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Govt moves to regulate pastors’ wealth

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The Government is set to introduce regulations governing the ownership and management of church resources to ensure transparency and accountability in these institutions. Under a new policy expected to be discussed and adopted by Cabinet soon, all church properties will have to be registered in the names of the institution, and not the individual leaders.

 All churches and other places of worship will be required to have a proper governance system to look after the church and its resources. These are some of the reforms expected to be put in place under the proposed National Policy on Religious and FaithBased Organisations (RFBOs) .

According to the ethics and integrity state minister, Fr Simon Lokodo, the policy is in the final stages of formulation and is expected to be discussed in Cabinet before the end of this year. Currently, many clerics, including those belonging to old established churches, have a tendency to personalise the properties and projects of their institutions.

 This will cease under the new policy. The policy seeks to ensure that the religious and faith-based organisation are accountable to the community they serve. In an interview with New Vision, Lokodo, said a number of Born-Again churches have their properties registered in the names of the founders. He argues that this is unfair to the believers who contribute to the development of the church.

 “How can a pastorhave a fleet of cars while the church is renting premises. This means thatthere is something wrong with the management,” he says.

However, Lokod clarifies that the proposed policy does not target any church and is not intended to curtail the freedom of worship as enshrined in the Constitution. Instead, he said, the policy seeks to provide a harmonious relationship among religious leaders, their faithfuls and the Government. Registration It is also being proposed that all faith-based institutions, including the existing churches, to undergo fresh registration.

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 The Church of Uganda, the Roman Catholic Church and the Muslim community will be required to indicate their respective parishes, provinces, dioceses and branches across the country. It is being proposed to set up a new body for the registration of the faith-based institutions. Currently, some of the religious institutions are registered under the law governing non-governmental organisation.

“Traditional religious institutions declined to register asNGOs. They instead called for a faith-based body where they can register,”Nicholas Abola, the commissioner for information and communication at theDirectorate of Ethics and Integrity, said.

The 2010 NGO Policy divested itself of the jurisdiction to handle the matters of spiritual activities which were hitherto under the old NGO policy. This created a need for a separate policy and legal framework to cater for RFBOs. Benon Mutambi, the internal affairs ministry permanent secretary, told New Vision that currently, religious and faithbased organisations are not required to register with the NGOs Bureau.

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Religious leaders respond

Sheikh Suleiman Guggwa, a renowned Muslim cleric in Kampala, backed the formulation of the policy, saying “conmen had invaded religious institutions”. Pastor Cyrus Rod, the lead pastor at Dominion Faith Church in Kisaasi, Kampala, welcomed the regulations, but disagrees with the proposal that clerics should be required to have at least a certificate in theology. He explained that there are unscrupulous religious leaders with degrees and masters in theology

 “who are robbingpeople”. “The church needs to be accountable; it means you are faithful notonly to God, but the congregation as well,” he said.

Bishop Joshua Lwere, the general overseer of the National Fellowship of BornAgain Pentecostal Churches of Uganda, backed policy especially training for pastors. He also backed calls for accountability, saying

“We have always asked our pastors to be as transparent as possible. But we only request to have training modalities for the obtaining of theology certificates.”

Background

According to a report seen by New Vision, the Directorate of Ethics and Integrity started developing the Policy in 2009. The directorate has since carried out consultations with stakeholders including the Born-Again churches, Catholic Church, SDA, Muslims, Baha’is, Orthodox Church and the Church of Uganda.

During the consultations, it was observed that there isincreasing involvement of RFBOs in the political activities which has led todisharmony and friction with the state. It’s also highlighted that there isabsence of a single law harmonising and making it mandatory for all RFBOs toregister under a single legislation.

According to the draft report, most RFBOsare registered as NGOs, some as companies limited by guarantee while othersregister under the Trustees Incorporation Act and that it created co-ordinationand monitoring challenges