FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

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Q: Who is FOR SA?

A: Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA) is a legal advocacy organisation mandated to protect and promote the religious freedom rights of all South Africans, regardless of their specific religious or ideological beliefs. FOR SA is therefore neutral and non-partisan in terms of any interpretation of doctrine, faith or belief to the extent that it complies with the rule of law.

Q: What does FOR SA do?

A: FOR SA works to protect and promote the constitutional right to religious freedom and the rights of religious communities in South Africa. We do this by making submissions to Parliament on Bills that may negatively impact religious freedom rights. We also engage with Government on policy or regulations that may have the same effect. We also become involved in court cases where religious rights are threatened.

Q: What is religious freedom?

A: Section 15 of the Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of conscience, religion, belief and opinion (generally referred to as “freedom of religion and belief” or “religious freedom”) as a fundamental human right. This right includes, as stated on various occasions by our Constitutional Court, the right to not only believe in your heart whatever you choose to believe (or not to believe), but the right to say what you believe and also to live out your beliefs freely and without fear of punishment or persecution by the State or anyone else.

Q: What is the boundary between free speech and “hate speech”?

A: Section 16 of the Constitution gives broad protection to freedom of expression (including religious expression), but does not protect propaganda for war; incitement of imminent violence; or the advocacy of hatred based on certain prohibited grounds and which constitute an incitement to cause harm (“hate speech”).

Q: Is FOR SA a Christian organisation, and/or does it defend Christians only?

A: Although the members of FOR SA’s leadership team are all Christians, the organisation itself is faith and doctrinally neutral. As such, we do not protect the rights of Christians only, but the right of all persons to choose for themselves what they want to believe (or not believe), to say what they believe and live out their beliefs freely and without fear of punishment by the State or anyone else.

Q: Is FOR SA an interfaith organisation, and/or does it work to promote “interfaith”?

A: FOR SA is not a faith-based organisation. As a legal advocacy organisation standing for the principle of religious freedom, we are faith and doctrinally neutral. We, therefore, work to protect everyone’s constitutional right to religious freedom and the rights of all religious communities (of whatever faith persuasion) in South Africa. This is important because if the right to religious freedom is limited for one faith, it is limited for all faiths. What applies to the one, must equally apply to the others.

Q: How is FOR SA different from other organisations (e.g. Cause for Justice, Family Policy Institute) that work to protect similar causes?

A: FOR SA is the only organisation in South Africa that has the single-minded focus of protecting and promoting religious freedom in South Africa. That said, in certain instances, there may be an overlap with the work of other organisations that typically work to protect and promote family and community values etc., and/or a collaboration with one or more of those organisations on issues of mutual interest. However, FOR SA’s mandate remains a narrow one – namely to protect and promote the right to religious freedom and the rights of religious communities in South Africa.

Q: Is FOR SA registered as an NPO and/or PBO?

A: FOR SA is registered with the CIPC as a non-profit company (NPC), under a Memorandum of Incorporation. FOR SA is also registered with SARS as a public benefit organisation (PBO) with section 18A status, that allows us to issue section 18A certificates to both individual or corporate donors in respect of donations made to FOR SA. This certificate, in turn, entitles donors to certain tax deductions.

Q: Is FOR SA a registered law firm?

A: FOR SA is not currently registered as a law firm and does not render legal services to anyone. However, as a legal advocacy organisation with a specific interest in religious freedom law, we provide the religious community of South Africa with information regarding their constitutional rights, any potential threats (in the form of draft legislation, regulations, policy or court cases) to their religious rights, and possible responses thereto.

Q: Can FOR SA represent/defend me in Court?

A: Since FOR SA is not a law firm, FOR SA itself cannot act as an attorney or legal representative in any court case. FOR SA is, however, able to refer any person or organisation whose religious rights are threatened, to attorneys and advocates who specialise in religious freedom law and who may be able to assist in any court proceedings. In this regard, please note that it is critically important to appoint legal representatives who have an understanding of, and expertise in, this niche area of law. In some instances, it is possible that FOR SA itself may become involved in a case either as a party or as an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”).

Q: My religious rights are threatened. What should I do?

A: Contact FOR SA by completing the “Are you in trouble?” form on our website. We will be able to point you in the right direction, including (where necessary) referring you to attorneys who specialise in religious freedom law and who will be able to assist you in instituting or defending (as the case may be) legal proceedings in a court of law. We may also be able to assist you in dealing with the media.

Q: What is FOR SA’s political affiliation?

A: As a legal advocacy organisation working to protect and promote the constitutional right to religious freedom, FOR SA works to build relationships with, and lobby, every political party represented in Parliament. As such, we do not promote or support the political views of any particular party, but are open to collaboration with any political party on issues affecting religious freedom.

Q: Is it true that FOR SA is “anti-LGBT”?

A: No. FOR SA exists to protect the rights of all South Africans to choose for themselves, on grounds of their religious convictions and beliefs, what they want to believe (or not believe) on whatever issue (including sexual orientation and gender identity). This includes the right of all South Africans to say what they believe and to live out their beliefs – not just in the privacy of their home, or place of worship, but also in the public square.

As a legal advocacy organisation, we believe there is a place for all views and values to be presented and argued in the public space. We are for more speech, not less, because we believe that robust debate and an open sharing of perspectives are essential ingredients for a healthy democracy. We support the oft-stated and classic libertarian position of “I may disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”.

Q: Who, and how big, is FOR SA’s “constituency”?

A: To date, religious leaders and organisations representing approximately 6 million people from a cross-spectrum of churches, denominations and faith groups have given FOR SA a general mandate to represent them in religious freedom matters. This number can change depending on the particular issue at stake, however. So, for example, on the issue of the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown regulations on the religious community in South Africa, FOR SA was mandated by religious leaders and organisations representing 18.5 million people to represent them in our engagements with Government.

Q: How do I “join” FOR SA, and what does it mean to “join”?

A: Any person or organisation can join FOR SA (at no cost) by signing up on our website at Join Us. This gives FOR SA a general mandate to represent you on issues involving religious freedom before Parliament, Government (including the Chapter 9 institutions), and where applicable, the Courts. However, persons or organisations who have “joined” FOR SA can at any stage, “opt-out” of standing with FOR SA on a particular issue.

Q: Where does FOR SA’s financial support come from?

A: As a non-profit organisation, FOR SA is entirely reliant on voluntary donations (from religious organisations, corporates and individuals) for its work. FOR SA can issue section 18A certificates in respect of donations made by individuals or corporates, which entitle these donors to certain tax deductions.

For more detail on how to donate, see here.

Q: Does FOR SA have “branches” in other countries?

A: FOR SA does not have “branches” outside of South Africa. However, since religious freedom is globally under threat, FOR SA may collaborate with various organisations in other countries worldwide in the quest for best thinking and practice. We have also advised and assisted in the establishment of organisations similar to FOR SA in other countries in Africa.

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