*Disclaimer: FOR SA is not a law firm, and therefore cannot, and does not give legal advice. As such, we do not accept any legal liability for reliance on the below interpretation of the Regulations. For legal advice, we advise you to consult with an attorney.
Several Senior Religious Leaders have contacted FOR SA for our views on the current (and somewhat confusing) amendments to the Lockdown Level 4 Regulations – and specifically how they may apply to the religious community. Here is our viewpoint and analysis:
NEW REGULATIONS FOR RELIGIOUS LEADERS: New Regulations came out in the afternoon of 14 July that permit “gatherings at community engagements” (which are not defined), “hosted by … religious leaders, to deal with emergency matters that impact on the management, treatment and prevention of the Covid-19 pandemic” – up to maximum 50 people (or less if smaller venue), WITH masks, sanitisation and social distancing.
THE PROBLEM: On the face of it, the Regulations permit religious communities to meet. The problem is that the same Regulations still prohibit “social gatherings” and “faith-based gatherings” (and make it a criminal offence to convene / attend same).
THE OPPORTUNITY: In terms of the new Regulations, there IS potentially an opportunity for religious communities to meet – as long as the meeting deals with emergency matters that impact on Covid-19. (Note that this is quite different to what was discussed at the President’s meeting with religious leaders on 13 July, which discussed the need for churches to be able to meet to bring a sense of peace and calm in the midst of the current violence and looting across SA).
Practically, therefore, as long as the meeting is not a religious gathering in the normal course, but a gathering of a religious community, hosted by a religious leader, on emergency matters that impact on Covid-19 (e.g. informing congregants of the 3rd wave, the risks of Covid-19, the vaccine roll-out programme, and the necessity of health and social distancing protocols – even if followed by prayer etc), it should be permissible in terms of the Regulations. Religious leaders are advised to proceed wisely, however, so as to ensure that any meeting does fall within the ’emergency’ – rather than religious gathering (which remains prohibited) – category.
NOTE: It remains to be seen if Government will amend the above Regulations yet again, to clarify the current uncertainties / seeming contradictions.