The government of Uganda has been sued for the continued closure of places of worship.
In June, President Museveni directed the closure of worship places to contain the spread of covid-19. On Friday July 30, Museveni eased the lockdown by opening some public places but directed that places of worship will remain closed for 60 days.
Charis Fellowship Limited and Imam Muhammad Bbaale of Taqwa Mosque in Kabowa Lubaga Division are aggrieved with the closure of mosques and churches yet other public places such as markets and shopping centres are open.
They have sued the Health Minister Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, the Permanent Secretary Diana Atwine and the Attorney General seeking orders compelling the trio to open up worship places.
According to the applicants, Peter Wisdom Katumba, the lead Pastor of Charis Fellowship Limited and Imam Bbaale, Museveni’s directive is unfair and discriminatory.
Katumba who is also a specialist in Medical Laboratory contends in his expertise as a pastor for ten years that the virtual prayer sessions proposed by the government are not tenable as computer and internet levels remain low especially in rural areas.
“That even online prayers proposed by the President are impossible to hold due to the recent government ban of the Facebook platform that had been our major online platform to at least try to reach to a handful of our followers that have access to the internet”, reads Katumba’s affidavit in part.
It adds that “other places that remain closed such as gyms, pool halls, casinos and gaming halls, theatres and cinemas will have their bans reviewed after 42 days, compared to the 60 days for places of worship is discriminatory.
According to the applicants, the recurrent closure, ban and suspension of places of worship are unjust, arbitrary, disproportionate, unjustifiable and discriminatory and it constitutes a violation of their right to practice, manifest, enjoy, progress and maintain and promote their religion as provided for by the constitution.
Pastor Katumba also states that the SOPs in the fight against Covid-19 place stringent unjustifiable conditions on opening worship places such as banning Sunday school activities, restricting children and elderly and those with underlying health issues from attending church services.
The applicants through their lawyers of Kakuru and Company Advocates and Irene Namuli and Company Advocates now want the court to issue a permanent injunction restraining the respondents from enforcing the current ban on future enforcement of bans on places of worship and standard operating procedures which they describe to be unjust.
They also want a declaration that every individual, regardless of age had a right to practice and manifest baby religion as guaranteed under the constitution of Uganda.
The matter is yet to be allocated to a Judge who will be fixing it for hearing.