A practicing Advocate and Human Rights activist has told the Constitutional Court of Uganda that he wanted to get married at Watoto Church, and made initial bookings with the Ministry, but “is now in dilemma as his free will is constrained by the mandatory requirements that he has been asked to furnish before he can be wedded.”
Mr Aboneka Michael filed a petition this week and told the Constitutional Court that he construes the Church rules on couples intending to weddings to be a violation of their fundamental human rights.
Aboneka, who is also a member of the Rule of Law and Strategic Litigation Committee of the Uganda Law Society, now wants the judicial arm to refrain Watoto Church from making the guidelines mandatory before officiating a marriage.
He also wants all marriages/weddings that were conducted by the respondent (Watoto Ministries LTD) under the same mandatory requirements to be declared irregular, unfounded in law, unconstitutional and null and void.
“All Churches, mosques and any other institutions that celebrate/ officiate marriages be restrained permanently from making the letter of consent/blessing from the bride’s parents, HIV Reports of intending Couples, Introductory letters a mandatory requirement for a marriage for intending couples who are of majority age,” Aboneka writes in his petition.
UG Christian News identified Watoto Church’s guidelines, and they are listed as below;
1. A wedding date should be booked at least Six (6) months in advance with the appropriate Watoto Church Administrator.
2. An HIV Test and Counseling report not more than six weeks from date of booking. Tests must be done together as a couple at the recommended Health Service Providers. i.e. IMC, CASE and SAS.
3. An Original letter of blessing from the parents/guardians of the bride-to-be.
4. Couples must go through the appropriate counselling:
(i) Pastoral counselling/One-on-One: before their wedding is conducted or officiated by a Watoto Church Pastor at the Church or at any Gazetted venue. This includes at least four counseling sessions conducted by the Pastor and Marriage Mentors endorsed by the District/Assistant Pastor.
(ii) Group Premarital Counselling Classes: Conducted as group sessions at the church. The classes which constitute Twelve mandatory sessions must be completed at least Two months to the wedding date.
5. Wedding fees of Ugx 450,000/=(i.e. Church Fee -300,000/- and Worship Team – Ugx 150,000/-) must be paid two months prior to the wedding date to confirm the booking.
6. Wedding Rehearsals are mandatory and are to be supervised by the Pastor or designated Administrative Assistant. They must be held with the entire bridal entourage, 1 week before the wedding day.
7. No wedding will be booked on a date that coincides with a significant Watoto Church Event(s).
Aboneka, in his petition, writes that some of the Church guidelines contravene Article 31 of the Constitution, Article 27 which protects individuals’ right to privacy, Article 31 which protects a couples’ right to free consent before marriage and Article 33 (4), (6) which he says protects against discrimination.
The Petitioner’s advocates are M/S Thomas & Michael Advocates.
The Church is yet to respond to the petition.
Find Full Petition Here: Aboneka V Watoto Chruch Ltd
By UG Christian News Correspondent.