Fundamentalist Christianity is a form of Christianity that is reactive to modernity and attempts to make a militant defense of “the fundamentals” of Christian faith. 

It has rapidly been gaining ground in the West, particularly in America, where Christian fundamentalists as we know them now have been active since the 1940s.

They took to active political mobilisation in the 1980s and since then the American right and far right has become largely white and Christian.

Most Republicans today are considered Christian fundamentalists as they rose to power through the express support of Christian fundamentalists and have pushed legislations that have largely been influenced by their Christian doctrines; and challenged those that did not fall in line with their beliefs.

American Christian fundamentalism has since been spreading fast both within and outside the American territory – in this case through the activities of traveling missionaries across the globe – and have largely contributed to influencing legislation and even foreign policies of countries other than America.

And this is where we come to Ghana.

Religion has always been the opium of the masses. The saying is as true here as it is in America or India.

In Ghana, religious leaders have enjoyed some level of political soft power for a long time, particularly Christian leaders who form the largest section of opinion leaders in the country.

Every election year, we watch political aspirants troop to Churches to spread their message of hope and change; each waiting in line to be called in front by the benevolent pastor to pray for them, anoint their heads with oil and prophesy that victory is theirs.

But that was as far as the Church leaders would go then.

Well, that was until the late John Evans Atta Mills became President of the country. A staunch Christian, he made very sure that his Christian beliefs resonated soundly during his tenure. Like the flaming sword of God, he came to brandish the country with his strong Christian values.

Remember, it was during his tenure the pouring of libation – an age old practice – was ‘banned’ at state functions. This was largely a discriminatory act, but he got away with it because he had the support of the Church.

It was also during his tenure he used state funds to buy Bibles to share to students in collaboration with the Scripture Union – what happened to the separation of Church and State?

John Mahama’s tenure had to an extent been more secular than his predecessor – at least he didn’t share Bibles, neither did he impose his faith on the country, but the seed was already sown, the Pastors and Church leaders had tasted of real power under Mills and were thirsty for more.

Mahama was not forthcoming with more, in fact, it was during his tenure the National Mosque was started, how dare he?

It was a bruise to the egos of the Church leaders and they came bawling for blood; so he was booted out for the aspirant who had been pictured kneeling at altars seeking ‘akwankyirꜫ’ – Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.

To be honest, it comes as no surprise then that this President is hell-bent – or is it heaven bent? – to fulfill his Solomonic wet dream of building a National Cathedral, of course, with the express support of the Church despite loud protests from ordinary citizens.

And the Cathedral cannot be situated anywhere but smack in the middle of the government machinery unlike the National Mosque which overlooks the Nima slum – now you know who is boss.

The Comprehensive Sexuality Education

But you know, all these didn’t matter really till the World Congress of Families (WCF), a US right-wing group started making advances towards Ghana in 2019.

This was around the time the government was trying to introduce the Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) curriculum which is basically sex education with a nerdy name.

The CSE was designed to create a comprehensive sex education curriculum to teach young people about the emotional, physical and social aspects of sexuality. And to be frank, considering the exponential rise of teenage pregnancies in the country this was a viable idea.

Just to put things into perspective, according to the Ghana Health Service (GHS), an average of 112,800 teenage girls in the country are impregnated every year.

And in 2020, about 109,888 teenage pregnancies were recorded, with 2,865 of the girls being between 10 and 14 years, below the age of statutory consent, which is 16 years.

According to figures collated from district health information management systems of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Ghana recorded 555,575 cases of teenage pregnancy between 2016 and 2020, with 13,444 of the girls being between 10 and 14 years.

The CSE was really going to help, but then the WCF conference happened and everything went downhill.

The WCF managed to convince Ghanaian Church leaders through their minion, Moses Foh-Amoaning, that the CSE was an LGBT agenda.

According to him, it was unheard of to be teaching children as young as five, the differences between male bodies and female bodies – as to how teaching children about the differences between male and female bodies could change into an LGBT agenda… well, it’s your guess.

He later pointed to the book cover of the CSE document and said the colours on them were those of the rainbow flag – the LGBT flag – and that was enough evidence to buttress his point that it was LGBT sponsored.

The Church that had been waiting to quench their political power thirst for quite some time jumped on this, the Minority too joined the bandwagon, and after so much pressure the document was withdrawn from the school curriculum with the President publicly stating his decision not to reintroduce the subject.

At their first real victory, the Church wanted more, the WCF wanted to see how far their influence could reach in Ghana’s political sphere, and Foh Amoaning was going to be the Moses that would bring down God’s divine judgement – or was it time to hand the baton to Joshua?

It should be noted that teenage pregnancy in Ghana is still at a staggering high and general sex education and sexual awareness is at its lowest ebb in the country.

Even the Ghana AIDS Commission has had reason to complain about the increasing cases of HIV/AIDS among the youth in the country and their failure or refusal to get tested and get on treatment.

The Head of the Ghana Health Service, Dr. Kuma-Aboagye had in 2020 stated that an estimated 342,307 of the approximately 38 million people estimated to be living with HIV worldwide are in Ghana. The number is higher now.

The CSE could have been the antidote to this problem, after all, doesn’t the Bible say train up a child the way he should grow and when he’s old he shall not depart from it? So what changed?

The Anti-LGBT Bill

Anyway it didn’t take much long for the fundamentalists to flex their new-found muscles again when in 2021 amidst pomp and pageantry the LGBT+ Rights Ghana, decided to open a support centre to help vilified LGBT+ community members. This was the fodder the fundamentalists had been waiting for all along.

Just days after the centre was opened, its doors were shut – by armed-to-the-teeth police personnel. Soon, the debate on LGBT+ rights in Ghana had taken a whole new dimension. The so-called “threat” the queers posed to Ghana’s social and cultural fabric was more terrifying than the years of corruption and neglect that has left a majority of the population penniless and embittered.

In less than two months, a bill prepared by the National Coalition of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Family Values had started making the rounds on social media and was soon going to be presented to Parliament for consideration.

In context, it has taken the entire Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection more than 3 years to come up with an Affirmative Action Bill, which till date has not made its way even for first reading on the floor of Parliament. The formulation of that Bill began under the Mahama administration.

Enter Joshua a.k.a Sam George heralding the banner of the WCF and the Church forward.

Prior to his active role in promoting the Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill, he was most popular for being slapped by a masked security official at the Ayawaso West Wuogon constituency polling station.

It was at that point he chose Christian fundamentalist politics over polling station politics, at least there no tinnitus inducing slaps.

His campaign in support of the anti-LGBT+ bill of which he’s the face of has been a slippery slope of Christian quotations, cultural misrepresentations, lies, half-truths, spins, threats and insults.

And it gets worse when you realize the media which are supposed to know better or do better in pointing out his half-truths have rather exposed their own biases, often reporting his spins without bothering to even fact check.

Like in a recent interview where he said homosexuality was only legal in 17 European countries when in actual fact, it is legal in all European countries including Russia and Poland; what isn’t legal in all European countries is the right to marriage and adoption for same-sex couples.

This is information that can be verified with a quick Google search yet the interviewers only said “yeah, yeah” in response as if he was right.

Also he always touting a ‘Protection of Ghanaian culture’ as if there was such a thing as a gigantic monolith labeled ‘Ghanaian culture’. Queerness exits in various forms in several if not all the various cultures we have in this country and there are published research material to prove same.

All this is just a quick Google search away.

It is interesting that while his constituents languish in their lack of basic social amenities this is what he chooses to spearhead and advocate for.

The Church on the other hand has taken a militant, very overt stance against the bill. In interviews we’ve heard the leaders of the Church of Pentecost and several other mega-churches threaten to get their members to vote out the NPP government if they fail to pass the bill.

At this point, the church is going for the jugular, no more coy soft power politics; if only they use these same forceful tactics to get government to fix Accra’s flooding problems or bring an end to corruption.

Should this bill be passed in its current state will infringe on Ghanaians’ freedom of speech and academic freedoms, the right to association, and the right to information.

Already, following all the hateful rhetoric against the LGBT community in Ghana, there has been a sharp increase in violent against people who belong to the community or are merely suspected of belonging to the community.

The Twitter page of Rightify, human rights group is littered with so many of such stories.

Abortion laws in Ghana

In the past month, the US has been inflamed by the leak of a statement of one of their Supreme Court judges in the case challenging the Roe v Wade ruling from 1973.

The Roe v Wade was a landmark ruling which made Abortions legal across the US. This was after two women had challenged the abortion laws in Texas and Georgia at the US Supreme Court.

They argued that abortion laws in Texas and Georgia went against the US Constitution because they infringed a woman’s right to privacy.

By a vote of seven to two, the court justices ruled that governments lacked the power to prohibit abortions.

They also judged that a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy was protected by the US constitution.

However, since that ruling, anti-abortionists mainly Christian fundamentalists, have using one means or the other chipped away at the protection and autonomy the ruling afforded women.

As a result many states now have restrictions in place such as requirements that young pregnant women involve their parents or a judge in their abortion decision. Others have introduced waiting periods between the time a woman first visits an abortion clinic and the actual procedure.

The result of these restrictions is that many women have to travel further to get an abortion, often across state borders, and pay more for them.

Should the Roe v Wade ruling be overturned, some Republican-led states will immediately criminalise abortions, further pushing women to undergoing unsafe procedures.

How does this affect Ghana? Well it does in so many ways.

For instance, even prior to challenging the Roe v Wade ruling, several US governments in their foreign aid policies had instituted the global gag rule, a policy that blocks US federal funding to non-governmental organisations that provide abortion counseling, or referrals, advocating to decriminalize abortion or expand abortion services.

The policy allows abortion only in cases of rape, incest, or when a woman’s life is at risk. U.S. presidents since 1984 have had the power to enact or revoke this policy.

Also such governments further underfunded organisations such as the Planned Parenthood and other family planning programmes which saw that developing countries like ours had access to contraceptives, child nutrition, prenatal care, counseling and baby wellness. These programmes had helped reduce abortions, maternal and infant mortality, and further slowed down the spread of sexually transmitted diseases like HIV/AIDS.

These policies disproportionately affect the activities of holistic sexual health care provision in countries like Ghana denying women access to pre-abortion, abortion and post-abortion health care services, thus increasing the rate of unsafe abortions.

To put things into perspective, the Guttmacher Institute in a study had found out that complications from unsafe abortions contribute substantially to Ghana’s high maternal mortality, which was estimated at 310 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 2017. In fact, unsafe abortions are the highest contributors to maternal mortality in Ghana.

Nationally in 2017, the estimated pregnancy rate was 194 pregnancies per 1,000 women aged 15–49, and the unintended pregnancy rate was 103 per 1,000.

An estimated 23% of all pregnancies in Ghana in 2017 ended in abortion.

Three estimation methods considered internally valid and reliable produced national abortion rates of between 30 and 61 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–49. The mean of these rates yields a national abortion rate of 44. This is equivalent to over 327,600 abortions annually in Ghana.

Meanwhile, Ghana’s abortion laws are considered one of the most liberal in the sub-Saharan region.

According to Ghanaian law, abortions are legal in cases of rape, incest, fetal abnormality or disease, or “defilement of a female idiot,” or if they are performed to protect physical or mental health; they must be provided by registered and trained health personnel in an approved facility.

So what then is causing women to have unsafe abortions? The lack of access to health care facilities; the stigma; poverty; the lack of education on Ghana’s abortion laws; the lack of information on how, where, when and where and who from, women can access abortion services, and in relation to this article, religious beliefs.

Trained medical professionals have on several occasions turned women seeking abortions away from hospitals due to their pro-life leanings and their religious beliefs leaving the women to seek for help from quack doctors and taking drugs unsupervised by a medical officer.

In an interview with a nurse, she had stated that while she has seen so many women pray to God and try so many medical solutions to have a child of their own it is rather against her Christian beliefs and her conscience to help a woman, no matter the reasons, to get an abortion.

When asked if this included the state-sanctioned reasons for an abortion to be approved, she responded in the affirmative explaining that one does not know what future the child to be aborted holds thus she will not touch it.

Let’s just be clear, children who were nearly aborted and became great later in life are so rare and far in between their number is rather negligible when compared to those whose mothers had been coerced to give birth to them into a vicious cycle of poverty. These unwanted children are as many as the sands on a beach.

The fear is that when Roe v Wade is overturned by the US Supreme Court, it would embolden Christian fundamentalists and other anti-abortion groups to fiercely attack efforts to expand Ghana’s abortion laws and further erode the autonomy women have over their own bodies; resulting in  more unsafe abortions and even more maternal deaths.

Let’s be honest, if Christian fundamentalists in Ghana could prevent children from accessing important sexuality education do you think it’s farfetched of them them to prevent women from having abortions?

Side note

In a recent interview on JoyFM’s The Reason is Jesus, Broadcaster, OB Nartey while being questioned about listing ‘Politician’ on his Twitter bio stated that Ghana needs more Christian politicians.

According to him, there is still a misconception about Politics being a dirty game and thus it being no place for a Christian, as a result he was urging Christians to take up the mantle and join politics.

He stated that with more Christians in power, they will inject the country with godliness and morality that it currently is lacking. Lol.

First and foremost, more Christians joining politics is a threat to equal representation and participation in Ghana’s democracy. Already, Christians in power have been able to silence and alienate traditionalists, treating them at best as afterthoughts.

Once again reminding you Atta-Mills ‘banned’ the pouring of libation at state events.

And secondly, when in the history of Ghana has the government not been overpopulated with Christians.

In the 7th Parliament, the Speaker was a Reverend Minister; there was another Reverend Minister who was an MP, John Ntim Fordjour, and several church elders, deacons and deaconesses.

The 8th Parliament is barely any different.

We should also understand that if more Christians could tackle the rot and corruption in government now, they would have many years ago. We are yet to have a President who is not a Christian in this fourth Republic; a Finance Minister who is also not a Christian; among many other key positions in government yet corruption has remained a constant menace.

Where are the godly anti-corruption laws more Christians would bring to this country?

What this country really needs is not more Christian leaders, but more humanist, patriotic, selfless leaders who will put Ghana and its citizens first; leaders who will understand that they have a duty of care to the people and the resources they are entrusted with; leaders who will be compassionate and in touch with reality.

Not these ones we have who put their political parties first and Ghana second; will state resources to their kith and kin; and harm minorities that run to them seeking their protection from the tyranny of the masses.

Conclusion

Ignoring the fact that Ghana’s treasured secularity is being threatened by fundamentalists, whether Christian or Muslim, is like dancing asabone in quicksand; before you know it you’ll be buried alive and there’ll be no rescue.

The way forward is to counter religious fundamentalist ideologies with pragmatic, secular and humanist thinking like the way Professor Emeritus Abena Takyiwaa Manuh, Professor Henry Kwasi Prempeh, Lawyer Anthony Akoto Ampaw and Professor Audrey Gadzekpo among many other intellectuals are doing with their fight against the draconian anti-LGBT bill.

The author, Cornerlis Kweku Affre works with Myjoyonline.com under The Multimedia Group.

Views expressed in this article do not reflect the position of his employers.

Follow him on Twitter @cornerlis