Court summons Watoto Church over ‘stringent’ wedding rules

The petitioner, Michael Aboneka, sued the church in May 2018 after he was left stranded when was seeking the church’s approval to tie the knot in October 27, the same year.

Watoto Church Downtown Campus (Photo/Courtesy)

KAMPALA, UGANDA: The Constitutional Court in Kampala has set September 19 2022 to hear the case in which Watoto Church was sued over allegations of strict wedding rules that prohibited Michael Aboneka from entering holy matrimony with his bride-to-be at Watoto North.

In the notice issued by the registrar copy of which this website has seen, The respondents of the law suit; Watoto Church or its representatives have been summoned to attend the hearing on the set date failure of which will not affect the proceedings of the case or court.

“Take notice that the above matter has been fixed for hearing on September 19 at 9am… If no appearance is made on your behalf by yourself or someone by law authorised to act for you, the hearing will be held in your absence,” the notice reads in part.

The petitioner, Michael Aboneka, sued the church in May 2018 after he was left stranded when was seeking the church’s approval to tie the knot in October 27, the same year.

According to Aboneka, the church imposed on him what he deemed as severe terms and conditions that involved violation of privacy and caused him distress.

Following the dispute, he petitioned court saying he had booked one of the church’s branches, Watoto North, to have his wedding but the conditions he was asked to meet were “harsh” which left him trapped.

The restrictive conditions according to him included: a letter of consent from the parents of the bride-to-be, a document of HIV status from specified hospitals, a pastor’s endorsement of the couple’s fitness for marriage and a report of counselling.

“I am essentially distressed because the mandatory requirement of the letter of blessing from the bride’s parents or guardians, offends the right to free will and consent to marriage by the intending couples and is in contravention and inconsistent with Article 31 (1) & (3) of the Constitution. The mandatory HIV testing and disclosure of results to third parties is an invasion of privacy while parents’ consent letter is discriminatory and undermines the dignity, freewill, interest and status of women contrary to Article 33 (4), 6 of the Constitution,” Aboneka said in the petition.

He wants court to restrict all churches and mosques from imposing similar requirements for marriage for couples who are of majority age. He also wants court to nullify all marriages that Watoto has conducted under the confining conditions.

However, the church has since countered that their regulations are for the protection of the marriage institution with the aim of preserving the family and that anyone who doesn’t agree is free to wed elsewhere.

“The respondent denies that it forces any intending couple to comply with the above requirements as they have the choice to celebrate their marriage elsewhere,” the church states.

Moreover, the Church’s head of legal affairs, Mariam Nakimenya said that Aboneka is not considered a member of the church.

Each member of the church is required to have a home cell, the members of each cell meet at least once a week for elucidation and teaching. However, upon checking records, Aboneka and his bride-to-be were not registered under any of the cells.

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