Churches have called for the establishment of the Office of Registrar of Religious Organisations instead of having them being under the mandate of the Registrar of Societies.
Repentance and Holiness Church led by Prophet David Owuor and Jesus is Alive Ministries led by Bishop Margaret Wanjiru told the Senate Ad Hoc Committee investigating the proliferation of religious organisations and Shakahola deaths that self-regulation was the best way to go.
Bishop Wanjiru who appeared before the Committee chaired by Tana River Senator Danson Mungatana in Nairobi on Monday said that there should be a five-tier system beginning from the grassroots up to the Registrar of Religious Organisations to ensure checks and balances at each level.
“Self-regulation of religious organization from the lowest to the highest level is the way to go, this starts from the grassroots, head office of religious organizations, umbrella bodies, Council of Commission of Faith and Registrar of Religious Organisations which will be sufficient,” she said.
She told the committee that regulating religious organisations would interfere with the right to freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief and opinion as enshrined in Article 32 of the Constitution bearing in mind these are matters in the spiritual realm.
Bishop Wanjiru said that it was not possible for the government to understand every religion and it would be prudent that religious issues are best handled by religious leaders and organizations to end extremism and ensure that they are able to self-regulate with their own registrar.
The Bishop emphasized that the establishment of the Commission of Faith or Council of Faith would ensure checks and balances in religious matters.
She said the commission should be empowered to carry out investigations where it feels that the activities of a religious group border on extremism.
“We have several laws that regulate the churches, what we lack is self-regulation in various religious societies in the country, it is common practice in most countries for religious organisations to regulate themselves, and that can also be done in our country,” she said.
The bishop reiterated that the Shakahola massacre would not have occurred if security agencies were vigilant since the deaths of faithful happened over a long period of time.
Repentance and Holiness Church Legal Counsel Gerald Odiwuor told the committee that the Shakahola massacre does not call for review of regulation since there are already adequate laws to deal with religious extremism and there are cases where the country needs spiritual intervention.
Odiwuor told the committee that in order to deal with proliferation of religious organizations, preachers should be barred from showing on the screen Mpesa numbers where faithful should channel their offerings since this has led to the commercialization of religious teaching.
“Repentance and Holiness Ministry is recommending that when a miracle has been performed, members of the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentist Council should medically prove that a person has been healed of the illness they have said they have been suffering from,” he said.