FOR SA’s Facebook page has come in for criticism following a post where we highlighted one of the FAQ’s on our website which asked whether it is true that FOR SA is “anti-LGBT”. The purpose of this article is to clarify, and provide further context to help people understand, FOR SA’s important role in the frontlines of the fight for faith and freedom.
FOR SA’s reason for existence
FOR SA was started in 2014, after an evangelical church in Cape Town was targeted by an atheist couple, and investigated by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), for its Biblical teachings on parental discipline. We realised that if the State (or any institution of State such as the SAHRC) could tell Christians how to interpret, and apply, their Bibles on the issue of parental discipline, nothing stopped them from also telling Christians (or any other person or organisation of faith) how they should read, and apply, any other Scriptures or holy writings on any area of life, including the issue of human sexuality and relationships.
As a result, FOR SA was started as a legal advocacy organisation to protect and promote the constitutional right to religious freedom in South Africa (section 15 of our Constitution). This right gives every person and organisation of whatever faith, the right to believe whatever they choose to believe, and also to freely share and live out their beliefs. This right is vital to protect beliefs that may be regarded as offensive or “politically incorrect”, as various traditional and “conservative” beliefs (particularly around issues relating to the sanctity of human life, human sexuality and relationships) are increasingly made out to be.
While all those in the leadership of FOR SA are committed Christians in good standing with recognised and respected evangelical Christian churches, which themselves hold to a traditional understanding on the issues of human sexuality and relationships, FOR SA is not a church or a religious organisation. As a legal advocacy (rather than a religious) organisation, FOR SA is faith and doctrinally neutral and does not itself hold to any specific interpretation of the Bible or any other religious text. Rather, FOR SA works for the legal right of persons and organisations to decide for themselves how to read, and live out, their religious texts (including the Bible), without interference or sanction by the State or anyone else.
While there are other organisations that work to promote a Biblical worldview in (the various sectors of our) society, this is not FOR SA’s mandate. Rather, as a legal advocacy organisation, the focus of FOR SA’s work is to make sure that the law does not hinder these organisations – either from coming into existence, or from doing their work in accordance with their religious doctrines and beliefs. In other words, our job is to keep the “legal doors” open so that churches and other religious organisations can get on with their job. In the case of Christian churches and ministries, this involves preaching the Word of God – including the parts that people do not like, do not agree with, or find offensive. It is because we defend religious freedom, that they have the space to freely operate according to the specific mandates which they hold.
Examples of FOR SA’s defence of religious freedom
Examples of where FOR SA has been (and/or continues to be engaged in) protecting the constitutional right to religious freedom, includes where cases have been opened up with State institutions and/or the Courts against Christian pastors, churches, ministries and individuals, simply for determining their own doctrines, and preaching / teaching their Biblical beliefs – particularly with regard to human sexuality and relationships. FOR SA is currently assisting the Christian owners of a popular wedding venue, who are being sued for unfair discrimination by the SAHRC and a same-sex couple. Ultimately, FOR SA’s involvement in this case is to protect the freedom for all of us to choose to live our lives in a way that is consistent with our beliefs, and to not be forced to work or to perform services which we may fundamentally disagree with.
On the legislative front, FOR SA is relentlessly protecting the right of religious marriage officers not to be forced to solemnise marriages that go against their (or their organisation’s) religious convictions and beliefs. We have also been at the forefront of advocating for amendments to the PEPUDA Amendment Bill, and most recently also the Hate Speech Bill – specifically with a view to making sure that people of faith (including therefore Christians who hold to a traditional understanding of the Bible) remain free to share, and live out, their religious beliefs without fear of persecution or punishment by the State.
FOR SA’s mandate is simple. We stand in the gap to protect and uphold a legal environment in which people and organisations of faith are free to share, and live out, their religious convictions (whatever those may be). However, the “price tag” of that freedom for all of us, is that we may have to tolerate beliefs and viewpoints that we ourselves do not agree with or even find offensive. This is what it means to live in a constitutional democracy that guarantees all of it citizens of whatever faith (or no faith at all) the right to freedom of religion (section 15) and freedom of expression (section 16) .
Either all of us are free (to share and live out our faith), or none of us are free. Fortunately, South Africa is a constitutional democracy. We are not (and must never become) a totalitarian state where only one viewpoint (normally, that of the State) is permitted and every other viewpoint is punished and policed.
Is FOR SA “anti-LGBT”?
Returning to the question of whether FOR SA is “anti-LGBT”, as a legal advocacy organisation, FOR SA understands and acknowledges that every person (of whatever race, sexual orientation, gender identity, religious persuasion, etc) has fundamental human rights, including the right to equality and to human dignity.
As Bible-believing Christians, the leadership of FOR SA further believes that all human beings are made in the image of God, and as such, have immeasurable dignity and worth. As such, we take seriously the Biblical command to love and respect all people – including those who believe differently. We also believe that God gives human beings this freedom of choice (as modelled by Jesus Himself), but that He will ultimately hold every person responsible for the choices they have made.
So no, FOR SA is absolutely not against LGBT people as human beings. However, FOR SA draws a clear distinction between people who are all made in the image of God and therefore of equal value and worth in their humanity, and the LGBT agenda inasmuch as it tries to silence and shut down people and organisations of faith from living and expressing their deeply held beliefs.
As an organisation, we believe it is entirely possible to respect another person’s or organisation’s viewpoint without necessarily agreeing therewith. Our Constitution allows for, and in fact celebrates, “the right to be different” (including the right to believe differently, also on issues of human sexuality and relationships). This is the very essence of the constitutional right to freedom of religion, belief and opinion guaranteed by section 15 of the Constitution. It is this foundational right which FOR SA, as a legal advocacy organisation, remains firmly committed to defending and promoting – so that persons and organisations of faith can continue to freely (without fear of legal sanctions) share and live out their deeply held beliefs, and not be forced into silence or compromise by any ideological or political agenda.