The constitution prohibits religious discrimination and provides for individuals’ freedom to profess and practice any religion. These rights may be limited for stipulated reasons including defense, public safety, public health, or the management of essential services.
Religious groups must register with the Office of the Registrar General in the Ministry of Justice to receive formal government recognition and status as a legal entity, but there is no penalty for not registering. The registration requirement for religious groups is the same as for nongovernmental organizations. To register, groups must fill out a form and pay a fee. Most indigenous religious groups do not register.
According to law, registered religious groups are exempt from paying taxes on nonprofit religious, charitable, and educational activities. Religious groups are required to pay progressive taxes, on a pay-as-earned basis, on for-profit business activities, such as church-run private schools and universities.
The Ministry of Education includes compulsory religious and moral education in the national public education curriculum. There is no provision to opt out of these courses, which incorporate perspectives from Islam and Christianity. There is also an Islamic education unit within the ministry responsible for coordinating all public education activities for Muslim communities. The ministry permits private religious schools; however, they must follow the prescribed curriculum set by the ministry. International schools, such as those that do not follow the government curriculum, are exempt from these requirements. Faith-based schools that accept funds from the government are obliged to comply with the directive that states students’ religious practices must be respected.
The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Despite vigorous debate among religious groups and lawmakers about the utility of legislating to control the activities of “self-styled” pastors, at year’s end no consensus had developed and no legislation was drafted. In September Speaker of Parliament Aaron Mike Oquaye, himself a pastor, stated that parliament would welcome proposals for a bill to regulate the operations of “self-styled pastors and prophets” whom he said “thrive on people’s emotions and sentiments.” He called for laws to be enacted “as soon as possible” before “our country is in flames.” In May some legislators called on parliament to consider enacting a law, suggesting that an independent body be established to act as a check on church activity. One lawmaker complained that the growing Christian religious bodies in the form of “one man” churches resulted in “charlatans and imposters who…fill our media space peddling their false wares to unsuspecting Ghanaians,” and another said such churches extorted money from vulnerable persons to live extravagantly. The National Peace Council, an independent, statutory institution with religious reconciliation as part of its mandate, indicated that it supported Speaker Oquaye’s position on legislation. Another parliamentarian cautioned, however, that legislation may be a “step too far,” since the constitution protects freedom of religion.
Earlier in the year, the Christian Council of Ghana, an umbrella group of mainly Protestant denominations, disagreed with calls by some legislators for a law to control the activities of “self-styled” pastors, saying the situation was complex and calling instead for self-regulation, such as established ecumenical bodies sharing best practices with churches. Similarly, the Ghana Charismatic Bishops’ Conference issued a communique in June stating it did “not support any idea of legislating or controlling beliefs, faiths, or religious beliefs of our citizens.” One lawmaker suggested that, rather than controlling churches, legislation could mandate that new churches register with credible umbrella faith-based organizations, with Christian leaders at the forefront of efforts to absorb self-proclaimed pastors under them. As of November, the matter had been referred to the appropriate parliamentary committee to issue a report on possible options (such as legislation, constitutional amendments, or other means), but no further action, including legislation drafting, was taken.
Despite the government directive requiring schools to respect students’ religious practices, there were reports of uneven enforcement and implementation in schools across the country. Muslim leaders continued to report that some publicly funded Christian mission schools required female Muslim students to remove their hijabs and Muslim students to participate in Christian worship services, despite a Ministry of Education policy prohibiting these practices. Muslim leaders provided several examples of Muslim women being asked to remove their veils at the university level as well, such as before taking exams. Similarly, there were continued reports that some publicly funded Islamic mission schools required female Christian students to wear the hijab.
Opposition to and support for the president’s plan for an interdenominational national Christian cathedral continued. In September a citizen filed a contempt of court order against President Akufo-Addo for demolishing government structures to make way for the national cathedral while a case against the cathedral remained pending before the Supreme Court. In January the Supreme Court dismissed another suit that challenged the constitutionality of the government’s efforts to facilitate the construction of the cathedral. The president defended his position, stating the country had been blessed and spared “the horrors of civil war that have afflicted virtually all our neighbors” and that it was “in recognition of these blessings” that he was constructing the cathedral.
Government officials leading meetings, receptions, and state funerals generally offered Christian and Muslim prayers and, occasionally, traditional invocations. President Akufo-Addo, a Christian, and Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia, a Muslim, continued to emphasize the importance of peaceful religious coexistence in public remarks. For example, in June President Akufo-Addo spoke at an Eid al-Fitr celebration and declared, “Our nation needs all the virtues that Islam requires us to cultivate during the month of Ramadan. These include good neighborliness, sacrifice, and discipline.” In April, at a celebration of National Chief Imam Sharubutu’s 100th birthday, Vice President Bawumia stated, “Between Muslims and Christians there’s actually more that unites than divides us.” Following attacks by violent extremists on churches in neighboring Burkina Faso, he called on Muslims and Christians to unite against potential terror threats.