Religious Freedom and Legal Order


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However, on the negative side, it is a well-established fact that Nigeria is one of the most religious nations in the world. Despite this, the level of moral decadence in society is alarming up to the extent that it has infiltrated into religious institutions. Despite all the principles and morals which speak against dishonesty, theft, and crimes which are even enshrined in the principles of the three most popular religions, is Christianity, Islam, and African Traditional Religion, the average Nigerian does not let his religiosity guide his morals. They are separate cloaks that can be put on and off. We find churches becoming profitable money-making businesses, deceiving and cheating the vulnerable persons in the society all in the name of blessings from God and to prevent the wrath of God. The Islamic cleric and traditional priests have also joined in the business of helping members of the society to look for spouse partners, examination success, and future-gazing. The rate of corruption in religious bodies is now to the extreme, most top so-called men of God do not care for the welfare of their flocks but rather coercing them to give the little they own in the name of sowing seeds. Nigerians very often have little or no fear of the high and supreme God they serve, they swear and lie without any fear in his name. There is news of church leaders who deceive and rape little girls or vulnerable women, all in the name of saving them or delivering them from the devil.

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Another disturbing negative impact of religion is the religious conflict and violence that has become ever consistent in Nigeria. This conflict is mostly between the Christians and the Muslims in Nigeria. Despite the principles of love, peace, and brotherliness reinstated in these religions, the coexistence is filled with a lot of conflict and violence. Religion impacts individual thought patterns and indoctrinates man to stay within a perceived safe zone, not thinking outside what he or she has been taught to believe and opposes to anything that negates that belief. The cause of the conflict between the followers of Christ and the Muslims could be traced back to the colonial era and how the religion spread in Nigeria. Due to these conflicts and violence, one of the major purposes of religion, which is to bind society together has been totally negated. Now we have religious terrorist groups especially the Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awatiwal-Jihad, famously known as Boko Haram. This group has caused a lot of social upheaval in Nigeria. We have the kidnapping of 250 secondary school girls from Chibok, mass destruction of churches, killing of Christians, and suicide bombing. According to the words founding leader of Boko Haram, he stated that ‘Our land was an Islamic state before the colonial masters turned it to a Kafir land. The current system is contrary to true Islamic beliefs”.

Religion is the very basis of human existence it is not the belief in a particular ideology but also a way of living. The followers of a particular religion follow a definite kind of livelihood and they are bound to certain moral obligations which enters the boundary of law. Therefore, a break in such moral duties is a break of the law of the state. The law and religion are dependent on each other. In a democratic state, people are bound to follow religious duties and they can claim religious rights. This has helped in the maintenance of law and order.

From the onset in history, there has always been a nexus between law and religion. As this research has established earlier, religion is equivalent to nature. It also is the basis of civilization. There is no society without religion. Centuries ago, the Roman Catholic Church first established its political and legal unity and its freedom from domination by emperors, kings, and feudal lords. In 1075, Pope Gregory VII declared the absolute political and legal supremacy of the pope above all secular rulers. This was the Papal Revolution. The importance was that the church needed a law to regulate its relations with the secular authorities. The church created the first modern western legal system. It brought about hierarchical systems of courts, trained legal profession, and teaching of law in university.

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