History of FOR SA
During 2013 the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) launched an investigation into a complaint made against a large church in the Western Cape. According to the SAHRC, the church’s teaching that parents have a God-given responsibility in terms of the Bible (Prov 13:24; Hebr 12:6-7 and others) to, at times and where needed but always in love, discipline their children by spanking them, was a violation of the Constitution. In particular, the teaching violated the rights of children to be protected from maltreatment, neglect, abuse and degradation (as provided for in section 28(1)(d) of the Constitution).
The church contended that the constitutional rights to freedom of religion (section 15 of the Constitution) and freedom of expression (section 16 of the Constitution), give them the freedom to teach according to the Bible and that these fundamental rights should be protected and upheld. In support of their submissions to the SAHRC, the church was able to rally the signed support of churches representing 12 million Christians in South Africa.
For Cape Town church leader Andrew Selley, this show of support was a clear indication that Christians in South Africa were ready to speak up and as one voice unite against the government’s growing interference with freedom of religion and religious speech.
As a result and in January 2014, Andrew Selley founded FOR SA (Freedom of Religion South Africa). The intention was that it would be an organisation who represented Christians in South Africa, and served as a voice to government and to society on issues affecting religious freedom.
A few weeks after its inception, FOR SA made submissions to Parliament in respect of the threat that the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill (WEGE) posed to freedom of religion in South Africa.
FOR SA succeeded in persuading Parliament to amend the Bill to exclude public benefit organisations (including therefore churches, and religious and charitable organisations) from the application of the Act. This is a huge victory for religious freedom and for the Church in South Africa.
Had churches not been excluded from the Bill, the Bill would have effectively outlawed the teaching and practice of certain Scriptures relating to the respective roles of men and women in the church and indirectly, in the home. This would have set a frightening precedent for legislation allowing the State to interfere in the autonomy of the church.
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