Traditional religions including Catholicism and Protestantism among others have been accused of backing the new Religious Organisations Bill by government to suppress new up and coming Pentecostal churches.
Government through the Ministry of Ethics and Integrity headed by Fr.Simon Lokodo proposed the National Policy on Religious and Faith-Based Organisations which among others will help regulate the various religious sects in the country.
On Tuesday, various religious sects under their umbrella body, the Christian Ecumenical Council of Uganda (CECU) met with minister Lokodo at his office in Kampala in a bid to present their views about the new regulations by government.
Led by Fr.Jacinto Kibuuka, the Bishop of the Evangelical Orthodox church which subscribes to the Catholic Antiochian Eastern Orthodox Church, the group said they have reservations over the new regulations by government and the intentions harboured therein.
“It is given by our Constitution that everyone shall have the right to freedom to practice any religion and manifest such practice which shall include the right to belong to and participate in the practices of any religious body but with a supreme law in place, the so-called traditional churches have gone on to suppress other churches,”Fr.Kibuuka said.
“A number of us came from those churches and we fear they might use the new regulations to suppress us. We fear what happened in Rwanda where over 700 churches were closed might befall us.”
The Pentecostal Churches advised that as the new policy is being prepared, there should not be suppression of their activities by the giant denominations.
Under the new National Policy on Religious and Faith-Based Organisations, all clerics will be required to obtain formal theological training and to obtain a certificate from a recognised institution.
According to the policy document, a number of stakeholders including the Anglican church, Roman Catholic church, elders forum, Inter-Religious Council of Uganda, judges, Members of Parliament and the Orthodox Church among others were consulted before it was drafted.
CECU said many stakeholders have not been consulted as alleged by government asking that as many people as possible should be consulted before the policy is implemented.
The group also said the new policy should have been drafted by religions themselves so they can self –regulate and government comes in to supervise them.
Lokodo assured the group that the new policy is not intended to outlaw some churches but rather regulate them.
He said the new policy has been born out of a public outcry towards the behaviour of some religious leaders.
“We are only responding to an outcry for a need to have a harmonious management of society in faith based organisations. No one should be deprived of their right to live comfortably but it is our duty to put in place norms that everyone known what to do,”Lokodo said.
The minister assured the various religious sect that they are all equal before the law, allaying fears of suppression by the traditional religions.
“We want to allay your fears because the constitution provides for your existence and there shall never be any state religion.”
The minister added, “No one should be forced to subscribe to any religion. We are not here to curtail your work if you operate within regulations.”
According to the new policy, faith-based institutions will be required to train clerics for their respective denominations and it will also put in place procedures to be followed by whoever wants to start a new church and will be required to declare their source of income.
The policy will also seek to enforce transparency and financial accountability in religious institutions.
A number of religions including Muslims, Anglican and Catholics among others have recognized theological schools from where their various leaders are trained from before they start doing the work of God.
The new regulations have however met stiff resistance from the new generation churches especially the born again and Pentecostal churches.