Kenya Rejects Atheist Group's Request to Be Officially Recognized Over 'Peace', 'Good Order'

(Photo: Reuters/Goran Tomasevic)A Christian man carries a cross during Good Friday procession outside Nairobi, Kenya, April 3, 2015.

An atheist group is claiming discrimination after the Kenyan government refused to officially recognize the nonbelievers over concerns of maintaining "peace [and] good order" in the country.

The small atheist group had been denied official government recognition multiple times since it began applying last year, the group's leader Harrison Mumia told the BBC.

A press release announcing the denial reported that government officials explained that "'the interests of peace and welfare or good order in Kenya would be likely to suffer prejudice' by reason of our  (atheist's) registration as a society."

"This is blatant discrimination," Mumia stated in the press release, adding that his group is "a part of the Kenyan society, and all we are seeking is to exercise our fundamental freedoms to form a Society."

"We have had church leaders who have defiled minors yet we know that they have been allowed to register as societies. How does the registrar come to the conclusion that we shall interfere with the good order in Kenya?" Mumia argued.

As the group states on its website, its goal is to "[fight] to protect the absolute separation of religion from government and raise the profile of atheism in the public discourse."

"Since 2013, Atheists In Kenya has been taking the principled and uncompromising position that our government should give no special treatment or preference to religious belief. Through lawsuits, innovative public relations campaigns, and education, we are working to normalize atheism and allow more and more people to set aside religious belief and superstition," the atheist group says.

While Kenya continues to refuse to officially recognize the atheist group, it has also clamped down on evangelical Christian churches in the country.

In January, the government announced that it would be requiring all religious groups to officially register and submit their statements of faith for approval. Preachers would also be required to seek police clearance. 

The Evangelical Alliance of Kenya denounced the newly proposed regulations as an attempt to decimate the country's Christian population, with the group's chairman Bishop Mark Kariuki telling the Daily Nation newspaper: "We believe this is meant to stop evangelism and growth of the church since other societies are being registered freely.

The proposed regulations were also condemned by the Roman Catholic Church and the country's Muslim population, ultimately leading government officials to backtrack on their directive.

A spokesman for the president said in response to Christian outcry that the new rules would not violate the religious freedoms of the Kenyan people.

"The President has further directed the Attorney General to ensure that the current draft regulations are subjected to further vigorous public consultations so that they in no way undermine the fundamental values and principles enshrined in the constitution, and which are a way of life for the people of Kenya," the presidential spokesman said in a statement in January.

According to Pew Research, the vast majority of Kenyans are religious, with 84.8 percent identifying with Christianity and 9.7 percent identifying with Islam.

Only 2.5 percent of the country's population claim no religious affiliation.