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Judge asks SDA church to seek out of court mediation

Monday September 23 2019

SDA Maxwell wrangles

A worshiper is pictured outside Nairobi Central SDA Church (Maxwell) after members were locked out of a service due to leadership wrangles, August 10, 2019. PHOTO | FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP 

MAUREEN KAKAH
By MAUREEN KAKAH
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A High Court judge has asked the wrangling Seventh Day Adventist Church factions to seek mediation with a view to settling a dispute on the use of the church’s logo.

Lady Justice Grace Nzioka said this while presiding over a case in which the global head of the Seventh Day Adventist Church is entwined in a legal tussle with a faction in Nairobi over a trademark.

PRAYER

 “I would like to see parties, consider negotiating this matter out of court. Mediation would work, explore it, we are not dealing with a logo for business, this is a church organisation,” said Justice Nzioka.

She added: “It is a matter that can be discussed, meditate on it in prayer, I have no doubt that which we can't have a break through as men we can deal with it in prayer and like Paul says in the good book all these you are fighting for it's all vanity.”

Even though the judge categorically stated that this was off the cuff, it was a way of calming down the tense mood of some of the church members in the courtroom.

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The General Conference Corporation of the Seventh Day Adventist has sued the Nairobi Cosmopolitan Conference limited while accusing it of deliberately violating on its intellectual property.

TRADEMARK

According to the General Conference Corporation of the SDA, the Church’s logo is its lawful trademark and that the Nairobi Cosmopolitan Conference is a distinct entity not affiliated with them in any way.

The petitioners claimed that the respondent is a private company run by individuals who have no connection whatsoever with their religious and humanitarian mission.

“I am informed by Pastor Samwel Makori, the witness in these proceedings, information I verily believe to be true that the defendants have in violation of the law passed off or invaded where members of the SDA fellowship and taken over conduct of church services without the authority or consent of the local leadership and they threaten to continue doing so in disregard of the established organized structure of the SDA in Kenya,” said lawyer Japheth Rachuonyo for the plaintiff.

Mr Rachuonyo has alleged that the SDA church is at risk of continuing to suffer irreparable damage to its image as well as reputation.

On behalf of the global head of the church, he argued that the SDA church in Kenya risks being exposed to confusion and the inability to identify as well as verify sources of the services offered by both parties in the case.

WORSHIP GOD

He also argued that both parties in the dispute are entitled to the right to worship God according to the dictates of their conscience but the Nairobi-based church faced with wrangles has no right in using a name they have no connection with.

He alleged that the defendants are unlawfully receiving tithes, offerings, donations, gifts and other financial gains intended for religious activities with the plaintiff’s trademark.

While the global head church told court that it started operating in 1906, the Nairobi church opened its offices in March 2019.

The global head church wants the Nairobi church stopped from using its logo which is registered as the plaintiff’s trademark.

The case will be mentioned on October 8.