The Labour Court has fined Anglican Church of Kenya Sh200,000 for disobeying orders to reinstate three priests who were suspended over allegations of engaging in homosexuality.
Justice Nzioki Makau, while delivering the verdict at Nyeri Law Courts on Tuesday, directed the Registered Trustees of the ACK church to pay the fine within 48 hours for contempt of court.
“Court orders are not mere suggestions or decorative pieces. Respondent is in breach of contempt,” said Justice Makau while the 18-page ruling.
He found that the church’s registered trustees (respondent) had failed to reinstate Archdeacon John Gachau, Reverend James Maigua and Rev Paul Warui back to their priesthood duties, contrary to a court order dated September 30, 2016.
Before their suspension from the church ministerial duties, the three clerics were serving at the Diocese of Mt Kenya West under Bishop Joseph Kagunda.
Justice Makau also found that the priests had not been compensated Sh6.8 million in accordance to the initial directives issued by Justice Byram Ongaya on September 30, 2016.
Judge Ongaya made the two orders after a finding that the homosexual claims were untrue and that the three priests suffered “deep defamation in the eyes of the congregants and the public after been implicated to homosexuality.”
“The respondent is a corporate body. The appropriate order will be to pay a fine of Sh200,000 for disobedience of court decree,” said the judge, as he read a verse in in the Bible in James 3: 13-18 directing it to the Church.
He said the essence of the punishment was to ensure authority of the court is maintained.
“The Contempt of Court is punishable by a fine of not more than Sh200,000 or a jail term for a period not exceeding six months. Or both,” explained the judge, while allowing application by the three priests to have the church cited in contempt.
The church, through lawyer William Muthee, had opposed the application saying it was “misconceived, fatally flawed and has no basis in law.”
Mr Muthee indicated that the Trustees office is a corporate body and therefore the issue of committal to civil jail does not stand.
“The application is in breach of the Contempt of Court Act. The application as framed cannot be sustained,” said Mr Muthee.
The clerics, through lawyer David Onsare, complained the church trustees had disregarded the two orders, thus prolonging their psychological trauma.
The court heard that on reporting to Bishop Kagunda for redeployment and assignment of priesthood duties, the clergymen were not posted to any church.
“The disregard and disobedience of court order by the respondent is a slap in the face of this honourable court and must be punished,” lawyer Onsare told the judge.
He stated that the church had not complied with the initial orders despite being served. He urged Judge Makau to take action to protect the dignity and authority of the court.