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31.05.2019 Feature Article

Can Parliament Legislate On Churches in Ghana?

Can Parliament Legislate  On Churches in Ghana?

IT's said that you can never understand people and gullibility. Gullibility has taken some of my people, hostage, back home. They've been caged, used and abused.

But guess where this phenomenon has gained foothold or prominence?

Gullibility has found itself at the centre stage of contemporary Church-- where the wolves in sheep clothing are brazenly feasting on their victims.

But must we sit aloof and watch this insanity?
Ghana's Parliament says no. No to the absurdity and no to the insanity.

The eminent House is considering enacting a regulatory law that will clamp down on fake pastors and their churches.

Parliament made this known on Wednesday 29, May 2019 during sitting in the nation's capital, Accra.

There's religious tolerability in Ghana.
Article 21/1 (C) of the1992 Constitution says:
"All persons shall have the freedom to practice any religion and to manifest such practice."

It further states that: "Every person is entitled to practice, profess, maintain and promote any culture, language, tradition or religion subject to the provisions of this Constitution."

However, the law also provides that the enjoyment of such rights must not infringe on the freedoms of others. And this explains why Parliament is going after these charlatans.

If considered, it will seek tougher sanctions against pastors and churches that prey on the flock, which could result-- throwing them out of business.

This could be seen as first of its kind in the nation's history since the establishment of the Fourth Republic in 1992.

It must be noted that at the time there were some sort of religious intolerance, especially during President Jerry John Rawlings regime.

The former military leader tried to gag religious groups but for the Catholic Bishops Conference.

It's also understood Mr. Rawlings took away management of mission schools (owned by Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist etc) from the church during or before the said period.

Threats & alleged persecutions
It's alleged that, Founder & Overseer of Power and Living Bread Ministries, Rev. Francis Akwasi Amoako faced the wrath of the regime.

The powerful Man of God who was critical of Rawlings government was killed in a car accident that collided with a military vehicle on the Takoradi-Accra Highway.

His tragic death which occurred on the 26 of Match 1990, was believed to have been master-minded by then military government.

Back to the subject:
Can Parliament legislate on the Church?
Already, some lawmakers have shown the knack for bringing this law alive to deal with what they describe as, 'exploitative self-styled' Men of God and their churches.

Ekow Hayford MP for Mfansteman says:
"An independent body should be set up backed by law devoid of politics which would investigate and check the activities of churches."

He's been supported by Ebenezer Nartey Member of Parliament for Ablekuma Central who lamented on how some pastors lure their members to purchase bottles of water for up to more than GHc 2000.

"Some of these churches have become nuisance to peace and quiet 'especially weekends.They hold a lot of all night and you you cannot sleep," he said.

Without a doubt, the church is spiritually compromised and one doesn't need a Seer or a Soothsayer to figure out which way the pendulum is swinging, says this writer.

Anthony T. Hicks says it eloquently:
" A scam is only a scam when it is discovered by the gullible that were taken in by the lure of making easy money in the first place."

Is Ghana a nation of many churches?
In 2014, there were more than 10, 000 churches in the country. And it's estimated that the number could more than double by end of 2019. Many hold the view that proliferation of churches is the driving force of gullibility. Churches are springing up like mushrooms and the gullible are following them like ants.

Indeed, the phenomenon has remarkably crescendoed in the Pentecostal and Charismatic Churches but not so prevalent in the orthodox churches, they argue.

So what does it take to deal with this canker?
One Africa country has blazed the trail.
Rwanda passed a law to regulate all faith-based organisations. The new law requires pastors to have a theology degree before they can start their own churches.

It also tequires the churches to declare grants to the regulator-- Rwanda Governance Board, according state media reports.

In February 2018, the central Afrian nation, Rwanda closed down about 700 Churches for not complying with building regulation and noise pollution.

Must Ghana tread same path?
And would such an action be deemed persecution of the saints?

Appeal by MP's
Mr. Hayford, has appealed or suggested that an independent body should be set up.

He says this must be: “backed by law and devoid of politics” which would investigate and check the activities of churches.

The legislator also appealed to the media to filter the content they put out, stressing that the media houses should be circumspect about the ‘Men of God’ they offer their platform to.

With regard to the public, he said, they should “also be vigilant and cautious in identifying which religious group and churches they associate with.”

On his part, while backing his colleague
Mr. Nartey, lamented on how some pastors lure their members to purchase bottles of water for up to or more than GH?2000.

He further pointed out that some of these churches have become a nuisance to peace and quiet “especially on weekends.”

“They hold a lot of all night and you cannot sleep,” he cried.

Alternative View(s)
MP for Ningo Prampram, Sam George agrees there should be legislation but with caution.

He prefers what I call a more lenient approach to perhaps a robust one. According to him a legislation on the issue might be a “step too far” since the Constitution permits freedom of religion.

So what do you think:
Must we apply what the scripture says in the book of Matthew --about the Tares and the Wheat? Or must we act swiftly and save the sheep gone astray?

Remember, the gullible have eyes but they cannot see. And they've ears but cannot hear.

Gordon Offin-Amaniampong
Gordon Offin-Amaniampong, © 2019

This author has authored 274 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: GordonOffinAmaniampong

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