The petition challenging the tough wedding rules, including presenting current HIV-negative test results for one to wed from Watoto Church, has been dismissed for lack of merit.
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 the wedding from other churches if he did not want to play by the Watoto rules.
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 norms 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.
The court further observed that Aboneka had a choice of getting married under other constitutionally recognized forms such as civil, Hindu, Islam, or customary.
The Constn. Court has dismissed a constitutional petition against Watoto Church seeking to find its marriage guidelines issued to couples intending to Wed in their Church as discriminatory. Court has held that these are for healthy marriages and for avoid of incest. pic.twitter.com/9lnogLiCVQ
— TumukundeTonny(TT) (@TumukundeTT) March 2, 2023
“The law provides for other forms of marriage or marriage celebrated by other institutions whose practices are different from the respondent’s. The petitioner may either freely associate with it or decline to do so if the respondent’s requirements are not acceptable to him.”
The church, however, says that the petitioner, Aboneka, and his bride-to-be are not members of the church adding that a couple that subscribes to the beliefs, rites, and usage of the church can be wedded irrespective of their HIV or health status.
They say that couples intending to wed are also advised to take other medical tests apart from HIV including sickle cell tests among others.
“The petitioner and his intended bride are not members of the respondent (Watoto) and have no merit to petition this court,” the church argues.
“If the intended couple has any concerns over any of the church’s requirements, they are always encouraged to discuss the same with the pastoral team for a consideration of a waiver.”
The church also contends that its marriages are held by the Marriage Act, adding that whoever feels unsatisfied with their requirements is free to seek services elsewhere.
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.