In the last few months, FOR SA has made submissions to government and Parliament on a number of issues, policies and legislation affecting religious freedom. FOR SA is also involved in a number of cases before Chapter 9 institutions and the courts, in order to protect and preserve religious freedom.
(The cases in which FOR SA is / has been involved over the last few months, are marked with a *).
POLICIES & LEGISLATION:
National Action Plan to Combat Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia & Related Intolerance*:
FOR SA, in June 2016, attended hearings in Cape Town and subsequently submitted written representations to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, with a view to ensuring that the provisions against “related intolerance” in the NAP do not infringe upon religious freedom and freedom of (religious) speech. The Department of Justice & Constitutional Development has confirmed that the NAP will be presented to Cabinet in September / October, whereafter South Africa’s adopted position will be submitted to the United Nations.
Hate Crimes (including Hate Speech) Bill*:
The Department of Justice & Constitutional Development has confirmed that the Bill is currently close to being finalised by the Executive, whereafter it will be submitted to Cabinet (in or about September). Once approved by Cabinet, the Bill will be submitted to Parliament (in or about October), at which stage a public participation process will be invited and FOR SA itself will be making submissions to ensure that religious freedom and speech are protected.
Proposed amendment of the Children’s Act*:
The Department of Social Development (DSD) is currently in the process of finalising the proposed amendments to the Children’s Act, so as to legally ban spanking (even when reasonable and moderate, for the sole purpose of education and correction) in the home. When the Bill comes before Parliament, FOR SA will make submissions to protect the freedom of parents to decide for themselves, according to their own religious convictions and beliefs, how their children should be disciplined.
Proposed regulation of religion (CRL Rights Commission)*:
FOR SA appeared before, and made verbal representations, to the CRL Rights Commission in February 2016. The CRL Rights Commission recently confirmed that their Report on the “commercialization of religion” and abuse of people’s belief systems, and the proposed regulation of religion in order to combat such, is still in draft form and in the process of being finalised.
Potential amendments to the Public Holidays Act (SALRC):
The SALRC recently advised that it is envisaged that the draft Report (including the proposal to remove Good Friday and Christmas as public holidays) will be ready to be considered by the SALRC before the end of the year. The SALRC has undertaken to update us when the draft report is before the SALRC and when it is submitted to the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services for referral to the Minister of Home Affairs. After the Minister (Home Affairs) has considered it, the SALRC will be in a position to provide us with a copy.
Proposed repeal of the Witchcraft Suppression Act (SALRC):
The SALRC recently advised that its investigation involves the development of three sets of papers: the issue paper, which was published around September 2014, the discussion paper, which was published in January 2016 and the report, which will be developed as the final document of the SALRC containing its recommendations on the issues and a draft Bill if that is required. At this stage, that is, the period after the publication of the discussion paper and receipt of comments (closing date for comments was April 2016), the SALRC has to embark on a consultation process that will assist it with understanding the issues and giving communities affected by the practice an opportunity to participate in the process. It is planned that the consultation process will take place round Oct/Nov 2016 after which an expert meeting will be conducted around January 2017. Once all the processes stated above have been completed a report will be developed and it is anticipated that the said report will be presented to the commission for approval sometime in 2017.
Mosterts / Joshua Generation Church (SAHRC):
Following the SAHRC’s Report effectively banning Joshua Generation Church from believing, preaching and teaching the Biblical Scriptures relating to the disciplining of children, the Church raised an appeal on both substantive and procedural grounds. Final comments in the appeal were submitted on 8 August 2016, and the SAHRC’s outcome on the appeal is now awaited.
FOR SA / SAHRC (CRL Rights Commission)*:
FOR SA has lodged a complaint against the SAHRC with the CRL Rights Commission, complaining that the SAHRC’s Report against Joshua Generation Church violates the right to religious freedom and the rights of religious communities.
OGOD v Laerskool Randhart & Others (Jhb High Court)*:
Although FOR SA is not formally a party to the dispute, FOR SA’s Legal Counsel has been seconded to the team of lawyers acting for the Council for Religious Rights & Freedoms (CRRF), who has now been admitted as Amicus Curiae in the matter.
There is no court date yet, as the parties are still in the process of exchanging papers and seeking directives from the court regarding the further conduct of the matter.
Wedding venue in Paarl*:
In recent months, FOR SA assisted another wedding venue in Paarl who had been threatened with legal action after refusing, on grounds of religious conviction and belief, to host a same-sex marriage ceremony at the venue.
Complainants vs Church (CGE):
The CGE is currently investigating a complaint against a large church in the Western Cape, accusing the Church of:
- “Unfair discrimination against women” in so far as the Church believes that the husband is the head of the home as Christ is the head of the church (Eph. 5:23) and that likewise, church governance is reserved for men (1 Tim. 3:1); and
- “Hate speech” against people practicing homosexuality, in so far as the Church believes and preaches that according to the Bible, the practice of homosexuality (along with any other form of sexual immorality) is sinful, but that God can set people free from homosexuality (as from any other sin).
Jon Qwelane v Minister for Justice (Jhb High Court):
This case, which is being heard in the Jhb High Court from 29 August – 9 September 2016, involves an article written by journalist Jon Qwelane in the “Sunday Sun” newspaper in 2008. In the article, which appeared under the heading “Call me names, but gay is not okay …”, Qwelane said he had “serious reservations about their [referring to people who practice homosexuality] lifestyle and sexual preferences”.
The article was based on his strong moral belief that having homosexual relationships should not be acceptable in today’s society and suggested that the compromising of morals could lead to a future in which people might be able to get married to animals. (According to Qwelane, while the content of the article was his own, he was not involved in or responsible for the heading to the article which was the editor’s choice). The SAHRC instituted proceedings against Qwelane in the Equality Court, complaining that he had made himself guilty of “hate speech” against the LGBTI community in terms of the Equality Act. The SAHRC asked the Court to find that Qwelane should apologise to the LGBTI community in South Africa; pay R100,000 damages to a campaign promoting LGBTI awareness; and (at Qwelane’s cost!) undergo “sensitization training” with an organisation appointed by the SAHRC for this purpose. The SAHRC obtained default judgment against Qwelane in the Equality Court, which judgment was subsequently set aside.
The case was thereafter transferred to the Johannesburg High Court, particularly as a result of the constitutional issues raised by Qwelane – namely that the “hate speech” provision in the Equality Act is unconstitutional (and therefore invalid) because it is broader in scope than the “hate speech” provision in the Constitution. On the merits, Qwelane is standing firm on his right to Freedom of Expression and contends that Freedom of Expression is not limited to an opinion that can be classified as politically correct. He contends that if journalists are swayed by external opinions, they will no longer be acknowledged as an independent and reliable source of information. Although it is true that critical opinions might offend a group of people, he asserts that readers deserve to hear them and to have the opportunity to make up their own minds.
Y Abramyee v King’s School, Linbro Park:
In June, a prominent Gauteng private school (who subscribes to a Christian ethos and values), came under fire after the school sent a letter to parents, urging them to pray for Muslims to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. The letter was prompted by a new mosque that had recently gone up in the vicinity of the school. Following a complaint of “Islamophobia” by a Muslim activist to the MEC for Education as well as the CRL Rights Commission, the Gauteng Department of Education strongly condemned the school’s behaviour. The school subsequently apologised for any misrepresentation of Islam and insensitivity in the letter. For more information, see:
http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/prominent-gauteng-christian-school-under-fire-for-islamophobia-20160630?isapp=true and http://gatewaynews.co.za/christian-school-accused-of-islamaphobia-apologises-for-letter-but-defends-right-to-pray-for-salvation-of-members-of-other-faiths/.
Zizipho Pae (2):
In June, Zizipho Pae made headlines again after sharing an article on www.huffingtonpost.com with the heading “Black, Gay Christian Do Exist, and It’s Time You Hear Us” on her personal Facebook page, along with the following comment: “This is such deception… You cannot be a Christian and yet rejoice and be proud of sin…That is not possible… You cannot be both… You must choose one… And if you ‘choose’ both, then it is not the God of the Bible that we desire. Have mercy on us oh Lord… Its like saying ‘There are Christian men who are polygamous or there are Christian women who are prostitutes simultaneously’… I cannot choose Christ and tell Him, the Holy God, to also accept and love my sin and let me keep it… No… That is not to say that to be a Christian, you must have live in sinless perfection… Though our hearts are transformed, we still live in our mortal bodies. But being a Christian means that our affections have now been transformed. Though we sometimes fall into sin (out of our own fault), we seek out daily to live a life that is honouring to God. There is a very big difference between struggling with sin and rejoicing with sin… A Christian struggles with, wrestles with and is grieved by their sin and seeks through God’s grace, to overcome it. But an unbeliever rejoices in their sin and seeks to make it acceptable… The word of God is perfect, in every way. It does not contradict itself.” She was again slammed on social media and the press by Rainbow UCT, Free Gender and other LGBTI+ organisations, who believe that Pae has something against the LGBTI+ community.
Support FOR SA
Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA) is dedicated to protecting and preserving the freedoms and rights that the South African Constitution has granted to the faith community. You can join this struggle and help FOR SA protect our freedom by
- Praying for us as we defend this precious freedom before government and courts of law;
- Signing up (at no cost) to FOR SA, and subscribing to our Newsletter, at www.forsa.org.za;
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- Informing us, should you become aware of any case in which religious freedom is threatened;
- Making a financial contribution to FOR SA
As a non-profit organisation, we are entirely dependent upon God’s grace for finances. Your generosity will help make a significant difference as we work to fulfil our mission to keep the doors open for the Gospel by advocating for religious freedom. We appreciate every gift, big or small!