By Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA)
Following a three-day hearing earlier this week, the Johannesburg High Court reserved judgment in the landmark case of OGOD (Organisasie vir godsdienste-onderrig en demokrasie) vs 6 public schools.
The schools and various “Friends of the Court” (including the SA Council for Religious Rights and Freedoms, Cause for Justice, Afriforum and Solidarity) have put up a compelling case, but it is impossible to say what the outcome will be.
The legal issues which the three judges (Lamont, Van der Linde and Siwendu) who heard the case have to grapple with, are complex and it could well be a number of weeks or even longer before they deliver their judgment.
One of the main issues that the court will have to decide, is whether our constitution permits public schools to identify with or promote a single-faith ethos (in this case, Christianity) – even in circumstances where other faiths are reasonably accommodated by the school.
OGOD (together with the Minister of Education, as well as the Council for the Advancement of the SA Constitution (CASAC) who is a “Friend of the Court”) argued that it is not permitted; whereas FEDSAS on behalf of the six schools (together with the abovementioned “Friends of the Court”) argued that it is permitted in terms of our constitutional and legal framework and existing case law.
Much legal technical argument revolved around the powers of school governing bodies of public schools; the binding (or non-binding) nature of the National Education Policy; the meaning of “equitability” in section 15(2) of the constitution (relating to the requirements for the conduct of “religious observances” in public schools); and whether OGOD had followed the right legal procedures in bringing this matter to court (the principle of “legislative subsidiarity”).
Thank you to everyone who prayed and showed us their support throughout the proceedings – God is faithful! We will certainly keep you updated with regard to any developments in this matter, which is likely to end up in the Constitutional Court.
*Note: Although FOR SA is not a party in the case, our legal counsel assisted the SA Council for the Protection and Promotion of Religious Rights and Freedoms, who is a “Friend of the Court” in this case.
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