President Uhuru Kenyatta’s directive to Attorney-General Githu Muigai to withdraw the controversial regulations on religious groups is timely.
Whereas there is merit in the desire to contain rogue religious leaders and groups and create sanity in a field that is increasingly being infiltrated by people of dubious character, the proposals were bound to create unnecessary tension between the faiths and the State.
Notably, Kenyans are concerned about the obsession among some religious groups with financial collections and ostentatious lifestyles that run counter to the doctrines of their faiths.
Further, some religious groups teach radical views and promote fanatical behaviour that undermines public security and morality. Many hide behind religion to commit heinous crimes.
However, that is no justification to control the faiths. Laws exist that deal with those aberrations.
Religion is a private and personal matter. It is protected by the Constitution that expressly prescribes that everyone has the right and freedom of worship. Any attempt to strictly regulate religious groups is an affront to the Constitution. Indeed, governments have no business getting involved in people’s spiritual affairs.
Looked at differently, the attempt to regulate religious organisations would have also been interpreted within an emerging pattern by the State to control independent groups.
The government has been pushing for laws to regulate civil society organisations. Other laws have been enacted in recent times that erode gains made in the past in regard to civil liberties and freedoms.
If the State must control the faiths, then as President Kenyatta directed, the AG must conduct extensive consultations with religious leaders and their faithful and agree on the rules.
Better still, the whole question of regulating religion should be thrown out because it is unconstitutional and an unnecessary intrusion into personal liberties.