The gathering of God’s people should only take place safely, God does not want us to die in vain.

Coronavirus is on the rise in Ghana with 6,617 confirmed cases in Ghana. Large gatherings should not be sanctioned by the government too early, otherwise, we will see an explosion of coronavirus cases.

Ghana should be cautious before allowing large church gatherings in the traditional sense. This is because the coronavirus infections are on the rise in Ghana and we cannot forget how a superspreader in South Korea infected nearly 40 people with coronavirus in February of this year. The 61-year-old woman attends the Shincheonji Church of Jesus the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony in Daegu, South Korea. In March of this year, The Daily Mail in the U.K also reported that an outbreak of the coronavirus that killed 28 people in the West Midlands had been linked to a church attended by a worshipper who did not realise they were a carrier. We also cannot forget how a Chicago man with mild coronavirus symptoms may have unintentionally been a ‘super-spreader’ triggering an outbreak that killed three people by going to a funeral, a birthday party, and a three-hour dinner.

So although The Presiding Bishop of Victory Bible Church International Bishop Tackie-Yarboi says the continuous decision by the government to prevent Christians from worshipping in churches is an infringement on their right and according to him, the right to worship is guaranteed by the constitution and nothing must be allowed to impede it; freedom of worship isn’t absolute. The Constitution that grants and guarantees that freedom also provides for circumstances under which it may be restricted, including PUBLIC HEALTH grounds and as long as the restriction is REASONABLY NECESSARY.

As such, the government is right to continuously review the issue of reopening churches fully because mitigation of the spread of coronavirus should remain society’s paramount aim, particularly in large groups.

In mitigating the spread of coronavirus I’m surprised churches in Ghana haven’t discussed, in consultation with the government, church practices that are being adopted in countries hard hit by coronavirus, who themselves haven’t opened up church doors fully (as of yet). For instance, in America, although large gatherings are not encouraged, large gatherings can take place in Church car parks and fields, with occupants of cars remaining in their cars and switching their radio to a dial-in radio frequency given to them as they enter the gates (or the dial in frequency number displayed on a projector), so the congregation know which frequency to tune their station to and listen to a pastor preach live in front of them on the stage. They can then drive out when the service is over. If a church doesn’t have a big car park, they can organize gatherings in a similar manner at another location where lots of people can park and watch the pastor preach alone on a raised outdoor platform then drive out and 2 or 3 services can be conducted a day. If pastors are not implementing a similar measure because they are worried congregants will drive off without paying their tithes and offerings, then they should have their money mobile number displayed at the end of the service and church account details.

Although Article 21(1) states that “All persons shall have the right to… (c) freedom to practise any religion and to manifest such practice”; Article 21(4) further states that “Nothing in, or done under the authority of, a law shall be held to be inconsistent with, or in contravention of, this article to the extent that the law in question makes provision… (c) for the imposition of restrictions that are reasonably required in the interest of defence, public safety, PUBLIC HEALTH or the running of essential services, on the movement or residence within Ghana of any person or persons generally, or any class of persons, except so far as that provision or, as the case may be, the thing done under the authority of that law is shown not to be REASONABLY JUSTIFIABLE in terms of the spirit of this Constitution.”

Fellow Ghanaians should avoid gathering in large groups for the foreseeable future.

Amanda Clinton is a commercial lawyer and a lay pastor.

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