Kenya’s evangelical churches have condemned government plans to make it tougher for religious bodies and clerics from all faiths to operate.
The move was aimed at stopping the growth of evangelical churches, said the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya.
But a leading Anglican cleric welcomed the proposals as an attempt to end the “commercialisation” of religion.
The proposals require all religious bodies to register, and for preachers to have police clearance.
All religious institutions would also be required to submit their statements of faith to a government-backed body for examination.
Christians form the majority in Kenya, while Muslims are the second-largest group.
Their main body, the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims, was also opposed to the proposals, warning they could violate “freedom of worship and amount to a clampdown on religious institutions”, the privately owned The Standard newspaper reports.
The Catholic Church — the largest Christian denomination in Kenya, and to which President Uhuru Kenyatta belongs — has not yet commented on the proposals.
The BBC’s Muliro Telewa in the capital, Nairobi, says Attorney-General Githu Muigai unveiled the proposals last week, and would hold public consultations before drafting legislation.
Other proposals include:
- All preachers have to undergo theological training at a reputable seminary
- The Ethics and Anti-Corruption commission will have to certify that clergy are not corrupt and
- Foreign pastors will need a work permit, and a recommendation from their government
Our correspondent says the proposals seem to target self-proclaimed Christian prophets and faith healers whose influence is growing, as well as Muslim preachers who promote extremism in a country where militant Islamist group al-Shabab is active.
The Evangelical Alliance of Kenya (EAK) said it would launch a campaign to obtain three million signatures to block the government from enforcing the proposals.
“Registration of churches was stopped since 2014. We believe this is meant to stop evangelism and growth of the church since other societies are being registered freely,” said EAK chairman Bishop Mark Kariuki, the private Daily Nation newspaper reports.
He warned that the EAK would urge its followers not to vote for the government in elections next year if it implemented the proposals.
He said: “2017 is very close and we will not hesitate to use those [voter] cards.”
However, Anglican Church of Kenya Bishop Beneah Salah said government intervention was needed because the church was not in a healthy state.
“Horrible things are happening in the church today. There is a lot of commercialisation of the gospel with this prosperity gospel,” he is quoted by The Standard as saying.
“Perhaps God is using the state to punish the church as he did in the past, where he used kings or nations to discipline the church,” he added.
The head of the tiny Atheists in Kenya group, Harrison Mumia, said the government had a responsibility to protect desperate Kenyans from faith healers who took advantage of them.
Last week, Kenya’s Communications Authority published new broadcasting regulations which will ban preachers from soliciting money on air. — BBC News