• Aug 04, 2021 . 2 min Read
  • Clerics petition court over closure of churches

The clerics also seek a declaration that the recurrent closure of places of worship by the respondents is unjust, arbitrary, disproportionate, discriminatory and unjustifiable.
Michael Odeng
Journalist @New Vision

COURT | RELIGION | CLERICS 

KAMPALA - Church leaders have petitioned court, demanding opening up of places of worship.

On Friday last week, President Yoweri Museveni directed that churches remain closed for the next 60 days with virtual services restricted to 10 church leaders.

Charis Fellowship Limited and Imaam Muhammed Bbaale filed the suit against the Attorney General, health minister Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng Ocero and health minister permanent secretary Dr. Diana Atwine.

In a suit filed in the Civil Division of the High Court in Kampala on Tuesday, the duo seeks a declaration that every individual regardless of age, has a right to practice and manifest any religion as guaranteed under the Constitution.

They also seek a declaration that the recurrent closure of places of worship by the respondents is unjust, arbitrary, disproportionate, discriminatory, unjustifiable, and constitutes a violation of their rights fundamental rights to practice and manifest their religion and beliefs guaranteed under the Constitution.

The applicants also seek a declaration that the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) enacted and enforced by the respondents on the reopening of religious places of worship are unjust.

They, therefore, seek an order, restraining the respondents from enforcing the current and future enforcement of what he termed as discriminatory SOPs.

Senior pastor Peter Katumba from Charis Fellowship Church swore an affidavit, stating that the respondents are obliged under Article 20 of the Constitution to respect and uphold the inherent and fundamental rights and religious freedom.

“As a result of presidential directives, we are unable to gather and have fellowship together as believers,” he said.

Katumba contends that the online prayers proposed by the president are impossible to hold due to the recent Government ban on the Facebook platform that has been their major online platform to reach a handful of their followers that have access to internet.

He purports that the actions of the respondents threaten the enjoyment of religious freedom, the lives of worshippers, and subsequently offends every tenet of a free and democratic society.

Katumba also contends that the suspension of religious freedom violates the believers right to spiritual nourishment, which is essential to a healthy population.

Background

On March 18, 2020, the President suspended all public gatherings in a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Subsequent to the order, the health minister enacted the Public Health (Control of Covid-19) rules No.52 of 2020 to enforce the President’s directive.

This prompted places of worship, according to Katumba, to resort to online worship services.

“This became practically impossible to perform the fundamental tenets associated with the practice and manifestation of our faith such as congregational prayers and laying on of hands for the sick to receive healing,” he said.

On June 22, 2020, the President relaxed the lockdown by authorizing the reopening of most public places but deferred the reopening of places of worship, citing them as high-risk areas for contracting the virus and promised to consult with the health ministry and Inter-Religious Council on the way forward.

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