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Tension over new religious freedom rules in Kenya

Wed 20 Jan 2016
By Hannah Tooley

The President of Kenya has promised vigorous debate after a row broke out when clergy called government plans to regulate faith groups a threat to freedom of religion. 

Earlier in the month, the Kenyan government published new rules that require religious leaders to have theological degrees and religious groups to submit a statement of faith.

The rules were drafted among rising concerns of corruption among some church leaders, Christians can send their offerings to some pastors via mobile phone, and radicalisation among some imams.

The news agency Agenzia Fides reported that the Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta, said: "Our Constitution accords every Kenyan the right to worship and I fully support that position.

"But we will not allow thieves to use religion to steal from Kenyans."

He explained what the Religious Societies Rules 2015 aimed to achieve but Catholic Bishops are still unhappy with the proposals.

President Kenyatta stressed that the rules would be subject to robust public consultation and would ensure that they do not undermine values and freedoms guaranteed in the constitution.

He continued saying that Kenyans: "must work together to root out people who use the Church to enrich themselves.

"These are thieves and must be treated with the contempt they deserve."

One of the rules would require all religious societies or groups be registered and give details of a physical address as well as pastors preaching.

It would also dictate that a certain number of attendees were Kenyan citizens.

Both Christian and Muslim leaders denounced the new proposals earlier in the month and discussion continues.

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