September 4th, 2017
For immediate release
COGTA cancels hearings on the CRL Report to regulate religion
The COGTA Parliamentary Portfolio Committee has announced that it will no longer be meeting on the issue of the the CRL’s Report on the Commercialisation of Religion and Abuse of People’s Belief Systems on September 12th and 13th, 2017. It apologised for the inconvenience this change of date may cause, which it blamed on its need to consider other more pressing legislation, and promised to put two days aside in the fourth term to deal with the matter.
COGTA had promised a follow up meeting after the CRL Rights Commission presented its report to this Committee on June 27th. At this meeting, the CRL indicated that its report, together with their recommendation to regulate religion, enjoyed broad-based support. However, at the same meeting, Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA) informed COGTA that this was not the case and petitioned the Committee to conduct further hearings to ensure that the religious community of South Africa had the opportunity to make its voice and opinion heard as a vital part of the process.
“The response of the religious community has been overwhelming” said Michael Swain, Executive Director of FOR SA, “COGTA has now received well over 200 submissions and requests to make oral presentations in opposition to the CRL’s recommendations and they simply cannot accommodate this. It is clear from this that the CRL’s recommendations are deeply flawed and they would be well advised to engage with the community they are supposed to represent instead of persisting in their efforts to push through an agenda that is seen by the vast majority as unconstitutional, unnecessary and unworkable.”
Typically, only 10-15 presentations can be accommodated in a day’s Committee hearings. This would mean that COGTA would need to allocate at least 10 days to further hearings, which its already pressurised time frame simply does not permit. However, if it fails to do so, it runs the risk of confirming the impression that the opinion of the religious community and their alternative solutions to issues identified by the CRL’s Report are being marginalised and ignored.
“We have been concerned from the beginning of this matter that the process of engagement with stakeholders has been substantively flawed” , said FOR SA Advocate Nadene Badenhorst, “Given that the CRL’s recommendations will fundamentally alter the historic relationship of the State and the religious community, it is bizarre that the CRL has failed to give proper consideration to the concerns and alternative solutions that were presented to them by numerous Christian denominations, organisation and other faith groups”.
For more information:
Executive Director, Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA)
Cell: 072 270 1217