Monday, June 19, 2023


Controversy Surrounding Legislation on Regulating Christian Preaching

A bill proposing the establishment of a "National Centre for Christian Education" is currently being advocated for in the Senate. The bill aims to regulate and set standards for the practice of Christianity in Nigeria with the goal of strengthening religion for national unity.

Initially, there were reports suggesting that the bill was sponsored by other religious groups aiming to suppress the practice of Christianity in the country. This information quickly spread, causing concerns within Christian communities that have faced persecution from Islamic fundamentalists in recent years without any consequences.

However, it has been clarified that there is no intention to silence Christians or restrict the preaching of the gospel, which is a fundamental principle of the faith. The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) clarified that the bill was sponsored in the House of Representatives by Hon. Shawulu Kwenmwun and supported by other Christian legislators.

The bill seeks to establish a regulatory council for Christian education that would oversee curriculum development and monitor the teachings in secular schools. This move aims to address the issue of substandard theological schools and ensure that certificates obtained from these institutions have recognition and validity beyond their own walls.

CAN emphasized that the bill aims to formalize Christian education as a recognized field of study in tertiary institutions, providing legitimacy to certificates obtained from Bible schools, theological institutions, and other Christian educational institutions in Nigeria.

The clarification from CAN helped dispel the misconceptions that the bill aimed to regulate Christianity or censor Christian preaching. It was deemed mischievous and malicious to spread rumors that caused division and disaffection among CAN, the bill sponsors, and the Christian community in Nigeria.

The bill, titled "An Act to Establish the National Council for Christian Education for the Purpose of Regulating and Setting Standard and For Related Matters, 2023," has passed the second reading, focusing primarily on enhancing the educational value of Christianity.

Senator Istifanus Gyang, representing Plateau North, emphasized that religious extremism arises from the misinterpretation of religion and called for understanding and respect across religious divides.

The sponsors of the bill justified its necessity by stating that properly practiced religion can foster national unity and strength, while wrongly practiced religion can lead to extremism and hate. They believe that a commission responsible for developing a curriculum for Christian education would play a crucial role in promoting the right interpretation of the Bible.

The bill has been referred to the Committee on Education for further legislative input after passing the second reading. However, some express concerns that the bill may be an attempt to curtail the practice of the Christian religion, contradicting the principles of religious freedom outlined in the Nigerian constitution.

It is important to note that the constitution of Nigeria upholds religious freedom, prohibiting the adoption of any religion as the state religion to prevent religious suppression. Christian education has played a significant role in advocating for funding and innovation in education, moral development, empowerment, social services, and education infrastructure.

Across America and Europe, Christian denominations have established universities to educate their clergy and followers. Many of these institutions have become secular over time but have contributed to higher education in these regions. Similarly, faith organizations have played a crucial role in the management of educational resources in Nigeria, often demonstrating efficiency and a lack of corruption compared to government-run schools.

Constitutional law experts argue that while the regulation of religious preaching may be permissible under certain circumstances outlined in the Constitution, targeting only Christian preaching would violate the constitutional provision that prohibits discrimination based on religion. Any bill specifically targeting Christian preaching would be unconstitutional, as the protection against discrimination based on religion is absolute and not subject to derogation.

In conclusion, the proposed bill seeks to establish standards and regulations for Christian education in Nigeria. While initial concerns arose regarding its intentions, it has been clarified that the bill aims to improve the educational quality of Christian teachings and address issues within theological schools.

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