiti Aofia, who are the plaintiffs in this matter, against the defendants, Rev. Amaama Tofaeono and his wife Joan Aleluia Tofaeono.

CCCAS sought summary judgment against Amaama and his wife, who allegedly refused to vacate CCCAS housing they occupied, after Amaama’s ministerial duties — including his CCCAS General Secretary post — were suspended for a certain amount of time.

The court was told that the alleged marital discord between Amaama and his wife resulted in the CCCAS Elder’s Committee suspending him from his position as an ordained minister for a period of three years. The committee also removed Amaama from the position of General Secretary of the Church because an ordained minister must hold it.

Amaama and his wife were also informed that they must vacate the CCCAS house, designated for use by the General Secretary, by March 31, 2017. When Amaama and his wife refused to move out, CCCAS brought the action for summary repossession of the property.

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