NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 13 – Opposition leader Raila Odinga says proposed religious regulations should scrap a requirement for preachers to have training in theology, arguing that preaching is a calling, not a profession.
Speaking in support of the opposition raised by church leaders over the regulations, Odinga further said it is not practical to expect churches to keep a register of their followers.
He spoke a day after President Uhuru Kenyatta intervened in the brewing storm and directed the Attorney General to subject the proposals to further consultations.
“Who trained John the Baptist? Who trained Peter or Paul? Religion is a calling. Religious leadership is a gift. You can’t train people into religious inspiration,” he said.
Addressing a press briefing on Wednesday, Odinga accused the President of allowing detrimental regulations to be drafted with a potential of bringing confusion in how different faiths are managed.
He says it’s hypocritical of the Government to act as if it was not aware of regulations and yet the AG,” gets instructions from the Cabinet which is chaired by the President.”
“The President cannot now come around to order the AG to negotiate with religious leaders yet he chaired the Cabinet meeting that agreed on the rules to regulate religion.”
President Kenyatta asked the AG to ensure that the current draft regulations are subjected to vigorous public consultations so that they don’t undermine the fundamental values and principles enshrined in the constitution.
“The President has directed the Attorney General, Professor Githu Muigai, to ensure that all proposals relating to the creation of a framework for religious societies and organisations is undertaken after thorough and exhaustive consultations with all groups, bearing in mind the sacrosanct constitutional principles governing the freedom of religion and worship,” reads a statement from State House spokesman Manoah Esipisu.
Even with the directive, the opposition leader believes that the country has enough problems to deal with currently. “There is no need inventing new ones. There is no need fixing what is working. There is no crisis in the church today. There is no need for the intervention of the State.”
On Tuesday, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops also accused the government of plotting to micro-manage the activities of the church through proposed new regulations.
The bishops lament that the church was sidelined during the formulation of the regulations which they say contain unrealistic and untenable requirements.
Addressing a press briefing on Tuesday, the conference chairman Rt. Rev Philip Anyolo specifically said they were against the requirement for different faiths to keep updated registers where they say the work of winning souls for Christ is an ongoing task.
“Further to that, the new rules give the registrar sweeping powers, including the power to invade churches to conduct impromptu audit,” he said.
“This is, to say the least, a license for the government to violate constitutionally guaranteed freedom of worship.”
The bishops have called on the government to consult widely before implementing the regulations so that they can serve the intended purpose of weeding out rogue preachers.
Anyolo says if indeed the government was genuine in formulating the rules, it should have consulted widely with all religious leaders in the country.
He said the Constitution of Kenya draws “a very clear line between the State and religion. The same constitution is also explicitly clear on the freedom of worship, which is enshrined in the document.”
He wondered: “How then does the government purport to regulate how Kenyans worship?”
They say the demand that all faiths register followers will only serve to convert churches into mere registration centres instead of citadels of hope and faith for millions of Kenyans.
He however admitted that there was a problem that needs to be addressed but in a way that does not contravene the constitution.
“While we acknowledge the government’s concerns about reported cases where persons purporting to be shepherds of the flock have grossly abused duties and responsibilities placed on them, it is our opinion that these new rules will not adequately address such cases,” he acknowledged.