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Recently, we have been embarrassed by the actions of a number of the men of the cloth.

Any person who is not a tyro in history will readily acknowledge that religion has always been a thorny issue in the world.

Recently, we have been embarrassed by the actions of a number of the men of the cloth.

One apparently resurrected a dead man, another, a prominent self-styled Kenyan prophet is said to have brainwashed a member, a prominent Kenyan lawyer, and used her resources to finance his church activities. Another evangelist conned investors in his real-eState Sacco off billions.

Roundly condemned

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Calls to regulate religion have therefore, for obvious reasons been made. Saturday Nation columnist Njoki Chege, asked the government to “to thoroughly vet the credentials of these characters and ensure they have been trained at reputable theological colleges”.

Linus Kaikai, one of Kenya’s accomplished media personalities, also aired similar sentiments in his Kicker on Citizen TV’s News Gang, and called for the regulation of “church” and have these religious leaders “accountable to a being other than God”. The gist of his message is simple: that the government should regulate churches by having preachers submit their theological training certificates for the government to license them to run churches.

Separation of roles

The reasons for these calls are understandable, but is regulation of faith institutions the right action to take?

Human society is divided into two aspects: civil (that aspect that pertains to his/her interactions with other humans) and religious (exclusively pertaining to his/her relationship with God).

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There are duties we owe to government and there are duties that we owe exclusively to God. Civil duties pertain to the relations between citizens. Morality resides in the thoughts, secrets and intentions of the heart. That is the jurisdiction which no man can regulate.

The focus here is exclusively on the regulation of faith and not on faith-based institutions. Institutions, by virtue of the fact that they are formed for social-civil interactions, should be regulated. However, the faith behind these institutions remains above the civil arm to the extent that its practice doesn’t infringe on the fundamental rights of another person.

While the civil aspect can be regulated by the society by promoting civility, the second is above man. Morality is exclusively in God’s domain and He is its sole promoter.

Alonzo T. Jones, in his book Civil Government and Religion States that: “to the church, and not to the State, is committed the conservation of morality in the world. The State cannot teach morality or religion. It has not the credentials for it.”

So the government has nothing to do with religion (man’s relationship with God).

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For the rogue preachers to be contained, one needs not to meddle in matters of faith. If they have committed a crime, then laws of the land are clear on the penal code. If a man breaches the rights of another individual then the State has jurisdiction to punish that individual on behalf of the society.

Man-made laws for religion?

But there can never be man-made laws to punish immorality. What would be the limit? Who is even qualified to measure the level of morality save from God? If it is getting resources from people via false pretenses, stealing, rape... our laws are sufficient to address such.

The meddling in religion by the State inevitably results in persecution. The government cannot define doctrine. She lacks the credentials for that. Doing this will lead the installation of a government religion (contrary to the 2010 Constitution), because the government will have now made itself the definer of orthodoxy and heresy.

This will effectively make Kenya a religious State. And what does history tell us about such arrangements? In history, the Roman State became a persecuting power because of its recognition of the Catholic religion. But the Roman Catholic religion was not the only persecuting religion that has been in the world. Jones argues that Presbyterianism persecuted while John Calvin ruled in Geneva; it persecuted while the Covenanters ruled in Scotland; it persecuted while it held the power in England.

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Congregationalism persecuted while it had the power in New England. Episcopalians persecuted in England and in Virginia. Every religion that has been allied with the civil power, or that has controlled the civil power, has been a persecuting religion; and such will always be the case.

No, don’t think for us

Religious liberty is absolute. It is the power of a rational agent to make his choices and decide conduct in matters of faith for himself, spontaneously and voluntarily in accordance with his or her reasons or motives. Regulation of churches on the sole basis that citizens are being taken advantage of is simply putting a premium on laziness in thinking. It is simply admitting that the State is thinking on behalf of its citizens.

All citizens have an absolute and unqualified right to serve God in any manner they choose free from the restrictions of the State. Any service that is not rendered to God free is not of God because God is God of love. Whomever the son makes free he or she is absolutely free to serve or reject him out of his or her own free will. Legislating on such matters is but enforcing hypocrisy.

Mwero Ruwah and Jared Mugendi comments on social issues

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