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Opinions of Thursday, 19 May 2011

Columnist: Adjei-Brenyah, Dennis

Critique of President's "Christ is the President Ghana"

Inherent dangers of mixing Religion and Politics

by: Dennis Adjei-Brenyah Esq.

Sometime last week, I read with stunned horror, the statement by the president
of our country that, “Christ is the president of Ghana.” Apparently, our
President has made this startling declaration before without anyone calling him
to account. I say this because the article stated that “Once again the
President Mills said that Christ is the President of Ghana, and he owes no one
any apologies for the statement.” (See Ghanaweb, May 7, 2011) Our president is
alleged to have made those statements because “it is his guiding principle as
head of state.”

I have known the President for several years as his former law student at Legon.
I have seen him rise up to the Presidency of our country. I have rejoiced at
his political success, though I do not subscribe to his political ideology, if
he has any. I regard him as a friend. Our President has been projected by the
media gurus around him as a religious man, a Christian, who surrounds himself
with “prophets,” “pastors” and “ministers” of all kinds, from near and far.
Should we be worried? In a word, Yes.

President Mills made this startling statement- “Christ is the President of
Ghana” when he was addressing the 39th general council meeting of the Church of
Pentecost at Sowutuom in Accra. I am almost certain that in response to this
statement, the Christian crowd must have yelled; “Praise the Lord! Hallelujah!
Amen” And some more Hallelujahs! Therein lies the volatile mix of religion and

On what authority does the President declare that “Christ is President of
Ghana”? As I see it, the President's own religious fervor, fanaticism or
commitment to Christianity has absolutely no place in the governance of our

He may pray as hard as he wants, he may read our Holy Scripture as much as he
wants, he may consult with his “men of God,” the prophets and pastors and
ministers as much as he wants, but he cannot declare Christ is the president of
our country.

Just so the record is straight, I count myself a Christian. I believe in the
Holy Scripture and the teachings of the Church that have spanned two thousand
years. To the extent that I am able to humbly say so, I bow down to the Holy
name of Jesus Christ. But, I also acknowledge several friends of mine here in
New York that are Jews and are intense believers in the God of Abraham, Isaac
and Jacob and the Prophet Moses and all the prophets. (And pointedly do not
believe in Jesus Christ) I also have several Muslim friends here and in Ghana,
and they believe in the Holy Prophet Mohammad (Blessed be his name).

There are many other expressions of faith – in God – in Ghana and elsewhere
beyond the few I have just mentioned. Plurality of religious views is the norm
in our country. You may add animism and ancestor worship to the complex mix of
the reality of our expressions of faith. Accordingly, on that pluralistic
viewpoint alone, without more, the President's avowed declaration that that
“Christ is the President of Ghana” is a direct and brazen insult on all those
Ghanaians who subscribe to the Muslim faith (and all other faiths), who also
believe deeply in the God of Abraham – and the Holy Prophet Mohammad (Blessed by
his name). This brazen disregard of the religious sentiments of millions of
Ghanaians, including Muslims, who may have voted for this President, turns into
pure arrogance on the President's part when he declares that: “He owes no one
any apologies for the statement.” Actually, the president owes everyone in
Ghana – including Christians – an apology for so severely distorting the message
of Christ for a cheap – very cheap – political acclamation. I can assure you,
that there were good Christian men and woman in that Pentecost Church meeting,
who must have cringed because, they must know what Christ himself said and
taught about this arrogant fascination with political power. Thus, my
contention and submission, is that based upon purely factual recognition of the
varied and multiple expressions of religious views in Ghana, the President's
statement subverts that sovereign expression of faith by Ghanaians who are not
Christians. He betrays his “unholy” biases to the detriment of the collective
cohesiveness of our motherland. We owe it to our county to resist any attempt
by the President (or anyone) to exploit religious sentiments for perceived
political gains. Notwithstanding the arrogant statement that he owes no one an
apology for declaring; “Christ is the President of Ghana,” the President must
apologize to our nation. This is a call to redemption and humility, the
hallmarks of any “good” Christian.

Beyond the urgent need to make every Ghanaian feel the protective shelter of the
Constitution and a sense of belonging to the collective, united, wholesome Ghana
– which this President severely undermines – there are constitutional
requirements placed on the President to ensure that any identifiable group in
Ghana is not discriminated against. In making his rather unwise declaration,
our President has unwittingly (or perhaps wittingly, since he has stated his
'Christ is the President of Ghana” mantra repeatedly) discriminated against all
non Christians, including all those Muslims from all sections of our country who
voted for him as President.

While our constitution does not rigidly construct a wall of separation between
“Church” and “State” (religion and politics) it does direct and advocate
separation of “Church” and “State” in words and in spirit. The Constitution
directs that Ghanaians “shall not be discriminated against on grounds of gender,
race, color, ethnic origin and religion or creed...” (See article 17 (2) of the
Constitution of the Republic of Ghana) This is a constitutional mandate. Our
Constitution defines “discrimination” as “to give different treatment to
different persons attributable only or mainly to …. religion or creed.” If a
practicing Muslim is sitting in the crowd of mainly Christians and the President
declares that “Christ is the President of Ghana” he has intentionally demeaned
the sanctity of the religion and faith orientation of the Muslim and any other
non-Christian. Our Constitution envisages plurality of views and thought. That
is the essence of our democracy. Theocracy is a different model altogether.
Thank God Almighty; we are a democracy, not a theocracy.

Furthermore, the Constitution advocates the active promotion of the integration
of the people of Ghana as a necessary legal and political end in itself.
Article 34 (5) provides that: “The state shall actively promote the integration
of the peoples of Ghana and prohibit discrimination and prejudice on the grounds
of place origin, gender or religion creed or other beliefs.” This Directive
cannot be any clearer.

Thus, quite brazenly, and without any regard to his sworn duty to uphold the
Constitution and the laws of the country, this President has, apparently,
repeatedly, subverted this Constitutional imperative, by, at the barest minimum,
putting down other religious beliefs including the great religion of Islam and
Judaism. Shame on him!

When you have a multi-religious community of believers in the same God, but
different ways/creeds to Him, you must disassociate your personal religious
passions from the complex legal, Constitutional and social needs of that
community. This President has failed – sadly and tragically – in this regard.
He must be made to account to parliament: to explain – and apologize to our
nation for this unholy subversion of our Constitutional directive.
There is an inherent danger in mixing politics and religion. One may gain a
short term advantage in some votes, but the long term damage to the needed and
necessary integration of our country would suffer – even with catastrophic
consequences. As I write this, Coptic and Catholic Christians, a minority
Christian group in Egypt are being attacked – even killed – merely for being
Christians in a predominantly Muslim Egypt. Only a couple of weeks ago, there
were killings of Christians in Muslim northern Nigeria following an election in
which a Christian won. In Iraq, Churches were bombed and scores of Christians
were killed – and the culprit in all this mayhem, is the failure of the human
spirit to be tolerant of the religious creed and expressions of others. When
the President of our Country “installs” Christ Jesus as the “President of
Ghana,” he invites, and perhaps ignites, conflagration of the worst proportions.
He should be ashamed of himself. He allows political convenience (perhaps
vote-getting, backed by “Praise the Lord!”) to overcome his duty to be
ruthlessly neutral in the religious arena, and keep his religious views private.
Our president has every right to declare in his private home (not the Castle)
that “Jesus Christ is the President of his House,” but he has absolutely no
business declaring that “Christ is the President of Ghana” knowing full well
that a good many millions of Ghanaians do not subscribe to that religious view.

Furthermore, I hold the considered opinion that Jesus Christ expressly disavowed
and totally rejected the desire and expressed intentions of followers to vest
him with earthly Kingship attributes. First he expressly cautioned us to pay
our taxes and therefore do all our civic duties and obligations: “Render onto
Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and onto God the things that are God's.”
(See Matthew 22:15-22) Simply put, do not confuse the political and civic
responsibilities with your obligations to your maker: Separate religion and
politics. Our President violated this Christian principle with agonizing
arrogance. He says that he owns no one any apologies. Sad, very sad,
fortunately, he can change. And, democratic accountability-elections-are
In one of the pointedly dramatic events in our Holy Scripture on this issue, at
the trial of Jesus Christ before Pontius Pilatus (a representative of the same
Caesar Christ said we should honor) the Governor of the Roman province of Judea
asked Jesus: “Are you the King of the Jews?” Our Lord's answer was a counter
question to the powerful Governor. “Do you say this on your own or others have
told you about me?” Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and
the Chief Priests handed you over to me...” Jesus answered, “My kingdom does
not belong to this world...” (See John 18.33-36.) Jesus taught humility. He
rejected any pretentions of earthly kingship from Judea, and by extension,
Presidential offers from Ghana and elsewhere. Let us not touch Christ with our
inane human hubris.

Our Muslim brothers and sisters vote, Let the President go and stand before any
of the several Muslim groups and tell them that in his government; “Christ is
the president of Ghana.” The manifest hypocrisy of his politics will be fully
exposed. Mr. President, keep your religion out of our politics, and our
politics out of your religion. It is your sacred duty. And, you owe us all an
apology, for your ill-advised disregard of your duty under the Constitution and
the wiser imperatives and expectations of our diverse and united nation.

I invite all my country men/ women who are Muslim or Christian or Animist or
Jews or Hindus or whatever to vote wisely in the upcoming Presidential
elections; to ensure and demonstrate to the President that we must separate our
political views from our religious creed. Christ is not the President of Ghana.
His “kingdom” is not of this world.

Dennis Adjei-Brenyah Esq
Attorney and Counselor at Law
New York