*Note: FOR SA was invited to a meeting with President Ramaphosa and various interfaith leaders on Wednesday, 2 September 2020, where FOR SA had the opportunity to address the President on the impact of the lockdown regulations on the religious community and also put forward our proposals for the further reopening of churches and places of worship. [LINK TO PRESENTATION]. What follows below, is the letter that FOR SA wrote to the President after the meeting.
7 September 2020
Dear President Ramaphosa,
RE: VIRTUAL MEETING WITH INTERFAITH LEADERS ON WEDNESDAY, 2nd SEPTEMBER 2020
- We refer to the above meeting, and thank you once again for inviting Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA) to participate in, and give input into, the important discussions around – amongst others – the impact of the lockdown regulations and directions on the religious community of South Africa.
- We were greatly encouraged by the spirit in which the meeting took place, as well as by your undertaking to consider seriously and take the proposal made by various interfaith leaders (including FOR SA) to open up religious gatherings to allow occupation of at least 50% of the available floor space (while observing all the health, sanitisation and social distancing protocols) to the National Corona Command Council (NCCC).
- As indicated during my address on behalf of FOR SA (and the constituency of 15 million people from a cross-spectrum of churches, religious organisations and faith groups which we represent), the continuing restrictions on religious gatherings at Alert Level 2 is increasingly seen as an issue of freedom and fairness. This is especially because many view gathering and worshipping together with others, and participating in religious sacraments, as a fundamental part of their faith and human dignity.
- Given that people are allowed to make their own health choices when it comes to the transport they take and the shops, restaurants, shebeens and even casinos they visit, it seems irrational and unfair that the same discretion is not granted when it comes to being allowed to visit a church, mosque, synagogue or temple. (A copy of my address is attached hereto for your records).
- Mr President, we respectfully submit that an appropriate adjustment in the regulations and directions pertaining to religious gatherings will go a long way in showing the religious community that Government does indeed recognise the cooperative and responsible way in which the religious community has gone about re-opening its places of worship. It will also affirm that Government does indeed trust religious leaders to (continue to) take responsibility for the people under their care.
- As FOR SA is currently being inundated with enquiries, kindly advise when we can expect any decisions in this regard to be communicated so that we can revert to our constituency accordingly.
Adv Nadene L. Badenhorst
Legal Counsel, FOR SA
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