In the wake of rising cases of worshippers accusing their pastors of extortion, fraud and other dubious conduct, born again city businessman John Katto has spoken out to reveal the schemes employed by some Pentecostal clerics to "keep followers inside" a web of ignorance.
In an interview with Sunday Monitor, Mr Katto, who became a born again Christian in December 2004, revealed how some pastors have used the "manipulation plus intimidation and judgement" equation to keep their congregations blinded and unable to leave churches that are clearly suspicious. "We have a few good pastors and many bad ones."
Mr Katto, a trailblazer who led several initiatives in the Ugandan media, said "In fact, many of these [pastors] cannot read or even be able to tell you a few verses in the Bible."
New converts, he said, are the most vulnerable to manipulation, especially when pastors claim that "you will be cursed" if tithe is not paid. According to Mr Katto, 47, "people end up paying tithe using even borrowed money" because of "coercion". Even those who need counselling, Mr Katto explained, "are expected to pay money and the bigger their problem the more money they are expected to pay".
The church of one Muwanguzi, a cleric with a fearsome reputation, has been accused of commercialising church proceedings. According to Mr Katto, "at Pastor Muwanguzi's church, on Entebbe Road, they have envelopes. If your problem is big and you need to be prayed for quickly, the amount of money is Shs100,000".
According to Mr Katto, the basic trick of the manipulative pastors is to project themselves to their victims as substitutes to God. "Then you are judged, especially when it comes to things like finances, and giving."
Mr Katto, who converted to Pentecostalism at Pastor Isaac Kiweweesi's Kansanga Miracle Cathedral, said after the pastors have projected themselves as glorious "substitutes" for God, they inspire fear and loyalty among followers who are likely to be desperate for quick miracles.
"When [pastors] start churches, they feel that for them to grow they have to pull people in and when they are in, to find a way of holding them in," Mr Katto said. "So instead of using the church to liberate them from the oppressions they have been facing, they instead add a few. So [people] are held in."