While it is disturbed by apparent abuses within religious communities, the cure proposed by the CRL Rights Commission — to regulate religious bodies and licence religious practitioners — would be a thousand times worse than the described disease, says the Christian Citizenship Network of the Baptist Union of Southern Africa.
Calling on the commission to withdraw its regulation proposal in its report on the “commercialisation” of religion and abuse of people’s belief systems, the Baptist Union says the commission’s proposal grants too much governmental control of religious activities such as the establishment of government appointed bodies over religions, powers to licence religious practitioners and bodies, defining the criteria to which a religion must conform to be recognised and powers to regulate, control and discipline members.
The CRL Rights Commission released its report on October 26 and has invited comments by no later than Friday November 18. Comments can be submitted directly to the Commission at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA) has invited church leaders to contact them at email@example.com , either to adding their support to the submissions that FOR SA will make, or for assistance in preparing their own submissions.
In a media statement released today the Baptist Union says: “We propose that where religious leaders and practitioners (irrespective of belief or conviction) are guilty of promoting illegal, unethical or harmful practices affecting the health and welfare of citizens they must be prosecuted per existing law; where false claims are advertised, the Advertisement Standards Authority; where animals are abused, the SPCA; where foreigners work in the country illegally, Home Affairs; where churches don’t conform to financial regulations, SARS.
“As Baptists, we affirm the autonomy of the local church; as such a constituted church meeting is, under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, the highest court of authority for the local church. We affirm religious liberty; as such no individual should be coerced either by the State or by any secular, ecclesiastical or religious group in matters of faith. We affirm the right of private conscience. We affirm that the Church and State differ in their respective natures and functions; and as such the Church is not to be identified with the State nor is it, in its faith or practice, to be directed or controlled by the State.
“We call for the proposals made in the CRL commission’s report to be withdrawn.”