Supreme Court throws out suit against National cathedral

The Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed an application challenging the constitutionality of the government’s facilitation of the construction of the National Cathedral.

James Kwabena Bomfeh, a former Youth Organiser of the Convention People’s Party (CPP) proceeded to court in March 2017, seeking constitutional interpretation on the extent to which the State should get involved in religious matters such as supporting Muslim pilgrims to perform the Hajj and attempts by the Akufo-Addo Administration to support the construction of the National Cathedral.

Mr Bomfeh popularly called ‘Kabila’ in the Ghanaian political circles wanted the Supreme Court to restrain government or any of its representatives, “from participating in or taking any steps towards the construction of the Ghana National Cathedral, including the demolition of residences of justices of the Superior Courts.”

He also wanted government to be prevented from, “commencing any civil works for the construction of the Ghana National Cathedral; and/or taking any action, measure or step preliminary or incidental to the construction of the Ghana National Cathedral.”

Mr Bonfeh was challenging the legality of the project by seeking a declaration that by the core values, basic structures and the nature of the 1992 Constitution and upon a combined and contextual interpretation of the letter and spirit of the Constitution, particularly Articles 21(b)(c), 35(1)(5)(6)(a), (37)(1) and or 56, it is unconstitutional for Ghana through its organs of government, ministries, agencies, departments and/or authorized representatives to purposely aid, endorse, sponsor, support, offer preferential governmental promotion of, and/or be excessively entangled in any religion or religious practice.”

Mr Bomfeh was further seeking a declaration that the setting up of a Hajj Board by the government for the purposes of coordinating, supporting and/or aiding Ghanaian Muslims to embark on a religious pilgrimage to Mecca [Hajj, one of the pillars of Islam] amounts to purposely adding, endorsing, supporting and/or offering preferential governmental promotion of, and/or excessive entanglement of Ghana with a religion or religious practice and thus unconstitutional.

The Court’s Ruling

But in a unanimous decision, the seven-member Supreme Court panel presided over by Justice Sophia Adenyira dismissed the application explaining that the provisions of the constitution particularly Article 130, being challenged by the plaintiff are clear and unambiguous.

The panel further noted that the allocation of the land for the construction of the National Cathedral was carried out by the President with due process and with regard to the laws governing public lands in the country and as such no law was breached by the President.

The Court also observed that the claim that government crossed the line drawn by 1992 when it comes to the relationship that should exist between government and religion is unfounded.

The Court said it sees the plan of government to build a national cathedral as a fulfilment of the duties imposed on government by the constitution when it comes to the directive principles of state policy.

In their considered opinion, the Court said the application does not raise any legitimate issue for constitutional interpretation and the case is therefore dismissed.