Legislation proposed by the Muslim governor of Kaduna state could see street evangelists fined and pastors sent to jail for up to two years for socalled ‘offensive’ preaching.
Christian leaders in Nigeria have voiced their concerns over the Religious Regulation Bill, proposed by Governor Nasir El-Rufai, which was sent to the state assembly last October. The Bill would also require clergy to obtain an annual preaching permit.
Church leaders fear that the proposed legislation, which would apply to all religions including Islam, is a ploy to stifle and persecute Christians under the guise of quelling extremists. In the words of Rev George Dodo, Chairman of the Kaduna State Chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria:
‘The proposed law is in contravention of the Nigerian Constitution and shall inhibit the preaching of the gospel when it becomes operational’
Another senior church leader stated:
‘We have reservations over the Bill and believe that it will curtail religious freedom of the people, particularly Christians in Kaduna state.’
Release’s partner Stefanos Foundation believes that the legislation would set a dangerous precedent.Director Mark Lipdo said:
‘Such a law is against the spirit of the Constitution of Nigeria which guarantees freedom of thought, conscience and religion. That includes the right to manifest and propagate one’s religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance. ‘Furthermore, a state cannot justify breaching the Constitution by enacting a law under the pretence of combatting extremism. There are laws already which can be enforced to combat hate sermons.’
- that the Bill does not become law, and that God will give wisdom to church leaders who oppose the legislation.