Advances in Applied Sociology
2013. Vol.3, No.7, 282-288
Published Online November 2013 in SciRes (
Open Access 282
Separation of Church and State: A Study of Accra City’s Use of
Public Buildings and Schools for Religious Services in Ghana
Ishmael D. Norman1,2
1The Institute of Security, Disaster and Emergency Studies, Accra, Ghana
2School of Public Health, Univer s ity of Health and Allied Sciences, Ho, Volta Region, Ghana
Received August 6th, 2013; revised September 6th, 2013; accepted September 11th, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Ishmael D. Norman. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons
Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the
original work is properly cited.
This is a review of the Constitutional provisions on freedom of religion in Ghana and to determine
whether the Constitution offers to religious bodies the use of public buildings and schools as places of
worship. This study consisted of literature and documentary review of cases, the 1992 Constitution and
legal writings from Ghana and other jurisdictions on the issue of separation of Church and State. The le-
gal framework for freedom of religion does not include the commingling of public asset with private reli-
gious expressions, which goes against the zoning regulations and public policy on noise pollution and
Keywords: Separation of Church and State; Use of School Buildings; Use of Public Buildings; Religious
Worship; Ghana
The issue of separation of Church and State or the doctrine of
laicite” has confronted many democracies around the world,
particularly the United States of America. Separation of Church
and State does not negate freedom of religion. It does not dis-
parage the tenets of one’s faith as a set of mystical irrationality,
but a substantive right worthy of pursuit without pressure or
coercion from any one or the State (Carter, 1993).
Separation of Church and State in
the West Industrialized Nations
Laicite, a French word, means separation of religion from
political power, which in turn protects religion and thus blocks
religious influences on the people, at least in public places.
Today, in France, there is not a complete separation of Church
and State but rather a rationale accommodation of religious
expression consistent with public policy (Beita, 2008; Davidson,
To illustrate the concept of separation of church and state
further, the US Constitution guarantees freedom of religion.
This includes freedom from religious observance, school prayer,
freedom from reciting the pledge of allegiance and freedom
from either the state or federal government using government
property or finances in support and promotion of religion
(Everson, 1947).
The First Amendment to the US Constitution States that,
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of
religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging
the freedom of speech or of the press; or of the right of the peo-
ple peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for
redress of grievances.
The basic tenets of separation between Church and State as
articulated by the US Constitution and Common law were first
enunciated in United States Supreme Court decision contained
in the case of Everson v. Board of Education (1947) thus:
1) A State or the federal government cannot set up a Church;
2) Laws cannot be passed to aid one religion at the expense
of another;
3) There cannot be a national or State preference for one re-
ligion over the others;
4) No one can be restricted from going to a Church of his or
her preference;
5) No one can be made to attend a Church or religious ser-
6) No one can be punished for professing his religious beliefs
or disbeliefs, for Church attendance or non-attendance;
7) No tax no matter how infinitesimal the amount can be lev-
ied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever
they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach
or practice religion.
The facts of the case were:
The appellant, in his capacity as a district taxpayer, filed suit
in a State court challenging the right of the Board of Education
to reimburse parents of parochial school students with the cost
of transportation to school under a new statute. He contended
that the statute violated both the New Jersey and the Federal
Constitutions. The court held that the legislature was without
power to authorize such payment under the State constitution
(132 N. J. L. 98, 39 A. 2d 75). The New Jersey Court of Errors
and Appeals reversed, holding that neither the statute nor the
resolution passed pursuant to it was in conflict with the State
constitution or the provisions of the Federal Constitution in
issue (133 N. J. L. 350, 44 A. 2d 333). The case went to the US
Court on appeal under 28 U. S. C. 344(a), 28 U. S. C. A. 344(a).
The only contention there was that the State statute and the
resolution, in so far as they authorized reimbursement to par-
ents of children attending parochial schools, violated the Fed-
eral Constitution in those two respects. First: They authorized
the State to take by taxation the private property of some and
bestow it upon others, to be used for their own private purposes.
This, it is alleged violates the due process clause of the Four-
teenth Amendment. Second: The statute and the resolution forc-
ed inhabitants to pay taxes t o help support and maintain sch ools
which were dedicated to, and which regularly taught, the Ca-
tholic Faith. This was alleged to be a use of State power to
support church schools contrary to the prohibition of the First
Amendment which the Fourteenth Amendment made applicable
to the states.
In 1990, the Supreme Court of the United States of America
ruled that the States could mount laws to override religious
freedoms if such laws do not specifically target a particular
religion and if not to do so would encourage wanton breach of
the criminal prohibitions of society in the case of Employment
Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon et al v.
Alfred Smith (Employment Division v. Smith). Smith is a US
Supreme Court case that determined that the state could deny
unemployment benefits to a person fired for violating a state
prohibition on the use of peyote, even though the use of the
drug was part of a religious ritual. That is to say, although the
state has the power to tolerate otherwise illegal acts done in
pursuit of religious beliefs they are not required to do so. The
facts of the Smith case were:
Alfred Smith and Galen Black were members of the Native
American Church and counselors at a private drug rehabilita-
tion clinic. They were both fired because they had ingested pe-
yote, a powerful entheogen, as part of their religious ceremo-
nies as members of the Native American Church. At that time
intentional possession of peyote was a crime under Oregon law
without an affirmative defense for religious use. The counselors
filed a claim for unemployment compensation with the state,
which was denied because the reason for their dismissal was
deemed work-related misconduct.”
At the appeals level, the ruling was reversed the ruling. The
Appeals Court held that denying Smith and Black their unem-
ployment benefits for their religious use of peyote violated their
right to exercise of their religion.
The Oregon Supreme Court agreed, although it relied not on
the fact that peyote use was a crime but on the fact that the
states justification for withholding the benefits was outweighed
by the burden imposed on Smiths and Blacks exercise of their
The state of Oregon appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court,
maintaining the same argument that denying the unemployment
benefits was proper because using peyote was a crime.
The US Supreme Court left the Oregon Supreme Courts ju-
dgment against the disgruntled employees, and returned the
case to the Oregon courts to determine whether or not sacra-
mental use of illegal drugs violated Oregons state drug laws
(485 US 660 (1988)). On remand, the Oregon Supreme Court
concluded that while Oregon drug law prohibited the consump-
tion of illegal drugs for sacramental religious uses, this prohi-
bition violated the free exercise clause. The case returned to the
US Supreme Court in this new posture. The state asked the US
Supreme Court to review this second decision of the Oregon
Supreme Court, and it agreed to do so.
The Supreme Court said the state or government could not
force an individual to give up his religious rituals on the condi-
tion of access to unemployment benefits. The Supreme Court
found in Smith that the “First Amendments protection of the
free exerciseof religion does not allow a person to use a reli-
gious motivation as a reason not to obey generally applicable
laws”. That is to say, when the conduct in question is “justifia-
bly prohibited by law” the individual cannot profit from such a
conduct and claim the protection under the “free exercise”
clause of the First Amendment to the US Constitution.
This does not mean to suggest that religious freedoms have
been curtailed. Rather, there appears to be more accommoda-
tion for State-Church partnership through funding of faith-bas-
ed programs, where the recipients of services from such funds
can choose to go to religious or secular providers. It has also
been found that the refusal to allow faith-based organizations to
participate in bidding for funding is discriminatory (Durham Jr.,
Separation between Church and School in Ghana
There is often the confusion in Ghana and elsewhere that
once a prayer is said at State and official functions, or when the
word “God” is mentioned in an oath of allegiance for high of-
fice jobs, and then such acts support the position that there is no
separation between the State and Church (Mahmood, 2008).
In terms of prayer at public events, it is often not important
to those who use it to support the argument that there is no
separation between Church and State to verify whether or not
the audience are indeed praying or just merely being civil by
not protesting, walking out of the hall but being present and
rather “tune out and tune in” to, perhaps, more prurient matters.
In the case of an oath of allegiance, it appears so few a citizen
swears it that its value as evidence of the lack of separation
between Church and State is insignificant to the debate and the
Constitutional protections for the bulk of the population.
In Ghana, religious bodies use as places of worship, govern-
ment School buildings and other movable assets or interests of
Schools for their exclusive benefits. Although there are a few
instances of Schools being temporarily used as prayer centers
by religious bodies, the overwhelming majority of the religious
groups that adopt Schools as Churches do so for years on end.
The question that remains to be asked is, are Churches in Ghana
so vulnerable that the state has to carve out special protections
for them?
The doctrine of Parens Patriae maintains that the sovereign
State power should be exercised with tenderness and respect
towards those citizens who are not able to care for themselves,
including children, people with physical, mental and other dis-
abilities, and racial and sexual minorities. That is to say, the
State is the supreme “parent” of all children and therefore must
be given equal protection regardless of faith or creed. Although
there is no empirical study in Ghana about the financial status
of Churches and other religions, it is generally believed that in
most neighborhoods with Churches, Mosques and other reli-
gious properties, these tend to be more opulent, if not spectacu-
lar in comparison to the houses in the same neighborhoods.
There is therefore the inference that the Churches, Mosques and
other religious groups are not financially hurting for cash and
are capable of building branch churches and mosques or syna-
gogues without resulting to the use of School buildings.
Children at the School going age in Ghana are not only from
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Christian fami lies but they come also from Muslim, Athei st and
Traditional religious backgrounds and groupings. When State
property supports one religious group, it goes against both the
tax-burden and Constitutional interests of those children of a
School or Schools so affected, and those of their parents as well
(Murray, 1947; Paulsen, 1986).
Others have argued that State sponsored support of churches
appear unpatriotic, to the extent that it undermines the develop-
ment of democracy and individual freedom from religious ob-
servance (Paulsen, 1986). At the center of the doctrine of sepa-
ration of Church and State is that, the State would not either
covertly or overtly support or promote one religion at the ex-
pense of another. According to a report filed by John Bingham
of the “Telegraph” on 10:2:2012, a High Court in London, UK,
ruled that there was “no lawful” place for prayer during formal
local government proceedings’ and that the council had “no
power” to include prayers in meetings’ under that country’s
Local Government Act of 1972.
The essential question is: Does the doctrine of separation of
Church and State also mean separation of Church and School?
Borrowing from other common law jurisdictions, the case of
Everson v. Board of Education provides the continuum for the
discussion of the concept of separation of church and state. In
Arch R. Everson v. Board of Education of the Township of Ew-
ing et al., it was held that the State is under duty to ignore the
child’s creed but not its need… The State which allows the
pupil to subscribe to any religious creed should not, because of
his exercise of this right, proscribe him from benefits common
to all. The background to Everson was:
A New Jersey law authorized payment by local school boards
of the costs of transportation to and from schoolsincluding
private schools of which 96% were parochial Catholic schools.
Arch R. Everson, a taxpayer in Ewing Township, filed a lawsuit
alleging that this indirect aid to religion through the mecha-
nism of reimbursing parents and students for costs incurred as
a result of attending religious schools violated both the New
Jersey state constitution and the First Amendment. After a loss
in the New Jersey Court of Errors and Appeals, then the states
highest court, Everson appealed to the US Supreme Court on
purely federal constitutional grounds. Arguments were heard
on November 20, 1946.
In People of State of Illinois ex rel. Vashti McCollum v.
Board of Education of School District No. 71, Champaign
County, Illonis et al. the U. S. Supreme court affirmed the ear-
lier precedents on separation of church and state. The facts of
the cases were:
Vashti McCollum, the mother of a student enrolled in the
Champaign public school district. In 1940, interested members
of various Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish faiths formed an
association named the Champaign Council on Religious Edu-
cation. This association obtained permission from the Cham-
paign Board of Education to offer voluntary religious educa-
tion classes for public school students from grades four to nine.
These weekly 30- and 45-minute classes were led by clergy and
lay members of the association in public school classrooms
during school hours. McCollum, an atheist, objected to the re-
ligious classes, stating that her son James was ostracized for
not attending them. After complaints to school officials to stop
offering these classes went unhee ded, McCollum sued the school
board in July 1945, stating that the religious instruction in the
public schools violated the Establishment Clause of the First
Amendmentthe principle of separation of church and state in
the United States. McCollum also complained that the school
districts religious education classes violated the Equal Protec-
tion Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The principal ele-
ments of the McCollum complaint were that:
1) In actual practice certain Protestant groups exercised an
advantage over other Protestant denominations.
2) The school districts calling the classes voluntary was in
name only because school officials coerced or forced students
3) The power exercised by the Champaign Council on Reli-
gious Education in its selection of instructors, and the school
superintendents oversight of these instructors served to deter-
mine which religious faiths participated in the instructional
program, and constituted a prior censorship of religion.
McCollum asked that the Board of Education be ordered to
adopt and enforce rules and regulations prohibiting all in-
struction in and teaching of all religious education in all public
schools in Champaign District Number 71, and in all public
school houses and buildings in said district when occupied by
public schools”.
In other jurisdictions in the United States of America such as
Louisiana, the response to whether or not a School can be used
as a Church has been stated thus:
The use of School facilities, except for educational, govern-
mental, and civil defense and civil emergency purposes, shall
be on a temporary, short-term basis. Temporary, short-termis
defined as use of School buildings no more than six times in a
12-month period. Use of School facilities for athletic activities
only may be permitted on a more frequent basis with the per-
mission of the superintendent of Schools (Peoples, 2011).
The Calcasieu Parish School Board policy was designed to
give priority to student based organizations and is not meant to
show prejudice against Churches”.
The Position of Ghana’s 1992 Constitution
The 1992 Constitution of Ghana is silent on the issue of se-
paration of Church and State. However, a careful reading of the
Constitution would show that separation of Church and State is
implicit in the Constitutional grant of the freedom of religion.
The Constitution provides for the unfettered freedom of religion
and freedom of association. Article 17 (2) of the 1992 Constitu-
tion of Ghana prohibits discrimination on the grounds of relig-
ion and creed. Article 21 (c) to (e) promotes freedom to practice
any religion and freedom of association, including religious fel-
lowship. This goes without saying that it also promotes the
freedom of disbelief in a religion and non-attendance of Church
and religious activities. Articles 18 with 20 and others promote,
support and protect the right to own property. This is buttressed
by Articles 24, the right to gainful employment in order to earn
income in order to invest in property and others including build-
ing a Church. Article 25 promotes the right to establish and
maintain a private School or Schools, including religious groups
that may want to build Schools. Article 26 lends support to the
right to enjoy one’s religion, promote any culture, language or
tradition so long as it is consistent with public policy: the pro-
motion of individual liberties in a free and democratic society.
Such rights are co-extensive to both natural persons and other
Every single one of the above provisions exists to promote
individual liberties to freedom, right of association and the ex-
ploitation of the gains from one’s industry. It does not however
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provide that citizens may depend on the government and public
assets for their religious expressions or observance (Engel v.
Vitale, 1962; Paulsen, 1986).
The Role of the Modern State and Church
There have been arguments against the strict division be-
tween the State and the Church. It has been alleged that “the
modern State does not enjoy a monopoly of the citizen’s alle-
giance as did the kings of yesterday. The State shares this alle-
giance with organized religion or the Church” (Nsereko, 1986).
It is generally accepted that “a government that declares itself
to be operating on Christian principles effectively undercuts
certain potential opposition. Political figures who invoke the
name and sometimes the authority of God, even if their lives
and actions seem to contradict the workings of Gods grace,
can have their persuasive power multiplied among Christians
who accept their words at face value” (Feldman, 2005; Lambert,
2005; Hamilton, 2002; Berman, 1983).
Haynes (2004) presented in his paper, “Religion and Demo-
cracy in Africa” that religion is almost a form of anti-estab-
lishment protest against dictatorial government, perhaps. He,
however, maintained that to look at religion strictly on such
lines would be limiting. His approach was to develop two-
prong foci to look at, first, the relationship of senior religious
figures to the State and the role of the former in Africa’s de-
Secondly, he looked at the political importance of “popular”
religions in Africa. Haynes’s approach, it seems, falters because
there is nothing called popular religions in Africa. Each region
has its own popular religion and each nation has its own popu-
lar religion. A recent survey conducted by the Pew Forum in
2010 concluded that Sub-Sahara Africa is the most religious
place on earth, where 98% of Senegalese and 93% of Mali said
religion is very important to them. In the US, the most religious
industrialized nation, only 57% reported that religion was most
important to them (Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures
Project, 2010). Currently, the religious piety that is sweeping
through Ghana and the rest of Africa is not essentially different
from the so-called “First Great Awakening”. This was a period
of revitalization of religious piety that took hold of the then
American colonies between 1730’s and 1770’s (Heyman, 2008).
The “First Great Awakening” was led then in the American
colonies by Protestants. Those Churches promised the popula-
tion in the new lands, fellowship, solace and group support,
when faced with all types of socio-economic challenges, in-
cluding migration; attacks from indigenous Indians and disease.
Today in Ghana, the driving forces behind the revitalization of
religion, is similar to the socio-economic push factors that led
to the First Great Awakening in the American colonies in the
1770’s. Segments of the population of Ghana continually find
their fortunes being squandered away by their political leaders.
There is a permanent State of crisis (van de Walle, 2001;
Bates, 1993). They are confronted with both communicable and
non-communicable diseases (Ghana Health Service Annual Re-
port, 2010). Many of the population of Ghana are marginalized,
devoid of many of the indicators for social determinants of life
such as basic housing with potable water and in-door plumbing,
good income, access to education, gender equity, freedom of
association, and due process. Charismatic and Pentecostal pre-
achers promise the marginalized, prosperity and a better life in
the face of crushing difficulties (Hayman, 2008). Religion in
Africa is, therefore, a form of fellowship and worship of a deity
and often has nothing to do with political protest.
Political activists tend to co-opt religious bodies into their
causes both for the sheer numbers of Church memberships and
for emotional support and identity (Bates, 1993). Nsereko’s
claim that religious bodies are a disguised political force in
waiting, which shares the political power with elected political
leaders, runs counter to Ghana’s Constitutional position on the
role of the Church. It is also archaic. Common-law decisions
involving Churches and Church interests in Ghana have not
chipped away the Constitutional barriers between Church and
State in Ghana.
It appears the import of Articles 17 (2) and 21 (c) to (e) is to
stop Churches and other religious bodies from claiming author-
ity in national government and thus erecting a wall between the
functions of the State and those of the Church (Greenhouse,
2005; Nsereko, 1986). The separation of Church and State di-
vide as pertains in the United States of America includes not
only the Church-State divide itself. It is also a legal doctrine
that concerns the modern structure of society and government,
the rule of law and individual liberties, autonomy, and political
legitimacy. Ghanaian society like the society in the United
States of America is not governed by ecclesiastical and reli-
gious laws, such as Shar-ia law and religious leaders. Ghana
has a unitary, unicameral secular government.
The sovereign power of the nation emanates from the people
of Ghana and not from the government or religious bodies and
Churches (Ghana’s Constitution, 1992). The society in Ghana
is driven by secular aspirations and idiosyncratic economic and
social motives of individuals and those of their respective fami-
lies and not by directives from the Church and religious bodies
or even the government. The society is the driving force push-
ing the development agenda with government as the driver
hired for a 4-year term to give material expression to the goals
of the people. There are three main religions in Ghana, namely
Christianity which represents 50% of the population, followed
by Muslim with 14% and Traditional religion has 22% (Ghana
Census Bureau, Statistical Service, 2011). None of such relig-
ions can lay claim as essential parts of governance under the
current Constitutional dispensation. The essential parts of the
government consist of the executive, the parliament and the
judiciary. The influence of many of Ghana’s Churches is felt by
their members, by and large and, perhaps, but by no other entity
due to the parochial appeal of many of Ghana’s Churches.
Churches exist as clubs, deliberative and civic associations but
are not the earthly representatives of the moral majority (Weber,
1958; Greenhouse, 2005). In terms of an overarching moral
philosophy of the nation, there is no shared or collective moral
ethic when it comes to religion, work, civic responsibility, com-
mitment and personal or family values. The Ghanaian identifies
first with the family, the tribe and finally, the nation.
Today in Ghana, it appears as if religion is used more as a
tool for social networking, personal advancement and eminence,
rather than as a means to exemplify ecclesiastical objectives.
Although religion plays very influential role among the mem-
bers of a particular group, it appears what pertains is nothing
more than elevated religiosity (McFarland, Uecker, & Regnerus,
2011, Brothers, 1993; Burton, 1992; Butler & Harper, 1994;
Prest & Keller, 1993). McFarland, Uecker, et al. (2011) defined
elevated religiosity as Church attendance and strength of reli-
gious identification.
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The Purpose of the Study
The indiscriminate citing of Churches in Schools and other
government buildings in cities, towns and villages in Ghana has
created challenges for public health in terms of noise pollution,
nuisance, encroachment, environmental degradation due to un-
sanitary practices and other environmental and tort crimes. The
purpose of this study is to review the Constitutional provisions
on freedom of religion in Ghana and to determine whether the
Constitution offers to religious bodies the use of public build-
ings and schools as places of worship. In the Greater Accra
alone, there are over 466 public schools and over 386 private
schools that receive government support either in the form of
school feeding program, hiring and retention of teachers and the
supply of basic inputs such as text books. Almost all of these
schools are under use as centers of religious worship irrespec-
tive of their location and proximity to private residential set-
tlements. There have been violent confrontations between
Churches and other cultural-religious groups about drumming
noise. There have also been many instances where neighbors
have confronted Church agents or sued seeking an order to
move such worship to more appropriate locations. Such con-
frontations and litigations defeat the religious purpose of Church
attendance and fellowship. There is also no scientific literature
within Ghana on the issue. The legal framework both at statute
law and the common-law are also silent on the issue. Although
separation of Church and State is not mentioned in the Consti-
tution of Ghana, this does not allow the assumption that the
right to practice one’s religion includes the right to use gov-
ernment offices, other physical assets and public School build-
ings financed by the tax-payer as Church Houses. Such private
uses of public assets are at the exclusion of other non-religious
bodies and associations. Such facilities are often not available
to other members of the public and to other faiths. Often, such
facilities are not available to the students of the very Schools in
which the religious groups hold Church services. The students
of such Schools are often denied access to use the buildings to
conduct remedial classes in preparation for competitive national
examinations. This study would provide the baseline public
health and legal reasoning for initiating public discourse and
attempt to provide the rationale for developing legal framework
to address the issues implicated.
In the present study the national laws that are implicated in
this assessment were identified. These included the 1992 Con-
stitution, the Local Government Act, and the Ghana Law Re-
ports from 1980 to 2010, as well as other grey literature nation-
ally available. Documentary search on the internet was con-
ducted with themes such as: the separation of church and state,
the use of school buildings as churches, abuse of zoning laws
by churches, and separation of church and schools. The docu-
mentation on separation of church and state and other grey
literature were read and analyzed. The result is interpreted and
reported in this paper.
Results from the Literature Review
All over Ghana, Classroom blocks built with revenues from
the tax payers by the government are being used as Church
houses in the evenings and during the weekends. It appears also
that the Local Government Act, 1993 (Act 462) Part IV dealing
with licences and Part VIII dealing with revenue mobilization
may be implicated. Part IV (77) dealing with licences States:
No person shall undertake or do within a district any of the
acts or things mentioned in the Fifth Schedule to this Act with-
out first having taken out from the District Assembly a licence
for that purpose and paid the fee required by bye-laws made
under this Act.
Section 78(3) provides penalties for failure to obtain or pro-
duce licences, which includes imprisonment. The Fifth Sched-
ule (Section 77) is captioned: Entertainment Licences and
Concerts, musical or theatrical performances, video shows,
cinemas, fairs, circuses, dances, discotheques and other enter-
tainments to which admission is to be obtained on payment of
money or reward, except where the whole proceeds are being
devoted to charity.
Additionally, these other laws of the nation may be impli-
cated, Entertainment Duty Act, 1962 (Act 150), Income Tax
(Registration of Trade, Business, Profession or Vocation) Law,
1986 (P. N. D. C. L. 174). Part VII dealing with Financial Mat-
ters, Section 86 subsections (3) and (4) empowers the district
assemblies to collect levies, fees, and licences for activities list-
ed in the Sixth Schedule. Under this schedule, all manner of
both formal and informal commercial, artisan and professional
activities are levied, including Town Hall and Community Cen-
ters. This mandate appears to be further reinforced by the Sec-
ond Schedule of the Local Government (Urban, Zonal and
Town Councils and Unit Committees) (Establishment) Instru-
ment, 1994, LI 1589, pp. 13-14.
Rent Disbursement and Accountability
The investigation from municipal revenue agents revealed
that there is very little accountability with respect to the rate of
charges to the religious bodies for the use of such facilities.
There is no standard for the remittances of the amounts col-
lected to the national exchequer. When it comes to the abuse of
other ordinances in terms of zoning regulations, or meeting fire,
health, sanitation and environmental requirements as well as the
abetment of noise and other pollution, the list is exhaustive.
The Position of the Ministry of Education on Renting
School Buildings for Church Services
The Ministry of Education does not have an official policy,
the study found, on leasing or renting School buildings and
other properties to religious groups. The Ministry’s practice
goes in the opposite direction that School property should not
be used for such activities, but this warning largely goes un-
heeded. There appears to be a tendency on the part of the chur-
ches that in doing allegedly God’s work, they can simply flaunt
the laws of the nation since the end justifies the means.
Prayer, the Pledge of Allegiance and Separation of
Church and State
The study found that, in fact, the framers of the 1992 Con-
stitution of Ghana intended a separation of Church and State,
by making any homily to God at official functions, an optional
and non-obligatory personal choice. The Second Schedule of
Forms of Oaths to the 1992 Constitution, the Presidential Oath
States thus:
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I, _______ having been elected to the high office of President
of the Republic of Ghana do (in the name of the Almighty God
swear) (solemnly affirm) that I will be faithful and true to the
Republic of Ghana; that I will at all times preserve, protect and
defend the Constitution of the Republic of Ghana; and that I
dedicate myself to the service and well-being of the people of
the Republic of Ghana and to do right to all manner of persons.
I further (solemnly swear) (solemnly affirm) that should I at
any time break this oath of office I shall submit myself to the
laws of the Republic of Ghana and suffer the penalty for it. (So
help me God).
To be administered by the Chief Justice before Parliament.
The encapsulated homilies, “in the name of the Almighty
God swear”, or “So help me God”, further underscores the neu-
trality of the 1992 Constitution on the issue of the promotion of
The Position of the Procurement Act on
Leasing/Ren ti ng Sch ool Pro per t y
The Public Procurement Act, 2003 (Act 663) is implicated in
the renting of School buildings to Churches. The leasing of
government buildings and Schools built with tax payers reve-
nues or subvented agencies is captured under Act 663, Part II,
Section 14 (1) (a) through (d) that:
the procurement of goods, works, and services, financed in
whole or in part from public funds except where the Minister
decides that it is in the national interest to use a different pro-
cedure”; shall be in compliance with the law, as well asthe
disposal of public stores and equipment”.
“Subvented agency” is defined by Act 663 as “an agency set
up by Government to provide public service and financed from
public funds allocated by Parliament in the annual appropria-
tion”. The Act also defines “national interest” to mean “a con-
dition where the nation attaches high value, returns, benefit
and consideration to the matter in question”. Although religion
is of high national interest, the drafters of the 1992 Constitution
or the successive governments have not considered it high
enough a priority to provide for its support and promotion
through statute law and the judiciary has not provided for it
through the common-law. It appears the leasing of government
property, at least, if not subjected to the rigors of the Procure-
ment Law, should be made transparent and public as contained
in Part VIII of Act 663, Sections 83 through 85.
Licensing Implications of
Churches-in-School-Buildings for District Assemblies
The Local Government Act, 1993 (Act 462) Part IV dealing
with licenses and Part VIII dealing with revenue mobilization
are implicated. Part IV (77) dealing with licenses States:
No person shall undertake or do within a district any of the
acts or things mentioned in the Fifth Schedule to this Act with-
out first having taken out from the District Assembly a license
for that purpose and paid the fee required by bye-laws made
under this Act.
Section 78(3) provides penalties for failure to obtain or pro-
duce licenses, which includes imprisonment. The Fifth Sched-
ule (Section 77) is captioned: Entertainment Licenses and
Concerts, musical or theatrical performances, video shows,
cinemas, fairs, circuses, dances, discotheques and other enter-
tainments to which admission is to be obtained on payment of
money or reward, except where the whole proceeds are being
devoted to charity.
Although this paper did not investigate whether or not the
proceeds from Church collections are given in whole or part to
charitable courses, the general view is that very few Churches
give to charity and often these are the more established, ortho-
dox religions. Additionally, these other laws of the nation, the
study found, are implicated: Entertainment Duty Act, 1962 (Act
150), Income Tax (Registration of Trade, Business, Profession
or Vocation) Law, 1986 (P. N. D. C. L. 174). Part VII dealing
with Financial Matters, Section 86 subsections (3) and (4) em-
powers the district assemblies to collect levies, fees, and li-
censes for activities listed in the Sixth Schedule. Under this
schedule, all manner of both formal and informal commercial,
artisan and professional activities are levied, including the use
of Town Hall and Community Centers. This mandate is rein-
forced by the Second Schedule of the Local Government (Ur-
ban, Zonal and Town Councils and Unit Committees) (Estab-
lishment) Instrument, 1994, LI 1589, pp. 13-14.
Environmental and Health Impact Assessment of
The study found that the religious groups that use govern-
ment Schools and other structures for their private religious
purposes other than the purposes for which those structures
were built, do not seek permit from the Environmental Protec-
tion Agency, (EPA). The Environmental Protection Agency Act,
1994 (Act 490) and its Legislative Instrument, LI 1703 for En-
vironmental Assessment Regulations of 1999 require builders,
operators and organizers of public facilities such as hotels, hos-
tels, Churches, Schools, and other activities to seek prior ap-
proval after having completed its EIA audit before the com-
mencement of the project. The EPA has the mandate to request
EIA from Churches-in-School-buildings and other investors, to
demand abetments, cause the arrest of the perpetrator after due
process and prosecute for conviction or fine or both. Where a
building is being put to different uses other than its original
intended uses, the same audit is required, in addition to a Health
Impact Assessment by the Ghana Health Service. The National
Fire Service is also mandated to conduct pre-use inspection of
buildings and to clear the facility for such new use. The
launching of the National Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction
by the National Disaster Management Organization in 2006 and
in 2010 under the auspices of the Ministry of Interior and the
United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduc-
tion was to ensure that all public and private projects and mass
uses of buildings meet the national legislative framework on
health and safety. The EPA Act and the regulations of the Na-
tional Fire Service, as well as the zoning by-laws of district
assemblies are part and parcel of this legal framework, which
form part of the common morality of the communities codified
under the 1992 Constitution and statute law.
Previously, it was not common to see Churches being ran
from Schools and in Schools. There was a clear distinction be-
tween government-public property and that of private individu-
als and entities. However, from about 1981 through 2011, the
number of Churches operating from Classrooms and Schools
seemingly permanently in the Accra metropolis and its con-
Open Access 287
Open Access.
stituent neighborhoods, as estimated in this study, grew from
about 30 to over 3500 respectively. In many suburbs today,
there is a “church” in about every 5th house, although the af-
fected private properties were not zoned for purposes other than
residential. These new Churches are off-shoots of charismatic
and prosperity Churches.
The Constitution of Ghana provides for freedom of religion,
freedom not to be compelled to worship or attend religious
service. It promotes secularism and seeks for separation of
Church and State. The use of School property for religious
service seems to be a prohibited activity under the 1992 Con-
stitution of Ghana. There is also no financial accountability by
the religious bodies that use school buildings for their services.
In order for Ghana to develop a true democratic nation where
all shades of beliefs and views are tolerated, it is incumbent
upon the central government and other stakeholders to ensure
that there is clear line between the goals and aspirations of the
secular government and those of private citizens and entities.
When religious bodies refuse to respect the laws of the land by
their actions, the message to the rest of society is that anything
goes. A recent study on religious violence by national research-
ers, Norman, Aikins and Binka, (2011) found that violence pre-
cipitated against victims due to their religious affiliation in
Ghana is quite common with a prevalence rate of 29% in terti-
ary institutions. The bulk of such violence was committed by
those who were 20 years and younger. Such information raises
public health concerns with respect to the motivations of the
perpetrators against their counterparts. The proliferation of
churches in the suburbs and in the neighbourhoods has both in-
creased church attendance and religiosity, but at the same time,
there appears to be a growing sense of intolerance. The national
media is replete with complaints about noise pollution and har-
assment by churches. While the goals of a church could be pa-
rochial and protective of its members, it is oxymoronic for a
church to be so insular as to alienate the very neighbors church
goers are entreated to love.
The constitution of Ghana provides for the freedom of relig-
ion and at the same time, also for the freedom of disbelief from
religion. It further offers for separation of church and state and
finds the unilateral use of state property for the exclusive bene-
fit of a church to be inconsistent with the legal framework on
church and state. If churches want to be centers of excellence,
then it is their moral and ethical duty to ensure that they first
respect the laws of the land before they could have the moral
authority to encourage others in society to lead exemplary lives.
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