Attorney General Gloria Akuffo has described a law suit challenging the construction of a National Cathedral as a misunderstanding of the character of Ghanaian secularism.
She is urging the court to dismiss the case filed by the Convention People’s Party’s Director of Elections, James Kwabena Bomfeh.
He argues in his suit that Ghana is a secular state and it was therefore wrong for the state to be “excessively entangled in any religion or religious practice.”
Mr Bomfeh, consequently, wants the apex court to declare the building of the National Cathedral and state involvement in the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca unconstitutional.
But the Attorney General, in a statement of case signed by her deputy, Godfred Dame said a country that has for many years observed principal religious celebrations as public holidays cannot be said to be one that does not recognise the existence of a Supreme Being of God.
The statement further stated “we respectfully submit that a country that invokes the name of God in its pledge of allegiance and anthem, regularly observes religious holidays as public holidays and grants formal representation on a constitutional body to specifically named religious bodies, cannot be said to subscribe to a vision of secularism that does not permit the Government to make reasonable accommodation for religion.”
Artistic impression of the yet-to-be built National Cathedral
“It is submitted that secularism in the context of the Ghana Constitution must be understood to allow, even encourage, State recognition and accommodation of religion and religious identity.”
Citing the Hajj Pilgrimage which receives State support annually, the AG said the very nature of that support given to both religions – Christianity and Islam – cannot be used as vehicles of indoctrinating the citizenry.
In the absence of any policy to that effect, the AG said there is no risk of fostering any State religion through the kind of support or aid that government has provided Christianity and Islam.
“It is the Defendant’s contention that the State has not engaged in acts that should lead to a conclusion of undue or excessive entanglement with religion.”
“The State has not adopted any policy or enacted any law which allows the State to provide support to any religion for which State interference is required (through surveillance and substantial controls) to ensure that the support or aid is not diverted,” the statement added.
The statement further states that it can be seen that although there is no State religion in Ghana – no State church or mosque – it is a fallacy to conclude that Ghana is a State which does not believe in the Supreme Being of a God.
Referencing the preamble of the 1992 Constitution, the AG noted that recognition for the existence of a supreme spirit being is a way of life for Ghanaians.
The AG also raised an initial objection about whether there is an issue the court must deal with.
“It is submitted that in so far as there is the absence of a situation genuinely raising an issue for interpretation of the Constitution, the plaintiff’s cause of action, if any, is not in this Honourable Court. The High Court has jurisdiction in all matters. As the Supreme Court has stated in the cases referred to above, all courts in the country have the jurisdiction to apply the Constitution.”
“Even though it is out of place for counsel on the other side to proffer legal advice to a party in a matter, we would respectfully submit that if the plaintiff seeks to have the Constitution applied in a situation where there is no genuine issue for interpretation, the appropriate forum will be the High Court.”
“This is especially so as the provisions on freedom of religion which he seeks to apply, albeit unjustifiably in the circumstances of the instant action, are human rights provisions.”