Though religion is considered a private matter in most secular States, its social and institutional character has defied being fenced in and barricaded away from public matters. Religion itself is often a matter of public discourse and its leaders and institutions engage state authority and the public on matters relating to their interest with a sense of obligation, and at times as a divine mandate. "Public religion refers to the way in which a specific religious tradition or community appropriates its distinctive resources to contribute to the upbuilding of the common life." (Cady, 1993) This occurs within what Jurgen Hebermas (1964) designated as "Public Sphere" and defines as "a realm of our social life in which something approaching public opinion can be formed" within democratic culture.
As the longest democratic dispensation, Ghana's Fourth Republic offers an opportunity to study the processes and impact of public religion in the country since the 4th Republic opened the door for sustained Civil Society engagement in the public sphere. Religious Institutions in Ghana are naturally one of the most enduring "Civil groups" with long experience of being watchdogs of good governance and partners in development. They remain important within the Ghanaian public domain, often courted as partners in development, at times married temporarily (mutu'a), and frequently divorced out of political expediency.
Public religion must be communicated and the liberalization of the electronic media in the 1990s giving wide access to Television, FM stations, the Internet and cell phone has enabled religious personalities, bodies and institutions invade, pervade and have very high visibility in Ghanaian public space. Their 'word' / 'voice' is heard in high frequency across the country from dawn, not only in spiritual messages, but also in political, social and economic matters.
The lecture shares the experience from years of phenomenological research and a graduate course taught on Religion in Public life in Ghana. It critiques public religion in contemporary Ghana by examining its engagement with Politics (especially during election time) and Socio-Economic life. The prospects of public religion in a religiously plural Ghana are projected by raising questions such as ...
- Should elections in Ghana be (mis) construed as biblical Election/ Origination?
- Does Public Religion in Ghana reflect the moral aspirations of the nation?
- Does or can religion serve as a barometer for Ghana's democratic maturity?
- How important are religious institutions to the economy of a democratic Ghana?
- How does public religion contribute towards the construction of Ghanaian national identity?
- Is Public Religion in Ghana legitimate?