Bill seeking to regulate churches raises emotions in Ugandan parliament

Speaker of the Parliament of Uganda Rebecca Kadaga. 

Originally published in UG Christian News

A section of Ugandan legislators on Wednesday took a firm stand against a request to grant Hon John Baptist Nambeshe (NRM, Manjiya County, Bududa) leave to introduce a bill aimed at regulating religious and faith organisations in Uganda.

Hon Nambeshe said the bill, entitled ‘The Religious Organizations Bill 2019″, seeks to provide a legal framework for registration, regulation and management of religious organisations.

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The Member of Parliament explained that should the bill become a law, government will be able to “consolidate, amalgamate, and modernise” the policies relating to the establishment and management of all religious institutions in Uganda.

In support of the bill, Hon Gaster Mugoya Kyawa (Bukooli), said the proposed Religious Organizations Bill will help to regulate “fake” religious leaders who he said among other crimes extort money from believers.

Speaking against the request, a section of legislators said “matters of religion will be tricky to regulate”.

“Setting up a bureau to have churches registered under one body would be a duplication of the work of several agencies that are doing similar work,” Buvuma Woman MP Janiper Nantume noted.

“Religion is a matter of faith and calling from God, we cannot sit here and constitute ourselves into a bureau that would act as a small god to regulate religious activities,” she explained.

In his submission, Kassiano Wadri, the Arua Municipality MP said the Catholic Church “cannot allow itself to be subjected to any form of registration.”

“As a house, we must be very cautious, let us not abuse our own rules. If the rules allow you to present private bill, you shouldn’t present one that seeks to abolish parliament simply because you have the right,” Hon Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda said, calling the bill “satanic.”

As much as Hon Nambeshe asserted the proposed Religious Organizations Bill doesn’t conflict with constitutional provisions on freedom of worship, the debate raised a lot of emotions, prompting the speaker, Rt Hon Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga to defer the debate.

Notably, the house didn’t have a quorum to vote on the matter.

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