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Bible burning: Court throws out case against Pr Bujjingo

Bujingo, 44, the arch pastor of House of Prayer church in Makerere, Kikoni -Kawempe division, Kampala five months ago was at the centre of public debate when religious leaders criticized him for allegedly burning and ordering the burning of all Bibles that contained missing verses and the word ‘holy ghost’ which the preacher said differed from ‘Holy Spirit.’ Courtesy Photo.

Nabweru Magistrates’ Court has on Friday thrown out the case against House of Prayer Ministries International senior Pastor, Aloysius Bujjingo.

The Preacher was in July this year dragged to court by media personality, Aloysius Kiiza Matovu and Evangelist Semugooma Francisco who alleged that he violated Christian’s freedom of worship by burning several versions of the Holy Bible including the King James Version (KJV) and Good News bible.

In her ruling, Chief magistrate Esther Nasambu said one of the laws under which the plaintiffs’ application was brought, Section 14 of the judicature act, applies strictly to the High Court and not the magistrates court.

She noted that his case should have been filed to the High Court which is vested with unlimited jurisdiction since it does not affect only a section of people under the jurisdiction of Nabweru court but a whole population.

“This matter was filed to the wrong court,” she said.”The cause of action of injuring religious feelings is not in our legal jurisprudence. There is no cause of action hinged on feelings and this would be a new one in case there is such.”

The Magistrate explained that none of the applicants was able to show that they have bibles that were burnt by the respondents and that they suffered because of that.

“This is mere speculation and suspicion and no evidence of any circular relation was brought to court.” she said.

The Magistrate maintained that Provisions of Order 1 rule No.8 of the CPR are mandatory in regard to representative action and that they should be strictly followed.

She added that the applicants cannot purport to sue on behalf of  others, and that the parties to be represented should have conceited, which is not the case, neither did they append the signatures against the list of their names, which she said was ‘smuggled’ in days after the case was filed.

“The a hundred people listed on that list did not consent or agree to sign to be represented by the applicants. There should have been express powers allowing the applicants to represent the a hundred people listed,” she said.

“Evangelist Ssemugoma swearing an affidavit on behalf of several other Christians is not legally correct… He cannot posses the knowledge and belief of many other Christians – you are not a mind reader,” she said, advising the Evangelist to record an affidavit on his won behalf.

Additionally, the Magistrate said the applicants should have brought evidence to show that they received permission from the authors of the said versions of the bibles to represent them in the courts.

“They didn’t have locus standards concerning the said version of bibles because they have not showed court permission from the authors that wrote those various versions of the bibles. This is infringing on the intellectual property of the said authors and there is no relationship between the authors and the applicants. Nothing has been showed to court that this is a public interest or class suit under article 50 sub-article 2 of the constitution,” Ms Esther Nasambu stated.

Each party will, according to the ruling, bear their own costs.

The case

Mr Anthony Wameli Yeboah of Wameli and Company Advocates, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs said Bugingo was sued for allegedly setting ablaze Bibles on April 4, 2016 that he [Bujjingo] reportedly told his flock were tampered with and that some verses were omitted without explanation.

The plaintiffs wanted court to issue a permanent injunction, restraining Bujjingo and his servants from further burning and destroying Bibles of several versions and making utterances, speeches, sermons or statements concerning the Holy Bible in a way that attacks, violets or insults their faith or religion.

“We have reliable information that the pastor has continued burning more Bibles every day.” Mr  Wameli Yeboah said in July.

The duo also wanted “court to award them damages at a rate of 25 percent from the date of judgment until payment is done and costs of the suit.”

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