Members of Parliament have rejected a move by Manjiya County MP, Hon. John Baptist Nambeshe, to introduce a Private Member’s Bill that aims to regulate religious organisations.
Nambeshe said the bill titled the Religious Organisations Bill, 2019, seeks to have all religious organisations registered and established under one regulatory authority.
Nambeshe moved the motion seeking leave of Parliament during the House sitting on Wednesday, 30 January 2019.
He said that the policies that govern and regulate religious organisations are numerous and scattered in various legislations.
“The laws that regulate religious sects like the Constitution of Uganda 1995, Church of England Trustees Act and the Non-Governmental Organisational Act 2016 among others do not provide a uniform mechanism of monitoring religious organisations,” Nambeshe added.
Nambeshe said that there ought to be a regulatory framework to make sure that religious organizations only set up in gazetted areas.
“It is common to find religious sects operating in residential areas and other noise sensitive areas causing discomfort to people,” he said, adding that, “there should be permits issued for places of worship”.
Hon. Okin P.P. Ojara (Indep, Chua West) said MPs ought to be mindful of the misleading religious sects and called for their regulation.
“We need to remind ourselves of the incident in Kanungu in 2001 where a man called Kibwetere, operating a religious sect, burnt people to death in church; these are circumstances that need to be curbed,” he said.
However, a section of MPs disagreed with the movers of the motion arguing that it was infringing on the rights of worship among the citizens.
Hon. Jennifer Nantume (NRM, Buvuma Islands County) noted that the proposed bureau charged with regulating religion would be infringing on right to freedom of worship.
“We have diverse cultures and a strong base of traditional beliefs that vary. This would be difficult to regulate because of the unique beliefs of the various groups,” she added.
She said that the issue of worship is an individual conviction and a constitutional matter as long as it does not infringe on other people’s rights.
Hon. Milly Mugeni (NRM, Butaleja District) said that the country has a registration bureau, which oversees religious sects.
“We would be duplicating agencies handling the same issue if we allowed this law that calls for the formation of another bureau to handle religion,” she noted.
Mugeni also warned that religion is a sensitive matter that needs countrywide consultation.
“I encourage Hon Nambeshe to consult widely before any move is made on this matter because people have varying views and we run a risk of being misunderstood as their representatives,” she added.
The Speaker, Rebecca Kadaga, deferred a vote on the motion due to lack of quorum as there were only 112 MPs present in the House.