Weddings face delays due to slow licensing

Saturday October 25 2014

A wedding cake. FILE PHOTO

A wedding cake. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

KENFREY KIBERENGE
By KENFREY KIBERENGE
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Church weddings across the country could be delayed despite a court ruling that suspended a requirement for clergymen to apply for new licences.

National Council of Churches of Kenya Secretary-General Peter Karanja says pastors could be in an administrative quagmire due to slow processing of new marriage certificates by the government.

The reverend stated that some pastors cannot preside over weddings since many are yet to receive the new documents after submitting the old ones en masse in a bid to beat the initial November 1 deadline.

On Thursday, the clergy got a reprieve when High Court Judge Justice George Odunga suspended a section of the new Marriage Act that requires them to seek new licenses.

But Rev Karanja says the registrar of marriages should either return the old certificates or come up with stopgap measures to ensure that weddings are not interrupted, pending the resolution of the case.

“It is a right of Kenyans to wed whenever they want,” he said.

“The government should not be putting bottlenecks. They should be supporting this right.”

The notice calling for fresh application of licenses was issued by Attorney-General Githu Muigai.

“All licensed ministers of faith who fail to fulfil the requirements will have their existing licences cancelled,” the AG wrote in a Gazette notice.

When contacted, Prof Muigai told the Sunday Nation that the matter is in the domain of the registrar of marriages.

“I am the minister of Justice and my work is to appoint a registrar and what she does, I have no control [over]. Please get in touch with her,” he, responding via telephone.

We could not reach the registrar.

Pastor Dennis Mulonzi of Ambassadors of Christ Church in Kitengela said the government is using the registration to nab clergymen who have not been filing taxes.

ALLEGED DISCRIMINATION

In a suit filed by Evangelical Alliance of Kenya Chairman Mark Kariuki alongside the East African Centre for Law and Justice, churches are arguing that the new requirement is discriminatory.

They say that only the Christian and Hindu clergy are required to apply and pay for their licenses.

On Saturday, Rev Karanja said the requirement can only be equitable if if made to all faiths and not just churches.