Religious leaders, Politicians petition Constitutional Court over closure of Places of Worship

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A section of politicians and religious leaders have petitioned Uganda’s Constitutional Court over the continued closure of worshipping centers as well as rules banning prayers in open spaces, saying it is unconstitutional and infringe on freedoms of religious faithfuls.

The petitioners led by Kiganda Micheal the lead pastor at Glory to Glory Ministries in Bugolobi -Kampala, National Unity Platform (NUP) Deputy President in charge of Northern Uganda, Dr Lina Zedriga, Alliance for National Transformation (ANT) National Coordinator Alice Alaso want Court to issue a permanent order restraining government from enforcing rules that led to closure of places of worship.

In the petition number 20 of 2021, the petitioners through their lawyers Cymbel Advocates contend that the Public Health Rules which relegated houses of worship to virtually conduct services through social media and radio or Television broadcasts deprives the faithful their right to practice religious tenets such as laying of hands on the sick, baptism and administration of Holy eucharist.

Other petitioners include Evelyne Naikoba, Hon Balimwezo Nsubuga, Semakula Asuman Lule and Bishop Mugabbi Livingstone.

The petitioners challenge the legality of Rule 11 and 13 of the Public Health (Control of COVID-19) Rules, 2021 that provides for indefinite closure of places and indefinite suspension of activities among them prayers in open spaces, outside premises of churches and Mosques is inconsistent with and in contravention of Articles 20, 21 910 and (3), 29 (1) (c), 37, (42), (43) of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda as amended.

Citing a 2020 UCC report, the petitioners contend that worse still, out of 40 million Ugandans only 1.68 million have active Pay TV subscriptions while internet usage and penetration currently stands at 42 per cent therefore a smaller fraction of the population have the opportunity to meet and worship online.

The petitioners further contend that the Public Health Rule number 38 of 2021 which allows other premises and businesses such as markets, supermarkets, restaurants, retail shops, motor garages, pharmacies to continue operating promotes unequal treatment, and too restrictive.

“Wherefore you humble petitioners bring this petition in public interest and humbly pray that this honorable court may be pleased to grant the following Declarations and Orders:

A. “That Rule 1 of the Public Health Control of cOVID-19) Rules 2021 S.I No 38 of 2021 that provide for the indefinite closure of places and indefinite suspension of activities among them prayers in open places, outside premises of churches, and Mosques is inconsistent with and in contravention of Articles 20, 21 (1) (2) and (3), (29) (1) (c), (37), (42) and (43) of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda 1995 as amended.” part of the petition reads.

B. “AN ORDER permanently stopping and or restraining the respondent and all her agencies, authorities and officials from implementing the impugned provisions of the Public Health Rules and actions that contravene the said Articles of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda as amended, henceforth embark on measures that aim at preventing further infringement of the Constitution.

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