Speed up regulation of churches, mosques

The Movement for the Restoration of Ten Commandments of God Church premises at Nyabugoto in Kanungu District where hundreds were burnt to death in 2000. The government has embarked on formulating a clear and comprehensive national policy framework to govern the registration and regulation of Religious and Faith Organisations in the country.  Photo/File

What you need to know:

  • The issue: Speed up regulation of churches, mosques. 
  • Our view: Some religious leaders have construed the policy as a plot by the government to regulate how the population worships, which is gross misinfor-mation.

The Directorate of Ethics and Integrity is currently in the consultative stage—seeking views and input—on the National Religious and Faith Organisation policy, which seeks to streamline churches and mosques.

As was expected, the daggers have been drawn as religious leaders are opposed to the idea of having a legal mechanism to guide their activities. It is not hard to see why, but this policy is something that should be seen through to the end at all costs inasmuch it could be scuttled somewhere at the highest level.

After all, it is no secret that religion enjoys a special relationship in Ugandan politics, going back to the colonial days.

With the high levels of desperation, unemployment, social breakdown, name it, in Uganda today, many people find solace in the temples of worship where we are told that all will be okay.

The German-born philosopher Karl Marx wrote in 1844 that: “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature…it is the opium of the people.”

But that is not the point here; the policy under scrutiny seeks to establish an organised way of doing things for religious institutions to effectively contribute to national development. The government also seeks to use the policy to boost integrity among these institutions.

One doesn’t need to first travel to Europe or the Middle East where Christianity and Islam originated to understand what needs to be done; it is doing the right thing.

Only in Uganda do you find particularly Pentecostal churches, barely 500 metres apart, many in residential areas with speakers bellowing praise music in the morning, afternoon, and evening. This is not to mention night prayers.

And for that matter anyone can start a church let alone preach; all one needs is a silver tongue and space, as can be witnessed on some of the busy streets in Kampala and in the suburbs, compounding noise pollution and disorderliness.

Some religious leaders have construed the policy as a plot by the government to regulate how the population worships, which is gross misinformation. It is also a misrepresentation to say that it is as a result of some religious leaders being critical to the government.

The Penal Code of 1950 criminalises “disturbance of religious gatherings” and “wounding religious feelings”.

Article 29 of the 1995 Constitution guarantees freedom of worship, prohibits religious discrimination, and grants liberty to everyone to subscribe to their religion of choice.  

However, a legal framework guiding this was not put in place, perhaps because there was no need for it at the time. Now is the time.