Hon. John Baptist Nambeshe (NRM, Manyija County) has withdrawn his proposal to introduce the Religious Organisations’ Bill 2019 intended to regulate religious organisations in the country.
Nambeshe on Wednesday first moved a motion seeking leave of Parliament to present the Private Members’ Bill, as required of the Parliament Rules of Procedure.
Rule 121 provides that a Private Members’ Bill shall be introduced first by way of a motion to which shall be attached to the proposed draft of the Bill.
On Wednesday, Parliament Speaker, Rebecca Kadaga, deferred taking a vote on the motion to the subsequent sitting as the House lacked the required quorum of one third of voting members.
Nambeshe said that he needed to consult more on the merits of his Religious Organisations Bill and to make sure that the object of the Bill can be clearly understood by everyone.
“Following some of the heated concerns raised by fellow MPs during the consideration of the motion, I realised that the intention of the Bill and its merits had been misunderstood. To avoid ambiguity I withdraw the motion,” he said.
Nambeshe’s motion led to a stalemate between the MPs as legislators said that the proposed law would lead to an infringement of people’s rights and freedom of worship.
The Bill, Nambeshe said, intended to have all religious organizations registered and established under one regulatory authority for religious organizations.
He said that the policies that govern and regulate the religious organizations are numerous, but 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 Organisation Act 2016 among others do not provide a uniform mechanism of monitoring religious organizations,” Nambeshe said.
He said that there ought to be a regulatory framework to make sure that religious organizations only set up in areas that are gazetted for them.
Hon. Okin P P Ojara (Ind., Chua West) said that MPs ought to be mindful of the misleading religious sects and we need to regulate them in one way or another.
“We need to remind ourselves of the incident in Kanungu of how a man called Kibwetere operating a religious sect burnt people to death in church; these are circumstances that need to be curbed,” he said.
Followers of the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments led by Fr. Joseph Kibwetere, who preached of an end to the world, were burnt to death in Kanungu in 2000.
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) noted that the Bureau charged with regulating religious organisations will be interfering with the freedom to 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 constitutional matter as long as it does not infringe on other people’s rights.