By Alfred Byenkya
The Constitutional Court recently dismissed a case that Michael Aboneka, a petitioner, had brought to them for review.
In his petition, Aboneka wanted the court to force Watoto to drop its tough wedding rules, saying they were barring people from getting married at the church.
He 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 Aboneka, 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.
In a unanimous decision of the court that was delivered on March 2, 2023, five justices observed that the petitioner, Michael Aboneka, had the option of wedding from other churches if he did not want to play by the Watoto rules.
The other justices were Monica Mugenyi, Christopher Madrama, Fredrick Egonda Ntende and Elizabeth Musoke.
The court further observed that Aboneka had a choice of getting married under other constitutionally recognised forms such as civil, Hindu, Islam or customary.
The church had, in its defence, stated that Aboneka and his bride-to-be were not members of its congregation, hence they had no locus to institute a lawsuit against them.
On the issue of presenting HIV-negative test results before being wedded, the justices held that Watoto’s policy did not show that HIV testing was forceful.
The petitioner was told to pay legal costs to Watoto Church, but said he was studying the ruling before making another move that includes appealing to the Supreme Court.