A Secular State and the National Cathedral
Religion is a pre-occupation of the day-to-day lives of Ghanaians – and this gives the clerics dominion of the society. Like elsewhere in Greece and Iran, the religious societies have so much power that it cannot be contended – to the extent that they look to exercise power as a separate arm of government.
Although Ghana’s population has about 72% Christians, the 1992 Constitution does not seem to generally protect the idea of majoritarianism whereby a major population is entitled to a degree of primacy, hitherto, in religion. It suffices to say that the 1992 Constitution is pluralistic. The same Constitution, under article 21, that makes it clear that Ghana is a religious state, at the same time, makes it clear, under article 56, that Ghana is a secular state for the purpose of prohibiting the elevation of any religious organization to make Ghana a religious state.
In the case of Bomfeh v Attorney-General, the Supreme Court observed that the Constitution does not specifically prohibit the Government from supporting, assisting or cooperating with religious groups. What the letter and spirit of the constitutional provisions forbids is the state hindering freedom of worship, religion and belief in the country and discrimination on grounds of religion; then again, it is the understanding that the statement by the President on the 60thAnniversary Celebration of Ghana’s Independence that the construction of the national cathedral is a national heritage, giving it a national symbol, does not only manifest a social paradox, but it stands to somewhat undermine the position of the law that the Constitution forbids religious discrimination on grounds of religion.
There are religious cultures. For example, the St Paul’s Cathedral in the United Kingdom (in its present state) was put up by King Henry VIII as part of his declaration as Head of the English (Anglican) Church in 1534. And this condition is not obvious in Ghana; thus, these cathedrals were built under monarchies not democracies.
Like the Amazon Rivers which meet without mixing, whereas politics is a science, religion is a function of faith. And when land space is provided by the state after the demolition of the residences of Superior Court Judges worth 5 million cedis, and whose subsequent accommodation will cost 2,500 cedis per month; by all standards, this mono-Christian thrust by government frontally collides with the integration cast in our democratic society.
No doubt, no political thinker or activist preoccupied with the integration concerns of Ghana and Africa’s heterogeneous society will admit to the construction of cathedral to give it a national character. We need to build a culture that integrates or harmonizes our experiences of Christianity, Islam and African Tradition.
It is essential to emphasize in the historical condition of Ghana that the state, although religious, must be secular. Insistence on the secular nature of the state is not to be interpreted as a declaration of war on religion, for religion is a social fact. To declare war on religion is to treat it as an ideal phenomenon, to suppose that it might be wished away, or at worst scared out of existence.
Acts 7:48 “However, the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands.”