Statement by the Catholic Church on the proposed religious societies rules 2015

Fellow Kenyans, the Catholic Church has over the years lived true to her mission of evangelisation. We have, over the years, kept our doors open to millions of Kenyans across the country who truly seek Christ in their life.

Through our Churches spread in every corner of the country, our schools and medical facilities, we have constantly striven to reach out to the body, mind and souls of Kenyans from all walks of life.

It is therefore with shock and surprise that we have received the news that the government has formulated new rules that, if implemented, will have direct and negative impact on our evangelization mission. Similar attempts to regulate the procedures for Christian marriage have led to a major drop in young people coming to Church to celebrate the sacrament.

We, shepherds of the Catholic Church are deeply concerned about the proposed the new, Societies (religious societies) rules, 2015 on the following grounds:

  1. 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. How then, we, ask, does the government purport to regulate how Kenyans worship? Is this not a clear violation of the constitution?
  2. Broad sections of the law are unrealistic and utopian. For example, parts of the law require different faiths to keep an updated register of all members. We wish to remind the state that the work of winning souls for Christ is an ongoing task, one that happens every second, every minute, every day and night. Every second, millions of souls are won for Christ. To demand that all faiths keep records of people won for Christ every minute and those who have become inactive is therefore logistically unrealistic and untenable.
  3. Further to that, the new rules give the registrar sweeping powers, including the power to invade Churches to conduct impromptu audit. This is, to say the least, a license for the government to violate constitutionally guaranteed freedom of worship. The Catholic Church is not a business, neither is it a Non-Government Organisations or a civil society. The Catholic Church is a people of God.  As such, the state cannot purport to audit the faith of the people of God.
  4. Further, to 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. Matters of faith are not about numbers. They are about conversion of the soul. To demand that Churches keep records of their followers will effectively reduce Christianity into a game of numbers, and water down the mission of the Church which is evangelization and assisting people to become better persons.

Dear Kenyans, this is not the first time that we are raising our concerns with the government regarding attempts to regulate churches and worship  Unfortunately, the government has chosen to ignore our concerns or sideline us altogether in the formulation of these rules.

The constitution is clear on citizen involvement in formulation of rules and laws affecting the people. If indeed the government is genuine in formulating these rules, then it should have, as respected the constitution by ensuring wide consultation with all religious leaders in the country in the formulation and wording of these new rules. Sadly, these rules seem to have been formulated inside boardrooms without due regard for the spiritual welfare of our beloved country.

The government already has at its disposal mechanisms to bring to book rogue religious leaders in the country.  To begin with, the government already wields the power to register or deregister Churches, as well as preferring criminal charges on wayward churches and church leaders.

While we acknowledge the governments’ 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.

The Catholic Church has a Code of Canon Law to guide and regulate her operations. It sets the bar on all facets of the Church –from leadership to membership.

This Code of Canon law has clearly laid down procedures on qualifications for leaders at all levels and how to punish errant leaders and members. It is only fair that the state gives the Catholic Church space to implement this constitution in the spirit of self-regulation.

Only this way can the separation of Church and State as stipulated in the constitution, and indeed, the freedom of worship be guaranteed.

The new laws are therefore an attempt to micromanage worship and should be dropped. We invite the government to establish means to discuss the way forward. The Catholic Church remains a credible partner in the spiritual an social development of all partners.

Signed: ________________________Date:  January 12th 2016

Rt. Rev. Philip Anyolo Chairman, Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops /Homa Bay

Rt. Rev. John Oballa Owaa, Vice Chairman (KCCB)/  Ngong
His Eminence John Cardinal Njue, Nairobi
Most Rev. Zacchaeus Okoth, Kisumu
Most Rev. Peter Kairo, Nyeri
Most Rev. Martin Kivuva Musonde, Mombasa
Rt. Rev. Cornelius Arap Korir, Eldoret
Rt. Rev. Joseph Mairura Okemwa, Kisii
Rt. Rev. Alfred Rotich, Military Ordinariate
Rt. Rev. Maurice Crowley, Kitale
Rt. Rev. Norman Wambua King’oo, Bungoma
Rt. Rev. Peter Kihara, IMC, Marsabit
Rt. Rev. David Kamau Ng’ang’a, Aux. Bishop Nairobi
Rt. Rev. Anthony Ireri Mukobo, IMC, Isiolo Vicariate
Rt. Rev. Virgilio Pante, Maralal
Rt. Rev. Salesius Mugambi, Meru
Rt. Rev. Emmanuel Okombo, Kericho
Rt. Rev. Anthony Muheria, Kitui
Rt. Rev. James Maria Wainaina, Muranga
Rt. Rev. Paul Kariuki Njiru, Embu
Rt. Rev. Maurice Muhatia Makumba, Nakuru
Rt. Rev. Dominic Kimengich, Lodwar
Rt. Rev. Emmanuel Barbara Malindi
Rt. Rev. Joseph Mbatia, Nyahururu
Rt. Rev. Joseph Obanyi Sagwe, Kakamega
Rt. Rev. Joseph Alessandro, Garissa

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