By Adu Koranteng
The Supreme Court has dismissed a suit challenging government’s decision to provide support for the construction of the national cathedral.
The unanimous decision of the seven member panel of justices of the apex court said the case filed raises no legitimate issue requiring enforcement and interpretation.
The court also indicated that the state has not excessively entangled itself in religious activities by supporting the project.
The court thus held that nothing prohibits the government from lending such support to any religious group. The suit was filed by a member of the Convention People’s Party, CPP, and Kwabena Bomfeh, popularly known as Kabila.
James Kwabena Bomfeh, in March 2017 invoked the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, arguing that Ghana was a secular state, and therefore, it was wrong for the state to be “excessively entangled in any religion or religious practice”.
In the suit, he prayed the apex court to declare the building of the National Cathedral and state involvement in the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca unconstitutional.
He further sought a declaration that “the decision of the Government of Ghana to purposely endorse, assist, aid, partly sponsor, and/or support the construction of a national cathedral near the State House of Ghana, for Christian interdenominational church services amounts to an excessive entanglement of the Republic of Ghana in religion and therefore unconstitutional.”
Responding to the the plaintiffs, the Deputy Attorney General, Godfred Dame, said the issues raised by the plaintiff did not require an interpretation by the court, describing their arguments as contradictory.
Mr. Dame also added that there has not been a contravention of the constitution,
Concluding his case, Godfred Dame said government is acting in the interest of the people having regard to their religious beliefs.
The Supreme Court at a previous hearing, allowed lawyers of the plaintiff to amend the original writ.
Although it was not clear which part of the writ issued they wanted to amend, Deputy Attorney General, Godfred Yeboah Dame, who was in court did not oppose the application, and further waived the state’s option of responding to the changes to be effected.
The justices of the court granted the request by the lawyers of the applicant, and gave them three days to file the amended writ which they did.
The government announced plans to construct a National Cathedral to serve as a national non-denominational Christian worship center for Ghana.
Some nine justices of the Court of Appeal as well as other judicial staff occupying bungalows around the site earmarked for the project have been asked to vacate to make way for the construction of the 5,000-seater capacity facility.
They are to move into temporary residential buildings pending the construction of some 21 new bungalows on the Second Circular Road – Cantonments in Accra.
These will be completed and handed over by January 2020. But some Ghanaians are opposed to the project.
Whereas some believe it is a misplaced priority, others want it to be relocated to other places outside the capital city.
National Cathedral, a priority among priorities – Nana Addo
President Akufo-Addo had earlier mounted a spirited defense of his administration’s decision to construct a national cathedral in the capital, Accra.
Speaking in London, the president said the construction of such an edifice must be regarded as a significant symbol of the ordinary Ghanaian’s life.
“People will ask if it (national cathedral) is a priority. It is a priority among priorities. We’ll never find enough money to do everything we want to do. But we have to begin, and that’s what we have started,” he added.
Gov’t to provide seed money for National Cathedral project
Contrary to earlier claims by government that it was not going to fund or spend tax payers’ money on the construction of the National Cathedral, it has now emerged that the state will provide the seed money for the project.
Deputy Minister Information, Pius Hadzide, had clarified that, the entire cost of the project, as well as the temporary accommodation for the affected persons, would be taken care of by private institutions and individuals.
“It is not correct that the state was going to be wasting public resources on building that cathedral. Building of that cathedral will primarily be funded by voluntary contributions from the Christian community, philanthropists and with grants from development partners, he said.
But it appears the government has now backtracked on its position. This is because; Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta, whiles delivering the 2019 budget statement in Parliament on Thursday, disclosed that government is among other things providing the seed capital for the construction.
He however failed to mention how much government will commit as seed money to the project.
Nana Addo pledges GHc100,000 at National Cathedral Fundraiser
President Akufo-Addo recently pledged GHc100,000 towards the construction of the National Cathedral at the launch of the National Cathedral Fundraising Campaign on Friday, December 29, 2018.
At the event held at the forecourt of the State House where a seat was going for $1,000, President Akufo-Addo said the coalition of Christians raising funds for the construction of the cathedral was going to be etched in history.
“I am proud to call myself a leading member of this coalition, and I pledge GH¢100,000 as my personal contribution. I am comforted in my decision by the vast numbers of enthusiastic supporters of this project, whose spiritual dimension is limitless.”