Akufo-Addo explains taxing prosperity gospel churches
President Akufo-Addo has reiterated the need for churches which step out of the charity sphere, education and healthcare to be taxed.
Speaking at the opening of the 2018 Synod of the Global Evangelical Church in Accra, he said it was not surprising that there are calls for taxes to be imposed on church incomes.
“Once you get into the wealth and prosperity sphere, you necessarily slip into the tax and accounting language.”
“When you step out of the charity sphere, out of education and out of healthcare, you are putting yourself in the line of the taxman,” he said.
“I am not getting into the merits and demerits of the prosperity gospel that appears to be the main theme for many of our present-day churches. The Good Lord knows I preach prosperity myself, and I do not want this country and its people to be poor, and I am very much for wealth creation”, he said.
Below is the full statement
I am happy to be able to be with you at this all-important gathering of the Global Evangelical Church. I wish you all the best as you deal with church affairs, and set the agenda for the year ahead.
You have chosen a thought-provoking theme for your Synod, “Effective Discipleship – the Cross and Our Commitment”.
Doubtless, the theologians and priests will do justice to the subject, and send you away from the meeting with renewed commitment to the work of the Church. But, as I am sure we all recognize, the Church is very much, or rather, the Church should be very much an integral part of the society.
From the practical to the spiritual, the Church cannot operate on a different plane from the society. Many of the people who, today, strive to build beautiful and magnificent churches come to church from homes that are, unfortunately, not much more than hovels.
I am not at all against the building of magnificent cathedrals or mosques. After all, I am committed to building a national cathedral. Indeed, I believe they definitely have their place in our towns and cities in a religious nation like ours; but I believe also very much that the towns and cities should have paved roads, good sanitation and beautiful homes for the people to live in, when they go to worship.
Whilst we study the Holy Books, which provide the moral anchor that help us face the trials and tribulations of life, I believe it is also important we promote the study of the subjects that equip our young ones for jobs, and develop their capacity to compete in the modern world. As we encourage our youth to hear the call of the Lord to become priests, prophets, preachers, we should also spur them on to become engineers, scientists, carpenters, masons, plumbers, mathematics teachers, tailors, etc., because we must have a properly functioning society to be able to worship in peace.
Ladies and gentlemen, these are interesting times for all of us in our country, as we grapple with the task of building a happy and prosperous nation. It could not be lost on anyone that there are increasing calls for churches to be taxed. It is not difficult to see what is driving these calls.
For years, the churches were seen as leading the drive for development; they built and ran schools and hospitals, they led the campaign for good sanitation, cleanliness was next to godliness, they preached and practiced.
There were church services, where worshippers sang to their heart’s content, but there was no question of keeping whole communities awake night after night, nor were there churches that were sources of noise nuisance. The priests and church leaders led lives that the average person could identify with.
I am not getting into the merits and demerits of the prosperity gospel that appears to be the main theme for many of our present-day churches. The Good Lord knows I preach prosperity myself, and I do not want this country and its people to be poor, and I am very much for wealth creation. But the difficult truth is that, once you get into the wealth and prosperity sphere, you necessarily slip into the tax and accounting language.
The public looks on as priests compete to show who is the more powerful and who is the richer. The public looks on as some of the churches appear to forget about the poor and the vulnerable in our society, and concentrate on being outrageous.
It is not surprising that there are calls for taxes to be imposed on church incomes. When you step out of the charity sphere, out of education and out of healthcare, you are putting yourself in the line of the taxman.
Both institutions, that is Government and the Church, are leading the people, and both hold out promises for a better tomorrow. We have a duty and responsibility to work together to improve the condition of the people. We have a young population that is no longer willing to wait for the long-promised improvements in their lives. I believe we can work to raise the pace of development to meet the needs of the people.
The Church and the Government will have to work together since we have the same aim. There should be no doubt in anybody’s mind that the men of God have the moral authority to hold the political leadership to scrutiny.
It is important that we do not debase the principles we purport to uphold. If the Church would have the people believe that our survival and prosperity depend on miracles, those of us in government have an impossible task.
Education and hard work have been shown to be the surest path to success for both individuals and nations, and our country would not make any progress if the Church should contradict and undermine this principle, by preaching miracles as the answer to our needs.
I will leave the teachings of the Scriptures to those best equipped to do so, but I am certain I do not blaspheme when I say that hard work, education and the grace of God are more reliable paths to riches than miracles.
I look to the chosen theme, “Effective Discipleship—the Cross and our Commitment”, and I see that, indeed, the Church and Government are engaged in the same undertaking. We would not be so presumptuous as to regard our task as being the Cross, but our commitment is certainly as strong.
I do not hesitate to state openly that I am a Christian in politics, and will continue to be so, a politician who is deeply influenced by Christian values.
It is in all our interests that we pull our resources together to build a happy and prosperous nation. I know that the Church can be very influential, and make a dramatic difference in education, health and in sanitation.
The same enthusiasm that you are able to marshal to grow and increase your numbers, that same enthusiasm can help to build Ghana. Let us join hands together and build the happy and prosperous Ghana we all want. It is well within our reach. And, let me assure that this Government has no plans to change the law on same-sex marriage. We have no authority, and we will not seek any authority to do so.
I wish you the best in your deliberations.
May God bless the Global Evangelical Church, and us all, and may God bless our homeland Ghana and make her great and strong.
Thank you for your attention.