By Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA)
From Monday May 15 to Wednesday May 17 the Johannesburg High Court will hear arguments in the controversial case of OGOD vs Laerskool Randhart, Laerskool Baanbreker, Laerskool Garsfontein, Hoërskool Linden, Hoërskool Oudtshoorn and Langenhoven Gimnasium.
Although the case is only against these six public schools (all of whom have a Christian ethos and hold to Christian values), the outcome of the case will have a direct impact on all 24 000+ public schools in South Africa.
OGOD, an atheist organisation, is asking the Court to find that it is against the National Policy on Religion and Education, and against the SA Constitution, for any public school to have a religious (i.e. Christian) ethos.
OGOD is also asking for an interdict, ordering the schools to stop certain religious (i.e. Christian specific) practices. (For more information about the case, and why it is so important, see http://gatewaynews.co.za/watershed-case-on-religion-in-schools-in-court-in-may/)
The case is opposed by the six schools, represented by the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools (FEDSAS). Other parties include the Minister of Basic Education, and the Minister of Justice and Correctional Service.
Various organisations have been admitted as “friends of the court”, including the SA Council for the Protection and Promotion of Religious Rights and Freedoms (SACRRF, representing approximately 22 million+ believers from diverse faith groups in South Africa), the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC), and Cause for Justice (CFJ).
The case took an interesting turn of events towards the end of last month, when the SA Onderwysunie (SAOU) announced its withdrawal as friend of the court. The withdrawal followed an outcry by SAOU’s members, the public and various organisations, who were upset that the union, in its latest papers filed with the court, had made a complete turnaround from the position initially held with regard to the case (i.e. supporting the schools’ right to a religious ethos). (To read more, see http://maroelamedia.co.za/nuus/sa-nuus/nog-n-wending-in-die-skolegodsdienshofsaak/)
Consequent to SAOU’s withdrawal, both Solidarity and Afriforum have now applied to be admitted as “friends of the court” – as has the National Association of School Governing Bodies (NASGB).
Call to prayer
There is no doubt that this is a time for us as Christians in South Africa, to pray and cry out to the Lord for our nation!
Many of us are aware of and participating in the IFSA “Bless the Nation 50 Days of Prayer” initiative – a mass mobilisation of prayer on a national level for a 50-day period from Resurrection Sunday (16 April) to Pentecost Sunday (4 June), in pursuit of a transformed nation under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
Every week during these 50 days, a blessing is prayed over a different aspect of South Africa. As God, in His foresight and wisdom would have it, the prayer focus this week has been on education!
The OGOD case could potentially have severe ramifications for religious freedom and ultimately for the spreading of the gospel, in South Africa.
Should OGOD be successful, the effect will be that teachers and learners will be silenced from speaking or testifying about God in a school context. They will not be allowed to read the bible or pray (either individually, or together with other Christians) at school.
Creationism, as a biblical teaching, will be banned from schools. Learners will not be allowed to participate in Christian activities at school, and Christian societies will also be banned.
Doors will be shut to pastors and Christian ministries working into schools.
In a nutshell, our schools will become sterile environments to the seed of the gospel – this, when statistics have shown, that between 80 – 85% of believers make a commitment to Jesus Christ before the age of 18!
James 5:16 says that The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. Given the importance of the OGOD case and the major impact it could potentially have on our religious freedom, not only now but for generations to come, we ask that you would stand with us in prayer for the preparation, and actual hearing next week.
Specific prayer points
Some specific things to pray for, include:
- That God will be honoured in the process and outcome of this case (and in particular, that the outcome would protect rather than curb religious freedom in SA);
- For the parties involved in the case (including OGOD, the schools and the various “friends of the court”);
- For the legal teams involved in the case, in particular also the Christian lawyers involved to clearly state their case and that God will give us His Spirit of wisdom and revelation; and
- For the Judge who will be hearing the case.
Judgment in the matter is likely to be reserved. For regular updates on the case during next week’s hearing however, follow FOR SA on Facebook at “Freedom of Religion SA”.
*Note: Although FOR SA is not a party in the case, we have been assisting the Council for the Protection and Promotion of Religious Rights and Freedoms, who is a “friend of the court” in this case and will be in Court for the hearing.
Support FOR SA
Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA) is dedicated to protecting and preserving the freedoms and rights that the South African Constitution has granted to the faith community. You can help FOR SA protect our freedom by:
Joining FOR SA and subscribing to our Newsletter (both at no cost), at www.forsa.org.za; Following us on Facebook at “Freedom of Religion SA”; and
Making a financial contribution to FOR SA at http://forsa.org.za/donate/ As a non-profit organisation, we are entirely dependent upon God’s grace for finances. Your generosity will help make a significant difference as we work to fulfil our mission to keep the Gospel free by advocating for religious freedom.