By Jonathan Paye-Layleh
The Liberian Government has imposed an immediate ban on street preaching by evangelists and church leaders in the capital, Monrovia.
Taylor is jittery over huge gatherings
A justice ministry press release cited security reasons for the ban but gave no more details.
It only warned of stiff punitive measures against would-be violators of the new order.
The ban comes just a week after rebels of the Liberian United for Reconciliation and Development (Lurd), who started their insurgency in the north of the county five years ago, came to within 10km of the capital.
Until today, nearly every street corner and public square in Monrovia were scenes of day-time prayer services, with young evangelists and self-proclaimed spiritual counsellors drawing in crowds.
Street vendors and students would abandon their daily duties and gather in the burning sun to repeat recitals of prayers for themselves and the nation.
Thousands have fled the fighting
Followers were encouraged to present gifts, usually money, to God through the preachers in return for God's expected blessings.
Indeed so widespread had street evangelism become that people with little or no biblical knowledge were also getting involved in the preaching.
Since Lurd rebels began attacking townships close to Monrovia, the government has attempted to discourage the mass gathering of people in the capital.
Reaction to this latest measure has been mixed.
Some people see the action as helping to make things difficult for suspected rebel agents who might take advantage of such gatherings to cause a stir in Monrovia.
But a renowned clergyman, the Reverend Plessant Harris, described the measure as "a little bit vague".
He said unless the government explains the specific activities which are banned, then the banning order will be left open to all kinds of interpretation.