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Religious Leaders, Politicians Petition Court over Continued Closure of Worship Places

They want the court to declare that section 11 of the Public Health (Control of Covid) rules 2021 issued by the Ministry of Health indefinitely closing worship places and suspending activities such as prayers in open spaces and outside premises of churches and mosques contravenes several articles of the Constitution.

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A section of religious leaders and opposition politicians have petitioned the Constitutional Court over the continued closure of worship places. 

In June President Museveni directed the closure of worship places to contain the spread of covid-19. Last month, the President eased the lockdown but directed that places of worship will remain closed for 60 days.

The petitioners include Michael Kiganda, the head of Glory to Glory Born Again Ministries in Bugoloobi, Asuman Semakula Lule of Masjid Central in Kitintale and Bishop Livingstone Mugabbi of the National Born Again Pentecostal Churches in Nakawa are the religious leaders involved.

The others are the Deputy President of the National Unity Platform-NUP Dr Lina Zedriga, the acting president of the Alliance for National Transformation-ANT Alice Alaso and Nakawa East Member of Parliament Ronald Balimwezo. Also lawyer and human rights activist Evelyn Naikoba is among the petitioners.

They want the court to declare that section 11 of the Public Health (Control of Covid) rules 2021 issued by the Ministry of Health indefinitely closing worship places and suspending activities such as prayers in open spaces and outside premises of churches and mosques contravenes several articles of the Constitution.

Naikoba says that while the rules provide for the closure of worship centers, it on the other hand allows premises and businesses to operate. Naikoba says although there is a public health concern that would warrant the suspension of some rights, the government has not justified why many places, worship centres have been affected.

She says the government needs to issue guidelines that are in tandem with the Constitution.

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Alaso described acts of government as an attempt to regulate people's spiritual lives and outright discrimination against religious leaders and their subjects. She says that the government has not provided any proof that worship centers are high COVID- 19 spreaders.

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Dr Zedriga says that society has degenerated in character because they no longer receive spiritual guidance offered in worship centers. She drew an example of the killings happening in different parts of the country which she says would perhaps not have happened if worship centres had been open to receiving spiritual guidance.

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Balimwezo says many people have been depressed by the covid-19 pandemic and can't access counselling services that were previously offered by worship centers.

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Lule also says that government should open worship centers because, through religious leaders, important messages can reach the masses. He wants the government to issue guidelines on the number of people that a worship center can accommodate during prayers.

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Last month August, two religious leaders Peter Wisdom Katumba of Charis Fellowship Limited and Imam Muhammad Bbaale of Taqwa Mosque in Kabowa petitioned the High court seeking a permanent injunction restraining the government and its agencies from enforcing the ban on the closure of worship centres.