Law, Religion, Power: Participants of UPSA Global Law College ad idem on role of the state

In recent times, as if in keeping with the ‘religious opium’ view of the Marxists, churches especially in Ghana and Africa, are seen as perpetrating human rights abuses in their exorcist practices.

Is allowance instantly strangers applauded

The UPSA Global Law College, a public square of citizens, dissected on September 29, 2022, the interplay between Law, Religion, and Power in Africa.

A clear majority of the participants were in agreement on the need for the state to step in quickly with relevant laws, whenever religious practices and beliefs become harmful to the citizens.

Alternatively, another school of thought, although in favor of the state’s intervention, called for caution and the need to be guided by respect and human rights.

In recent times, as if in keeping with the ‘religious opium’ view of the Marxists, churches especially in Ghana and Africa, are seen as perpetrating human rights abuses in their exorcist practices.

There have been various instances for one to have a cause to worry where social media videos show such pastors of churches giving congregants oil to drink as directions from the spirit realm.

In other instances, some pastors reportedly abuse congregants or even get them to do such things as unimaginable and unexpected to normal human beings.

The Second edition of the Global Law College, like the first, drew citizen participants from nations across the continent, and under the esteem moderatorship of Nicole Soeke, South African legal practitioner, began the discussion with a poll on the topic under discussion.

In the end, it became obvious from the decisions of overwhelming religious discussants that the state ought to intervene to check wayward religious practices.

To define the clear role of the state, a call was made for a proper definition of religion and the need to look at the purpose of the law relative to particular social situations and settings.

Irrespective of the vast agreement on the role of the state, religion is not to be seen as independent of law, one participant noted.

Further to the discussion were views shared by a Christian and a Muslim leader who used the examples of Jesus Christ and Mohammed respectively in appealing to their followers to abide by the laws of the land while tolerating other religious views.

And then there was a very interesting view that introduced a novel perspective to the discussion. 

Even though fully in support of the state’s intervention, called for the state to serve as a balancing factor while establishing a dichotomy between its power by way of the laws, as opposed to the provision on the individual’s freedom of religion as spelled out in Article 21(1)C of the 1992 Constitution.

Again, the emerging trend where pastors doing church services via online platforms, solicit offerings, and ‘faith seeds’ from persons through their displayed electronic accounts were scrutinized as another venture requiring a national conversation in the light of such state interventions.

Additionally, there was a call for the various religions to regulate themselves by cracking bad nuts who go haywire, subjecting congregants to harmful practices, which move is seen as being at a rather higher level than the secular law.

The above notwithstanding, there was a view to the effect that Ghana as a nation already has laws dealing with such extremities of religion, especially in the case of assault of a congregant by any pastor in the process of deliverance.

The case of a recent cautioning, arrest, and prosecution of a pastor for making a prophetic statement deemed as causing ‘fear and panic’ was emphasized to stress the existence of such laws and thus called on enforcers to be responsive when such breaches occur.