A long-running homosexuality dispute involving three Anglican church priests came to an end on Thursday after the High Court awarded the clerics eight month's salary as compensations for defamation.
In her judgment, Justice Abigail Mshila said Archdeacon John Gachau and Reverends James Maigua and Paul Warui were entitled to the amount, which described as facilitation fee, following a mediation.
The amount payable, justice Mshila noted in her orders, will be agreed by the parties.
“In the event the parties are unable to agree on an amount then it shall be based on the plaintiffs’ gross monthly pay at the time they were relieved of their duties payable in lump sum or monthly. Interest shall be applicable on the sum at court rates,” stated judge Mshila.
The clerics were suspended in August 2015 on claims of engaging in gayism, a move that threatened to split the church, forcing Archbishop Jackson Olesapit convene a meeting with the church leaders in Nyeri town.
Going by the amount payable to each of the three clergymen and by the time they were suspended, Mr Gachau is likely to get Sh248,000 while reverends Maigua and Warui are likely to get Sh160,000 each bringing the total amount to approximately Sh568,000.
“This court reiterates that any payment made here is done as a foavour and without legal obligations and the amount is but as compensation for injury to feelings and also to assist the plaintiff in getting back to their feet again,” stated judge Mshila.
She took a judicial notice of Sh6.8 million awarded to the three priests by the Labour Court in 2016 following a finding their suspension from pastoral duties was illegal and the homosexual claims were untrue.
The three priests filed a defamation suit against Bishop Joseph Kagunda of the Mount Kenya West diocese in year 2015, arguing that they suffered psychological trauma following the ex-communication from church and implication to gayism.
Through lawyer David Onsare the clerics sought orders compelling the Bishop to issue a written apology in the local dailies and compensate them for defamation.
But when the hearing of the case was proceeding, the court suggested mediation as a solution which both sides accepted. A settlement was reached and an agreement was adopted as the order of the court.
On issues of costs of the suit, the judge ordered each party to bear its own legal cost.
“Taking into consideration that this suit was remedied out of court and for the sake of healing and closure this court is satisfied that this is a suitable case in which this court should exercise its discretion by awarding no costs to the plaintiff, therefore each party to bear its own costs,” said justice Mshila.
The arbitration was spearheaded by a mediator named as Joakim Mulama Oundo.
When the matter was referred for mediation, the two sides differed on the amount of money the church would give the priests as facilitation fee for resettlement and on who would bear the costs of the suit. They moved back to court and urged the judge to decide on the two points of contention.
On its side the church proposed to offer each of the three priests money equivalent to three months’ salary, while the priests demanded an amount equivalent of three years’ pay.
In her ruling, the court said it must be cautious and considered that the priests have been in the cold for four years, but said the eight-month facilitation was to enable them resume duties.
“This court will award a facilitation payment to the plaintiff for a period of eight months which translates to two months for each year they were out of service,” stated judge Mshila.
In the agreement reached out of court and which has so far not been affected, the clerics are expected to be posted to their parishes by the Bishop either in person or through parish councils.
The Bishop is also expected to inform the church worshipers about the out-of-court settlement and the agreement.
Initially before the suspension Archdeacon Gachau was ministering at Kariki parish, Reverend Warui at St. Stephens Thunguri parish while Reverend Maigua was at Witima parish, all in Othaya.
In the agreement filed in court, the clerics agreed to adhere to the laid down discipline procedures and processes in execution of their mandates.
“The clergy shall conduct themselves in line with established guidelines, code of conduct and expectations of Christians,” reads the agreement.