Ghanaian Pastor Based In Canada In Trouble For Having Extra marital Affair With Church Member
A Toronto pastor and self-proclaimed “prophet” can’t keep his identity secret in a paternity case just because the publicity could damage his reputation and hurt him financially, a judge ruled Tuesday.
Ontario Superior Court Justice Fred Myers dismissed a request by Martin Kofi Danso to extend a publication ban and sealing order on a court file related to allegations that he fathered a child with former congregant Chris-Ann Bartley.
Publication bans in family court matters are typically used to protect the identities of children involved, while Danso cited the risk to his “significant commercial/financial interests” as a reason for requesting a ban.
His request also said “the matter concerns the paternity of a child which is disputed.”
Bartley’s lawyer, Theodora Oprea, told the Star after Tuesday’s hearing that a DNA test has since confirmed Danso is the father of her client’s baby boy, who is now 6 months old. The test was not directly addressed during the court hearing.
In a sworn affidavit filed with the court, Danso claimed he had never had intimate relations with Bartley. On Tuesday, Myers called that Danso’s “Bill Clinton” moment, referring to the former U.S. president’s false denial that he had sex with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
Danso’s lawyer argued that without anonymity, his client will face “emotional, harm, and stress,” particularly if allegations involving other members of the church — which have been posted on social media — are released to the broader public.
“He’s a public figure … he is not someone who will not be harmed by certain allegations,” Daniel Robertson said.
“It cuts both ways, doesn’t it?” replied the judge. “That also brings about the possibility of a public interest when somebody’s out there with 17 churches raising charitable money and tells a couple of big, fat whoppers in a sworn affidavit.”
Danso is the founder of Miracle Arena for All Nations, which operates 17 churches including chapters in Toronto.
Bartley opposed the publication ban and sealing order on the court file, which another judge imposed at the end of July. Myers said he would release his written reasons later on why he rejected Danso’s arguments that a ban was needed to protect his “significant” commercial and financial interests.
While there are currently no other court proceedings underway, Oprea said the issue of child support and custody are still to be determined.
“There is significant public interest in this case,” Oprea told the court. “He presents himself as a leader of a church … a moral, religious, family man,” an image that runs counter to someone who has fathered a child in an extramarital affair.
According to the Miracle Arena website, “Prophet Danso” is a devoted father of four who travels the world “impacting and empowering millions of lives through his powerful preaching and teaching ministry.” His wife, JoAnne Danso, is a reverend in the church known as “Mama.” Court heard Tuesday she is expecting twins in the near future.
A 2016 article posted on Modernghana.com reported Danso travels aboard a private jet given to him as a birthday gift by his church.
Robertson acknowledged in court Tuesday that seeking a publication ban and sealing order on a family law matter was an “extraordinary remedy” but argued it was necessary “for an extraordinary situation.” His client, dressed in a dark purple suit, appeared grim-faced and tense during the hearing.
“Once my client’s reputation is damaged, it’s over for him,” Robertson told Myers, adding that could also potentially hurt the child, “who may be dependent on his income.”
Because of allegations circulating on social media, Danso’s churches are already losing “significant” number of members, Robertson told the court, and a “drop in numbers means a drop in donations.”
A publication ban in family law cases is usually granted to protect a child’s identity, said Toronto family lawyer Ron Shulman, who is not connected to the case.
“In cases which do not involve children, it is rarely granted, as the need for transparency of (the) court process (which is seen as fundamental to public interest) often outweighs private considerations. It is often see in cases of vulnerable individuals who need protection,” Shulman wrote in email.
“In considering the request, court tries to balance the public interest for transparent and open administration of justice with the potential harm to an individual.”
The judge ordered Danso to pay $4,500 to cover Bartley’s legal costs.
Robertson did not immediately return the Star’s request for comment. Bartley left the courtroom in tears.