Kenyan churches are protesting newly proposed rules that would regulate the registration and operation of religious organizations, part of a government attempt to crack down on groups accused of brainwashing and radicalizing their followers
The Kenya National Congress of Pentecostal Churches and Ministries denounced the new rules, saying the country’s attorney general did not involve churches in writing the regulations.
Deputy Chairman Stephen Ndicho said Pentecostal churches had a meeting with the attorney general in November, but denied the regulations represent the views of churches. But preachers do support efforts to tame rogue ministers through the formation of an umbrella organization made up of religious groups, Ndicho said.
If approved, the rules would require pastors, rabbis, imams, and other religious leaders to obtain certificates of good conduct from the police and clearance from the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission.
All religious organizations will be required to furnish the government with details of their committee members and registered trustees, including giving copies of their identification cards, personal identification number (PIN), and tax clearance or tax exemption certificates, among other documents. They will be required to reveal all their branches and physical locations.
Religious organizations that fail to file annual returns with the Registrar of Societies every year risk being deregistered. And if they fail to file returns in three years, they will be declared dormant.
Some of the rules, like filing annual returns, are not new. But churches have flouted them and the government has postponed enforcement.
The proposed regulations are in part a response to recent reports in which some Christian leaders have been exposed by investigative journalists to be engaging in unethical practices, fleecing gullible followers by promising miracles in exchange for money.
At the same time, recent terrorist attacks in different parts of Kenya have been blamed on radicalization of young people allegedly taking place in mosques. Late last month, the government closed two mosques in the coastal town of Mombasa after security forces found ammunitions in one of them. Muslim extremists were said to be using the mosques to hide weapons and indoctrinate desperate youth.
While some religious leaders have reacted angrily to the proposed regulations, others support them.
Canon Peter Karanja, general-secretary of the National Council of Churches of Kenya, said he attended the forum during which the rules were written. Some religious organizations saw a draft of the regulations and, after discussing them, plan to send a memorandum to the attorney general, he said.
Wellington Mutiso, the former general-secretary of the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya, said there was a need to relax some of the requirements in the draft “so that it does not seem to interfere with the right of worship.”