“Celebration as judge orders churches to be partially reopened,” declares the headline of an article on the Kenyan website Nipashe News.
“The clergy can finally have a reason to smile after the High Court reconsidered their status with regard to the Coronavirus closure directives,” claims the article, published on 23 April 2020 and shared on Facebook.
Churches “have been allowed to have a limited number of attendees to broadcast their services, as long as they maintain social distance”, it says.
“Justice James Makau on Thursday temporarily allowed broadcasting crews of the churches and church leaders to broadcast their services to their members.”
Is this true? We checked.
‘Victimisation and harassment’
Kenya’s government has banned religious gatherings as part of efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus. In early April, three pastors went to court seeking an order for church services to be resumed.
The pastors – Don Mutugi Manjau, Joan Miriti and Alex Gichunge – asked the court to allow “alternative forms of worship such as broadcasting of church service … without victimisation and harassment of the broadcasting crew, church elders and leaders and congregants”.
But the ruling shows that these prayers were not granted.
‘No church gatherings allowed’
The judge ordered that “pending the hearing and determination of the application”, with all the parties involved represented, the churches had to use “alternative forms of worship such as broadcasting the church service without breach of the government directives or regulations currently in force do proceed through online or social media or any other form of social platform the petitioner may access”.
“This order should not in any way be taken as allowing the petitioners or any party to hold church gatherings or act contrary to the directives or regulations given currently by the government,” the order reads.
On 24 April, Kenya’s judiciary tweeted a statement that reports of the partial reopening of churches were “erroneous” and that the government’s ban on church gatherings was still in place.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the court has upheld the status quo (the current position) and no church gatherings have been allowed,” the statement reads.
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