Lawyer appeals against dismissal of Watoto Church case

Watoto Church’s main branch on Bombo Road in Kampala. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • The Constitutional Court was of the view that Mr Michael Aboneka had the option of wedding from other churches if he did not want to play by Watoto Church’s wedding rules.

A lawyer, who had challenged what he called tough wedding rules of Watoto Church, has appealed against the recent dismissal of his case by the Constitutional Court.

Mr Michael Aboneka, in his March 7 appeal before the Supreme Court, stated that he is dissatisfied with the decision of the Constitutional Court.

“Take notice that the above appellant, Aboneka Michael, being dissatisfied with the decision of Christopher Gashirabake, Fredrick Egonda Ntende, Elizabeth Musoke, Christopher Madrama Izama and Monica Mugenyi, given at the Constitutional Court on the 2nd day of March 2023, intends to appeal against the whole of the decision,” the appeal reads in part.

On March 2, in a unanimous decision, five Justices of the Constitutional Court dismissed Mr Aboneka’s petition on grounds that it lacked merit.

The justices were of the view that Mr Aboneka had the option of wedding from other churches if he did not want to play by Watoto Church’s wedding rules.

“Conclusively, the respondent (Watoto Church) as an organisation, has the right to make guidelines that it considers necessary to facilitate its obligation and achieve its objectives. One cannot claim that there was a violation of their rights at one worship centre, especially when there are other available worship institutions to accommodate their individual religious requirements,” ruled Justice Christopher Gashirabake, who wrote the lead judgment.

“I would prefer to protect the broader objective of an institution of worship more than individual’s freedom to manifest religion. The fact that the petitioner did not return to the respondent after filling the form, is evidence that he was not willing to participate and as such, he chose not to participate in their practices.” he added.

The court further observed that Mr Aboneka had a choice of getting married under other constitutionally recognised forms such as Civil, Hindu, Islam or customary.  In June 2018, Mr Aboneka sued Watoto Church, contending he was stranded after the church imposed stringent conditions before he could be allowed to tie the knot with his bride.

Mr Aboneka had in his petition, listed a letter of consent (blessing) from the parents of the bride-to-be, a pastor’s endorsement of fitness for marriage evidence of recent HIV status test results from one of the three specified hospitals, and a church pre-marital counselling report issued as some of the prohibitive and unconstitutional conditions.