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Act on noise pollution by places of worship

Kenya Police officers preach on the streets of Nairobi alerting residents of an upcoming Christian crusade at Uhuru park. [Jenipher Wachie, Standard]

Freedom of worship is enshrined in the Constitution. Article 32(3) states: “Every person has the right, either individually or in community with others, in public or in private, to manifest any religion or belief through worship, practice, teaching or observance, including observance of a day of worship”.

Indeed, no person should be discriminated against or mistreated on the grounds of their religion and beliefs. The rights of all worshippers must be respected by all and sundry, irrespective of whether one agrees with their beliefs or not. 

But this freedom, like all freedoms, is not cast in stone. It is only guaranteed when the rights of others are not offended.

Worshippers, therefore, also ought to respect the rights of others by, among others, not disturbing the peace of those neighbouring places of worship, with excessive noise.

However, this is rarely the case as places of worship such as churches and mosques, especially those in residential estates, take this freedom too far and infringe on the residents’ right to a clean and healthy environment, including one that is devoid of noise pollution.

That is is the reason the Environment and Lands Court has directed three churches in Mombasa to stop making noise or be prosecuted. This was after some residents told the court that excessive noise emanating from these churches disturbs their peace. The court has also ordered National Environment Management Authority of Kenya and Mombasa County Government were ordered to enforce the law to ensure there is no unreasonable noise and vibration from any source within the county that may interfere with the comfort, repose, health or safety of members of the public. 

That should be done across the country. Much as we revere places of worship, it is wrong for them to disturb the peace of learners, the sick and those who would want to watch their TV or even sleep without being inconvenienced by external noise.

If religious leaders cannot control the level of noise, citizens will expect the government to protect them. Rwanda did it. There is no reason Kenya cannot.