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Local boxer files civil complaint over COVID-19 declarations

American Samoa High Court building
Claims it restricts his freedom of religion; this is the 3rd complaint of this nature

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A former local boxer, Siaosi ‘George’ Tanoa, who has represented the territory in regional tournaments, has filed a civil complaint against the governor and ASG over provisions of the governor’s COVID-19 declarations, which restricts his right to freedom of religion.

The complaint filed last week Thursday in the Trial Division of the High Court seeks $1 million in “compensation and punitive punishment” against the defendants. Tanoa’s lawsuit is the third one pending in court challenging provisions of the governor’s declarations.

According to the complaint, Tanoa wished to attend a prayer-meeting at his church building in Iliii near the golf course, with the pastor and his wife, along with their son, “as one spiritual family after 9p.m and before 5a.m.”

Samoa News points out that provisions of the governor’s Sixth Amended and Seventh Amended declarations, allow public gatherings including at houses of worship between 5a.m. and 9p.m. daily.

Tanoa explained in the complaint that this public assembly and prayer routine began in 2017 on almost every Friday night and on every Saturday between 4:30a.m and 6a.m as the Samoan Unity Christian Church “gatherings and prayer meetings”.

“On some occasions, I woke before 4a.m and started praying until 6a.m. I also go to the church to sleep there on many Friday nights,” said the plaintiff.

“The Governor and the American Samoa government have made the assembly and prayer meetings illegal between 9p.m. and 5a.m. even though there is no coronavirus in American Samoa,” the plaintiff argued. “The meetings were also completely banned.”

Plaintiff further argued that he has been “forced to stop going to the meetings against my will.”

“So I am needing some relief for this situation [sic]. The defendants are violating and have violated my civil and constitution rights,” the plaintiff claims. Tanoa is representing himself, pro se and has already served the complaint on the defendants, according to information forwarded to Samoa News over the weekend.

Tanoa’s civil complaint was filed the same day that the Trial Division of the High Court denied separate applications by plaintiffs Bryan Jackson and Steven Jay Pincus Hueter for a preliminary injunction, enjoining the governor and ASG from enforcing certain provisions of the COVID-19 declarations. (See Monday’s Samoa News edition for details.)