HISTORY OF FREEDOM OF RELIGION SOUTH AFRICA (FOR SA)
Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA) was founded in 2014 after Joshua Generation Church (a well-known evangelical church in the Western and Southern Cape) was targeted by an atheist couple for its Biblical teachings on parental discipline. The Church was investigated by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), who recommended that the Church no longer teach the “offensive” Scriptures, remove same from its teaching manuals, and that the Church’s pastors should undergo “sensitisation training”.
Andrew Selley, Lead Elder of Joshua Generation Church, decided to take a stand to defend the religious freedom rights granted by the South African Constitution. Section 15 of the Constitution in particular grant all South Africans the right to believe, to preach and teach (and by implication, to pass on to their children), and also to live out their religious convictions and beliefs. Teaming up with Adv. Nadene Badenhorst, they started a legal advocacy organisation with the focus of defending these critical rights.
Since then, FOR SA has been engaged in numerous issues and has protected and promoted freedom of religion before government, parliament, Chapter 9 institutions and the courts. FOR SA also works to disseminate its views and positions to the media and (particularly) to the public to enable them to engage more effectively in the democratic process.
Freedom of religion is foundational to the well-being of any nation which calls itself a democracy. It is of paramount importance because it is not just a single human right. It is a basket of fundamental human rights which underpin the essence of individual and personal freedom. These include:
- The right to equality and not to be unfairly discriminated against on grounds of conscience, religion and belief (s 9 of the Constitution)
The Constitution guarantees that the law will protect and benefit people of faith, as much as it will anyone else. Government or indeed anyone else may not – without a fair reason in law – treat anyone differently because of their religious convictions and beliefs, whatever those may be.
- Human dignity (s 10 of the Constitution)
People’s religious beliefs affect their view of society, and found the distinction between what is good and bad, true and false, right and wrong. As such, the right to believe or not to believe, and to act or not to act according to one’s beliefs or non-beliefs, is one of the key ingredients of any person’s dignity and self-worth.
- Freedom of conscience, thought, belief and opinion (s 15 of the Constitution)
No government or law or person should be allowed to hinder, threaten or dictate the freedom of another to believe, teach and preach, and live out whatever they deem to be important or sacred – as long as this does not infringe upon or break the legitimate laws of the land.
- Freedom of speech and expression (s 16 of the Constitution)
Freedom is not freedom unless one is able to express that freedom outwardly – through speech and conduct. No law should threaten (least of all punish) you for giving bona fide expression to your faith – whether through speech (in person, or on whatever platform), art, religious clothing or otherwise.
- Freedom of assembly and association (s 18 of the Constitution) and the rights of religious communities (s 31 of the Constitution)
People must have the right to join with like-minded people to give a corporate expression and celebration of their beliefs by forming / maintaining organisations, and by holding meetings and gatherings. No law should forbid people from these legitimate activities, neither should it force them to participate.
FOR SA currently has a support base of religious leaders and individuals representing approx. 5 million people across a broad spectrum of churches, organisations, denominations and faith groups in South Africa.
FOR SA is not registered as a law firm and as such, cannot charge legal fees for its services (including legal advice, representation in court, etc). As a non-profit organisation, FOR SA is therefore entirely reliant on voluntary contributions from the public and religious organisations to continue our work to protect and promote religious freedom for all.
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