Proposed Regulation of Religion in SA

by Daniela Ellerbeck
2 March 2016

In 2015, the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (the CRL Rights Commission) launched an investigative study into the “commercialisation” of religion and abuse of people’s belief systems. To this end, the Commission subpoenaed a number of churches (along with representatives of other religions in SA) to appear before them. Investigations have been concluded in KwaZulu Natal, Gauteng, the Western Cape and the Freestate are now underway in other areas.

While FOR SA shares the Commission’s concerns about unscrupulous pastors who abuse their positions to manipulate the poor out of money for selfish gain, we are concerned that the scope of the investigation is overbroad and touches on matters of religious doctrine which, by law, are protected from State interference. We are also extremely concerned that the Commission’s proposed solution to the problem, namely “self-regulation” of religion (including the Church), is not a workable or constitutionally permissible solution and will ultimately do great damage to religious freedom in South Africa.

Note that “self-regulation” of the Church in the sense proposed by the Commission, does not mean that churches will be free to regulate, or govern, their own internal affairs, free from interference or restriction by the State or anyone else. Instead, what the Commission has proposed and what it intends by “self-regulation”, is that there should be a central oversight body, made up of representatives of the Christian faith, but which body is recognised by the State and has the power of the State behind it.

For more information about the dangers of the proposed regulation of religion, see the following articles on the FOR SA website:

Last year already, FOR SA met with the Commission to share our concerns and propose alternative solutions to regulation. On invitation of the Commission, FOR SA again addressed the Commission again in Cape Town on Friday, 12 February. Following our meeting with them, we remain very concerned. The Commission is determined to regulate religion and said that if they have to amend the Constitution to do so, they will. Far from protecting the Church in SA however, regulation will open the door to persecution of the Church. For that reason, it cannot and should not be supported!


  • Share FOR SA’s concerns regarding the proposed regulation of the Church, with your pastor and other Christian friends / networks; and
  • Encourage them to join FOR SA so that we may speak as a united voice, on behalf of the Church in SA, to the CRL Commission on this pressing issue.

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