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Three pastors to sue government for banning church services

The High Court has certified as urgent a case in which three pastors want the ban on congregating lifted with measures put in place to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Justice James Makau issued the directive on Friday after Pastors Don Mutugi Majau, Joan Miriti and Alex Gichunge sued the Interior, Health and ICT Cabinet Secretaries, the Attorney-General and the Inspector-General of Police.

ARGUMENTS

Justice Makau set the hearing for April 16 and ordered the pastors to give copies of the case documents to the sued parties before close of business on April 14.

In the suit, the pastors acknowledge measures put in place by the government to stop the spread but argue that as the pandemic worsens, Kenyans will look to churches for solace.

They are protesting the directive against social gatherings that saw closure of churches, saying it was reached without consultations with relevant stakeholders.

They also say the State imposed the curfew and the restriction on gatherings without consulting the church.

Had consultations taken place, the petitioners say, the public would have been sufficiently educated on social distancing and proper hygiene, peace and unity would have been promoted and food drives would have been held for the sake of the less fortunate.

“The petitioners (and) other believers are in no way approaching this court in efforts to spread the coronavirus. Their sole wish is to congregate whilst adhering to the directive issued,” said their lawyer John Swaka.

ESSENTIAL SERVICE

He added, “The church’s role in such times is to give hope amid the crisis not only in this country but also in the world at large. They humbly seek the intervention of the court since their rights and freedoms are being infringed.”

The pastors further note that judges, doctors and journalists are risking their lives to serve Kenyans and that pastors should be added to the list of essential service providers.

While admitting that religious activities cannot continue as usual, the trio said clergymen, as essential service providers, cannot remain locked up yet they are required to serve the people and rally the nation, on their knees, in the fight against the deadly disease.

The religious leaders note that their services can go on with those in attendance wearing masks and gloves and using hand sanitisers.

They want churches allowed to conduct services with leaders compelled to ensure members adhere to guidelines for curbing spread of the virus.

The alternative, they say, is for the government to allow the broadcasting of services on specific days. The case will be mentioned on April 16.