It has been an exceptionally busy year, with FOR SA assisting various churches, Christian ministries and businesses with regard to (threats of) legal cases opened up against them. In addition, we have made representations with regard to a number of policies and draft Bills potentially impacting on religious freedom.
The three most important and pressing matters right now, are:
The Hate Crimes & Hate Speech Bill
Following a public outcry, the deadline for comments has been extended to 31 January 2017. Comments can be submitted to [email protected].
The Deputy Minister’s PA has further advised that we could attempt to set up a meeting(s) with the Deputy Minister, where the religious community can directly engage with him with regard to our concerns from a religious freedom point of view. We are in the process of arranging this and will let you have the details in due course.
- FOR SA will prepare a simple example response to the Bill, which it will distribute by Tuesday, 17 January. Churches and/or individuals can submit this response in their own name, OR use it to draft their own response for submission by 31 January. (Keep checking our website in this regard!)
- We remind you of the online Petition, which we encourage you to sign and share as widely as possible!
A copy of the Bill can be downloaded HERE. Scroll down to and click on “Hate Speech Bill”.
The CRL’s proposed regulation of religion
Following a request by FOR SA on behalf of 50+ churches, denominations and faith groups, the deadline for comments on the CRL Rights Commission’s Report was extended to 28 February 2017. (We subsequently approached the Commission for a further extension until 1 June in order to allow for proper consultation and input, but have not yet had a response). Comments can be submitted to [email protected].
FOR SA has since met with representatives of the Council for Religious Rights and Freedoms (CRRF), the body overseeing the Charter for Religious Rights and Freedoms, to discuss the Report and the recommendations made by the CRL, in detail and consider its implications from a legal (and practical) point of view. We believe, and submit to you, that our approach to the Report, roughly and without going into the detail here, should be along the following lines:
- We agree that there are real problems / abuses taking place in the name of faith;
- We share the CRL’s concerns, and appreciate their efforts in investigating this issue and wanting to do something about it;
- The answer to the actual problems identified by the CRL in their Report, is not regulation however. Why not?
- The proposed regulation will make serious inroads on the right to religious freedom and freedom of association, and are in fact unconstitutional;
- It will give too much power to the State, thereby opening the door to potential abuse of political power;
- It is unnecessary (as all the problems identified by the CRL in their Report, can be addressed through enforcement of existing laws);
- Regulation will not solve the actual problems identified by the CRL in their Report (i.e. is ineffective); and
- Practically, and given in particular the diverse nature of the faith community in SA, the proposed regulation is unworkable.
- In the circumstances, and as an ALTERNATIVE proposal for the actual problems identified in the Report, we propose:
- That existing legislation be implemented / enforced, where unlawful / criminal activities take place in the name of faith;
- That, where necessary, existing law be supplemented or improved (rather than creating a new law, requiring additional resource and capacity. This, when the State is finding it difficult enough to implement and enforce the existing legislation!).
- We are now starting to prepare a draft response (along the above lines) to the CRL’s Report. To this end, please let us know if you are not in agreement with, or have any comments on, the approach we intend to adopt in our response on the Report, by no later than Wednesday, 18 January. (To the extent that your institution has already prepared any comments on / response to the Report, you are also very welcome to send us a copy! It is indeed very useful to have a sense of the collective thinking on this matter).
- The Task Team made up of representatives from FOR SA, the CRRF and various religious institutions will be preparing a draft response to the Report, which we will circulate at the end of January / beginning February. This leaves a month to either add your support to the Task Team’s response, or use our response to prepare your own comments before the deadline of 28 February.
- We also remind you of the online Petition – please sign and share as widely as possible!
A copy of the CRL Rights Commission’s Report can be downloaded HERE. Scroll down to and click on “CRL Report on Commercialisation of Religion”.
OGOD v Laerskool Randhart & Others (Jhb High Court)
In this matter, FOR SA’s Legal Counsel has been seconded to the legal team acting for the Council for Religious Rights and Freedoms (CRRF), who was admitted as a “Friend of the Court”.
Contrary to what has been reported in the media / through social media, the matter has not yet been heard and will not be heard until at least May next year. The parties are currently in the process of securing a hearing date from the Deputy Judge President – watch FOR SA website for details!