Parliament will within the next month, investigate, and prescribe regulations on church activities in Ghana.
This follows a directive from the Speaker, Rev Prof Aaron Michael Oquaye, to the joint committees of Youth, Sports and Culture and the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, after the House on Wednesday discussed the proliferation of churches at the expense of human rights and the use of working hours for church activities.
The Speaker said the joint Committee must report back to the House in a month.
The Speaker said: “Honourable members, we live in a state, where we all know that priests keep people in camps to heal them and when they get worse, they rush them to health facilities, yet the people cannot be held accountable for malpractices, what kind of unbridled liberty can that be?
And in fact, in England and other places, if you bring a personal circumstance, the doctor or nurse is mandated by law to report the circumstances to the police and action will be taken, this is how a nation develops.
“So, we may want to think whether we should also have some of these things clearly established so that when people are rushed in, in suspicious circumstances the law will apply accordingly.
“We expect these committees to work seriously as we receive total commitment from both sides of the house on this particular matter.”
A statement by Mr Ekow Hayford, MP for Mfantsiman Constituency in the Central Region, who called on the State to take drastic actions against charlatan pastors, who abuse people’s rights, provoked a discussion by the legislators on the regulation of church activities.
He also called for an independent body to manage church administration, and the discussions prompted the directive from the Speaker, who also frowned on the holding of church services during working hours.
Rev Prof Oquaye said such church activities should be limited to only Saturdays and Sundays or after the working hours of 0800 hours to 1700 hours.
He said: “It is dishonest that someone employs you and then you use the hours he pays you for, to go somewhere else; whether it’s a church or otherwise to go and worship.
“There are times to worship, Saturdays and Sundays are there, evenings are there, but definitely not working hours, otherwise we cannot develop as a people.”
In the statement, Mr Hayford appealed for an independent body, backed by law and devoid of politics to investigate and check the activities of churches, as he yearned that the Media would sieve the content they put out, and be circumspect about the ‘Men of God’ who appear on their platforms.
The Legislator cited instances of fake pastors giving out lotto numbers, sell paraphernalia at exorbitant prices among others as things that should be condemned.
The public, he cautioned, should be vigilant and cautious in identifying which religious group and churches they associate with.
Mr Ebenezer Nartey, MP for Ablekuma Central, in a contribution, was at a loss how some pastors deceived church members to buy bottles of water for up to GHC 2000, while the same people could not afford just a fraction of that money to go to the hospital.
Furthermore, noise from some churches had become a nuisance to peace and quite especially on weekends, explaining that “they hold a lot of all-nights and you cannot sleep.”
He commended the Catholic, Presbyterian and other missions who had contributed immensely to the development of human resources through the establishment of educational institutions.
Mr Sam George, MP for Ningo Prampram, however, advised the House to tread with caution because the Constitution permitted freedom of religion.