Two Members of Parliament have publicly clashed over the proposed legislation aimed at regulating churches in Kenya.
Molo legislator Kimani Kuria and his Bahati colleague and namesake Kimani Ngunjiri openly read from different scripts before a gathering of eager clergymen drawn from various churches in Nakuru County with Ngunjiri vowing to oppose the stringent laws tailored to tame rogue preachers and churches.
The draft legislation by Kangema Member of Parliament Muturi Kigano seeks to streamline church regulations, enhance accountability and promote professionalism in evangelism.
Kigano has indicated that the current church registration process was being abused by unscrupulous people who called themselves men of God and were opening churches with the sole purpose of making quick money and enriching themselves.
“We even have churches that are made up of three members with a husband being the bishop, the wife acting as the pastor or archdeacon and their daughter as the treasurer. This cannot be allowed to go on,” Mr.Kigano protested.
A visibly emotional Ngunjiri maintained that not all the apples in the house of God are rotten. He said churches were a reflection of the society and that people should be left to worship the God in the manner they want.
“A church usually starts with family members and their neighbours. This is supported in the Bible. Many Kenyans will appreciate if MPs allow Kenyans to exercise freedom of worship because it is their constitutional right,” charged Mr.Ngunjiri.
The two leaders were speaking at a forum organised by religious leaders moderated by County Governor Lee Kinyanjui and attended by Members of Parliament from the County. Nakuru Woman Representative Elisabeth Chelule was also present.
Kuria on his part affirmed that it was an undeniable fact that all is not well in the House of God and religious quacks, criminals and conmen have invaded the holy place.
“In as much as we want to exercise the freedom of worship, matters of values, ethics and morality cannot be swept under the carpet. Many of these characters no longer preach salvation and ways to reach God but are now preoccupied with what is called the prosperity gospel that exploits their followers to get rich from the grinding poverty they are in,” said the Molo lawmaker.
The Governor steered clear of the debate but lashed out at a section of religious leaders for ‘accepting gifts and monetary donations’ from well known ‘thieves’ and ‘corrupt elements’.
Mr.Kinyanjui said the church risked losing moral authority to speak on societal ills as some of its leaders did not vet or question donations from suspicious characters.
“We want this culture of churches accepting gifts and money from corrupt characters to stop. They should support President Uhuru Kenyatta’s fight against entrenched graft. The donations they receive are mostly funds diverted from hospitals, projects and government coffers,” said the governor.
Mr. Kuria said Kenyans have become poorer as the so called men of God line their pockets with the money they get from the poor followers. He said Kenyans should be allowed to make contributions to Kigano’s bill through public participation.
“Let Kenyans have their say about tithing generously and planting the seed. Masqueraders who exploit poor Kenyans through fake religious preaching will also be accorded an opportunity to make their standpoint”
Mr.Ngunjiri said Kenya was a secular country that respected separation of the state from religious activities. The move and mandate to streamline church regulations he said should be left to the church itself to see how to go about it.
By Anne Mwale and Dennis Rasto