State-religion relationship is confusing the law and society

Sunday March 17 2019

church, Christianity, Christians, cross, church and state

The State has a duty to all Kenyans and must sever its close relationship with organised religions in the spirit of equality and justice. PHOTO | AARON BURDEN | UNSPALSH  

More by this Author

That Kenyan politics has gone to bed with religion is causing much confusion as to how the society ought to be ordered, whether we need to rely on the Constitution or the Scripture.

The Constitution is, in itself, a fusion or confusion between Customary Law, Sharia Law and Legislation as enacted by Parliament and does not provide uniformity in law.


Over the years, churches, in particular, have played host to political figures on numerous occasions either for prayers or the obligatory harambee. The relationship has solidified, giving church leadership unfair advantage in determining how the rest of us can be ordered. They, of course, like any other Kenyan, have a say but their voice has become very powerful, to the point of muzzling others.

Religious groups draw the right to their opinions from the Scripture as much as the Constitution. The right to freedom of expression is theirs to enjoy, and so does the rest of the society. However, due to the close relationship between the State and religion, they have undermined the right of others to express themselves.

Two key examples are the right of women to seek abortion, which religious groups have opposed for divine reasons, and the legalisation of same-sex relationships in the country. The latter has particularly been sandwiched between objections from religious groups and Africans, who claim it is against social values. Whatever that means — when most of us are more European than ever before!

In the recent past, we have had films and performances by Kenyan artistes banned because they were deemed immoral or sinful. The objection, mostly, would be led by a person with the mandate to run a state corporation set under the Constitution.

To ban something by claiming it is sinful or immoral veers towards the realms of divine law and is a biased decision. It is a way of imposing one’s values onto others with no understanding of your belief system.


Many communities in Kenya still live their lives in a traditional way. Why should divine law so negatively impact on people who don’t follow any organised religion?

The war on corruption has been waged and the voice from organised religions, in particular, has been missing on the issue. The close relationship religion enjoys with the State undermines their responsibility to the wider society. They can cite all moral scriptures but that amounts to nothing if they cannot hold perpetrators of corruption to account. How can a church challenge a contributor of millions to it?

No one is saying religious organisations do not deserve financial support. However, it creates the perception that ill-gotten money is welcome in churches and mosques and temples and prayers will forgive the sins of leaders who run down public hospitals — when, in actual fact, the Constitution would deem such individuals be punished right here on earth, for we can feel the pain of their criminal acts.

A religion-State relationship can defile democracy by the sheer swaying power religion has on its congregation. No wonder, churches and mosques make for good vote-hunting grounds; they take away the voter’s autonomy to elect political representatives of their free will.

The rise in questionable ‘prosperity’ churches lends credence to the close relationship churches enjoy with the State. Many disturbing claims are made against some of the independent churches but the government, its hands tied to its back by religious fanatics, is unable to rein in the rogue pastors and churches. Officials watch as the most vulnerable of citizens are exploited financially in the name of God.


There have been more prosperity churches mushrooming in Kenya than decent schools, hospitals and housing. It has become uncontrollable, untaxable and unapproachable industry that is getting away with misdemeanours that ordinary Kenyans will not even think of.

The Constitution is clear that Kenya does not have a state religion. Essentially, it is a secular state. However, through the conduct by the government in its relationship with religious groups, the nation has tacitly been turned into a religious state.

No one is saying those in government do not have the right to worship but going to bed with religious groups undermines the tenets of the Constitution and risks locking out the rights of others who do not have a similar relationship with or influence on the State.

The law can only be fair and just if it is uniform and serves the needs of all in society. The Constitution provides for a similar set of rules by which we can all be ordered. It is, therefore, against the Constitution and natural justice to only rely on the views of the select few at the expense of the masses.

The State has a duty to all Kenyans and must sever its close relationship with organised religions in the spirit of equality and justice.

Ms Guyo is a legal researcher. [email protected] @kdiguyo