Is there a thin line between State and Religion?

Do you believe in separation of church and state?

Article 8 of the Kenyan Constitution guarantees the separation of religion and state. It states that there shall be no state religion.

However, it is argued that the new administration led by President Willam Ruto has brought religion close to power. The state believes it is ordained by God and therefore the Church is on their side. The Church equally believes that the new government is ordained by God hence, must be sustained by prayer.

On September 15, 2022, the renowned gospel musician, apologist and social activist Reuben Kigame opined;

I know I will be bashed but I need to be truthful and accountable to the nation. I think the Ruto administration is overdoing religion. While we acknowledge the hand of God in bringing us this far, presidency must observe Article 27 of the constitution,” he said, “During the inauguration, the evangelical wing of the church was over represented. This was unnecessary. I do not know what the transition committee intended to prove to Kenya and the watching world.”

Kigame who was locked out from the 2022 presidential race by the Court of Appeal, went on to say;

“I strongly believe that the church should play A neutral, prophetic, balanced and truthful role in order to provide a true spiritual direction for the country. it should congratulate the king but also be prepared to tell the king that he is naked should he be.”

Referring to Article 32 on the freedom of conscience, religion, belief and opinion, that says, the State shall not discriminate directly or indirectly against any person on any ground, including race, sex, ethnic or social origin, religion, conscience, culture, belief or opinion. Arnold Maliba, a governance and policy expert,  reasoned thus:

“It’s the legal right for persons to choose and exercise religious persuasions without coercion from government,” Maliba adding that, “President Ruto is an evangelical therefore, we don’t expect him to practice differently. The Late President Moi went to AIC religiously.”

A secular state is a country where the state is kept separate from religion, and the state does not discriminate or favor persons based on their religious beliefs.
There is no state religion and all religions are to be treated equally. Religion has no formal role in state affairs. Indeed, the Societies Act, Chapter 108, Laws of Kenya prohibits the formation and registration of political Parties that are based on a specific religion.

The constitution stipulates there shall be no state religion and prohibits religious discrimination. The constitution provides for freedom of religion and belief individually or in communities, including the freedom to manifest any religion through worship, practice, teaching, or observance.

As much as there is no state religion, we must define “separation of religion and state” and what it should mean.

Bishop Emeritus of Christ Is The Answer Ministries (CITAM), and the Chairperson of Evangelical Alliance of Kenya, Rev. Dr.David Oginde, acknowledges the fact that Kenya and Kenyans are very religious and therefore, we find religion in everything we do.

“Things like Prayers are part of our national life. In every state function we start with Prayer and our National Anthem is prayer, our Constitution at the preamble recognizes God,” Bishop Oginde, who was speaking in an interview with one of the local television station said, “God is at the centre of all that we do, so how that is expressed and practiced is what we can discuss. But the fact that we are religious is not under discussion.”

However, those that are opposed to the “evangelical preferential treatment” by the state, says, it’s all about control.

Be that as it may, the separation of religion and state has never meant that the voice of believers in any faith must be silent when it crosses a government threshold. It only ever meant (to the framers of the Constitution) that Kenya cannot have a “State religion”.

If the intention of the framers of our constitution, meant that: There can be no official state church or religion. No church acts as if it were an organ of the state. No one can be barred from public office based on religious belief. Then, the evangelical church leaders should therefore, not act as if they were an organ of the state. Unless, the overall goal is to make Kenya a theocratic government?

As evangelicals, we should not be quite happy to be completely embedded in the state to the exclusion of all other faiths.

It is the separation of Religion and State that will allow the Church of Kenya to push their views in government and advocate for legislation in accordance with their beliefs. It is that separation that will remove the growing doubt that evangelical Christians are “theocrats”. It is that separation that will give the church a voice to speak out against social injustices. It is that separation that will allow the church as an institution to influence the government for good, and also correct the government when it does wrong.

Right-to-left-President William Ruto- First Lady Rachel Ruto – Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua during a prayer service at State House, Nairobi.

During a thanks-giving service at State House, hosted by President Ruto and First Lady Rachel Ruto on Sunday, September 25. The Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, while addressing the clergy who gathered for the morning fellowship, said;

“I want to confirm to you today, that in the hands of President William Ruto the Church is very safe,” to the applause of the clergy, he added, “Our ascendancy to the office is one of the greatest miracle.”

On her part, the First Lady Rachel Ruto affirmed that such thanksgiving services will be held on a regular basis.

I want to tell the church that this is not the last service we are having, you will be coming here month after month to give thanks to the Lord for doing us good.

While it is prudent to give thanks, will the subsequent prayer meetings be all inclusive? Will our leaders be sensitive to the fact that they are leaders for all Kenyans — regardless of their faith?

I believe generally that there is a pendulum swing involved here, and the current position of the pendulum is rather to the side of the bread which is buttered.

As a Kenyan people, the only just and safe course to pursue is to keep the state and religion separate. This is in harmony with the words of Christ, “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.”

The questions is: Will the Church reinforce this approach?

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