12 October 2017
– by Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA)
Controversy is growing over the CRL Rights Commission’s claim that some major Christian organisations and groups support their recommendation to license (and thereby control) religion in South Africa. This claim was made in the CRL’s official Annual Report presented to Parliament last week, and in which they stated that the South African Council of Churches (SACC) and The Evangelical Alliance of South Africa (TEASA) are among “the structures supporting the CRL recommendations on Commercialisation project” .
“This is at best a gross exaggeration and at worst deliberately misleading and dishonest,” says Michael Swain, Executive Director of Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA). “This is doubly concerning since, as a Chapter 9 Institution, the CRL should be above reproach.”
FOR SA’s assertion is supported by the fact that some key stakeholders and religious leaders are on record as making strong statements to the contrary:
- Bishop Zipho Siwa – presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa (MCSA) and President of the SACC – said in a media release that “in whatever ‘self-regulatory’ terms this is couched, these regulatory bodies will be state-appointed, state-funded and state-controlled. As a result, the proposed legislation effectively amounts to state regulation of religion.”
- Stephen Brislin, Archbishop of Cape Town and President of the Southern Africa Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) is on record as saying that “a recommendation that new laws be introduced to enforce registration of pastors and ministers is overkill and a response that one would expect more from a totalitarian state than a constitutional democracy”.
- The Anglican Church of Southern Africa states in its submission to the CRL, that if legislation along the lines suggested by the Commission is proceeded with, the Church “will petition the President not to sign the legislation as passed by Parliament, that a Constitutional Court objection would be a matter of penultimate resort and that the last resort must be defiance of an unjust law.”
- TEASA’s submission to the COGTA Parliamentary Portfolio Committee lists seven major concerns with the CRL’s submission and reminds that CRL its “mandate is defined in the Constitution is ‘to promote and protect” the religious rights of communities’. Not to take them away! The proposal to give to itself the power to license religious practitioners trespasses into the space of freedom of religion.”
- The SACC point out in their statement that there needs to be a lot more consultation across the religious community, especially as the CRL’s proposal will affect the whole religious community of South Africa and fundamentally alter the existing relationship between the State and this community. They specifically state that “NO legislation or enactment of the CRL’s proposal should even be considered before such broad-based consultation has taken place.”
Nevertheless, since the CRL’s Annual Report has already been tabled and presented to Parliament, the statement contained in their Annual Report will be taken as the official position of these organisations unless/until they make a further statement to clarify their position.
Since further hearings into the CRL’s “Commercialisation of religion” Report are taking place before the COGTA Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Tuesday 18th and Wednesday 19th October, FOR SA believes that it is important that these organisations do provide clarification on their positions before these hearings take place or at the hearings themselves.
Article source: www.forsa.org.za