The recent BBC documentary exposing sexual crime allegations against the late Nigerian religious leader, TB Joshua, has raised significant concerns in Uganda, especially regarding the potential misconduct of local preachers. The charismatic founder of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (Scoan) allegedly committed sexual crimes on a large scale, according to testimonies from numerous alleged victims spanning nearly two decades. Disturbingly, the documentary suggests that Joshua enjoyed protection from authorities in Nigeria and beyond.
While these allegations are yet to be legally verified, they bear a resemblance to accusations made against some preachers within Uganda. Many of these alleged criminal preachers, like Joshua, maintain heavy security and possess political connections, posing a worrisome trend for Ugandans.
A victim in the documentary accused a powerful Ugandan prophet of engaging in similar acts, emphasizing the need for scrutiny within the local religious landscape. The primary concern is not to infringe on the right to worship but to address religious practices involving criminal activities that jeopardize the well-being of unsuspecting Ugandans.
Despite constitutional guarantees of the right to worship, particularly under Article 43 (2)(c), authorities must not turn a blind eye to criminal activities occurring within religious institutions. Sexual exploitation, extortion, and other crimes allegedly perpetrated by religious leaders must be addressed to safeguard the public interest.
Moreover, certain religious practices hindering government initiatives, such as disease eradication, workforce encouragement, and education, need examination. Misleading practices, such as presenting individuals with fabricated illnesses, pose a threat to public health and contribute to avoidable deaths.
In light of these concerns, the call is for the government to enact legislation guiding faith-based actions to curb criminal activities. Just as the Traditional and Complementary Medicine Act 2019 regulates herbal medicine, there is a pressing need for a law that draws a clear line between faith and crime. The aim is to ensure that freedom of worship is not exploited for extortion, sexual harassment, or other criminal behaviors.