Church leaders petition E.African Court over virus restrictions

Empty seats during Mass at a church in Kampala. PHOTO/ FILE

What you need to know:

  • The presidential directives imposed on places of worship allegedly have a chilling effect on the right to freedom of religion

A section of religious leaders in Uganda have petitioned the East African Court of Justice in Arusha, Tanzania seeking orders to relax government restrictions on places of worship.

The group led by Reigning in Life Ministries, city lawyer Abubaker Hassan Matanda  a concerned citizen one Josephine Namukasa contend that  the Standard Operating Procedures ( SOPs) on places of worship violate  several rights in the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, including freedom of worship , consciousness and association. 

Through their lawyer, Mr Daniel Walyemera the believers are also seeking orders that places of worship be allowed to operate on similar terms as other public places with observance of Covid-19 SOPs without limiting the physical presence of the numbers of worshipers. 

According Mr Walyemera, the presidential directives imposed last month have a chilling effect on the right to freedom of religion, belief and conscience which is a breach of articles 6(d) and 7(2) of the Treaty that enjoins partner states to adhere to principles of good governance accountability, democracy, rule of law and transparency. 

Pastor Barlow Jack Antony of Reigning in Life Ministries who swore an affidavit in support of the case said the continued enforcement of the ban or suspension of religious freedoms by restricting the number of worshippers at worship places cause an unjustified restrictions on religious freedoms and if the case is not allowed Christians, Muslims and other worshippers who congregate may be victimized.

President Museveni suspended all religious gatherings in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus in March last year. Months later, the measures were relaxed but with restrictions on the number of worshippers gathering in the places of worship. However, the restriction were again imposed on June 18 and maintained in the president’s speech last month.


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