Call for parliamentary committee to protect religious freedom

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Cheryllyn Dudley, ACDP MP and Chief Whip.

African Christian Democratic Party MP and Chief Whip Cheryllyn Dudley is calling for the establishment of a multi party parliamentary committee to focus on the promotion and protection of the “very important but often forgotten human right” of freedom of religion and belief.

Dudley, who believes that there is an urgent need for lawmakers to pay more attention to the impact of legislation and policy on freedom of religion and belief, has discussed her proposal with the Speaker, Baleka Mbete, and the Chief Whips of most parties including the EFF over the past week, and on Tuesday (February 10) she will meet with the DA Leader in Parliament, Mmusi Maimane.

“Some smaller parties have responded positively, no-one at this stage has responded negatively. The response of the ANC Chief Whip was very encouraging. Hon Stone Sizane has promised to research our options re ‘what kind of committee or structure’ this should be before it is put on the agenda of the Chief Whips Forum for discussion,” she says, adding that she expects to place the proposal on the agenda by the end of February.

Unifying effect
“We are hopeful that it [the establishment of a religious freedom and beliefs parliamentary committee] will have a unifying effect across parties and our efforts will impact positively throughout the country and even globally,” she says.

Dudley is one of 30 parliamentarians from around the world who met in Oslo, Norway, on November 8, 2014, to launch a global religious freedom coalition ( the International Panel of Parliamentarians) in the face of escalating religious freedom violations worldwide. Despite the religious, political and geographical diversity of the group, the IPP members signed a historic joint statement and were unified in agreeing to combat persecution and support the principles of religious freedom that are found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In a letter to the Speaker, motivating her proposal, Dudley says: “Human rights are not a list of rights from the most important to the least important – they are a collective and are all important — Freedom of Religion and Belief however, has taken on an orphan-like status. For this reason the need to remind ourselves and the global community of the importance of Freedom of Religion and Belief is not just evident but urgent.”

The letter continues: “Freedom of Region or Belief gives people their identity and the freedom to form and express personal beliefs — it is also a protection of Human Rights in general. Freedom of Religion or belief protects, not only those who believe in a God (Religious groups), but those who do not (atheists), and those who believe it is impossible to know whether there is a God or not (agnostics).

Violent conflict
“Freedom of Religion is restricted in many parts of the world and it is restricted in different ways. According to NGOs working on the ground, there is often a connection between high restrictions on Freedom of Religion and Belief in a society and high levels of violent conflict and military spending. Poor economic development, a low status and participation of women in social and economic matters and poor health are also generally evident.

“It is important to note that protecting Freedom of Religion or Belief is not about protecting religions and beliefs from criticism or even ridicule – it is about the freedom of people themselves to believe in different religions or concepts.

“The rights agreed on in international documents such as article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on civil and Political Rights stress that everyone has a right to:
* HAVE a religion or belief
* CHANGE his or her religion or belief
* MANIFEST or show his or her religion or belief.

“As a leader in a political party which represents people with very strong religious beliefs I have contemplated these complex issues for years and come to the following conclusions:

“Everyone must have the right to decide for themselves what to believe or not believe and this must include the right to change or abandon a belief and this should never be legally limited.

“Everyone must have the right to practice and express his/her religion in both private and public. (Where these rights impose on other rights reasonable limitations may be necessary.)

“The State has a responsibility to respect, protect and promote human rights but many States are the ones committing human rights violations, so it is important for people to know what their rights are. Violations can come from restrictive or unfair laws and regulations, state harassment, monitoring, raids and imprisonment without legitimate legal processes. They can also occur at the hands of neighbors and communities if the state fails to take action against acts of hostility.”

The letter closes with a call on Parliament to consider initiatives to protect freedom of religion and belief, beginning with the establishment of a multi party parliamentary committee to oversee the impact of legislation, policy and their implementation on reeligious freedom or belief.

7 Comments

  1. From: Johan Malan
    Sent: Wednesday, February 04, 2015 2:52 PM
    To: Hanno
    Subject: Freedom of Religion and Belief.

    Hierdie komitee het dalk ‘n eerbare doel, maar begewe homself op ‘n pad wat met slaggate, dorings en distels besaai is. Godsdiensvryheid is natuurlik ‘n uiters belangrike saak, daarom moet alles moontlik tydens die opstel van ‘n grondwet gedoen word om regte in hierdie verband konstitusioneel te verskans. Wanneer dit eers gedoen is, moet godsdienstige kwessies liefs nie veel in die kalklig kom nie, veral om die volgende redes:
    Sekulêr georiënteerde regerings probeer dikwels om die steun van godsdiensgroepe te verkry. Weens die groot verskeidenheid gelowe verkies hulle om met intergeloofs- en ekumeniese forums te skakel, bv. die SA Raad van Kerke, ens. Geloofsgroepe word dus beïnvloed om by sulke verteenwoordigende liggame betrokke te raak, maar veral vir evageliese groepe is dit hoogs problematies (vgl. Joh. 14:6).
    Skakeling tussen regerings en geloofsgroepe gaan gewoonlik oor humanitêre kwessies soos vrede, eenheid, armoedeverligting, ens. In die proses sekulariseer baie van hulle en begin oormatiglik by ‘n menslik georiënteerde koninkryksteologie betrokke te raak. Sodoende word hulle werklike roeping ondermyn.
    Hoe minder godsdienstige wrywing daar in ‘n gemeenskap is, hoe beter. Regerings wat gedwing word om vrede tussen sulke groepe te maak, neig dikwels daartoe om ‘n grondwetlike klousule teen haatspraak tot so ‘n mate af te dwing dat niemand meer teen dwalings en valse gelowe kan waarsku sonder om in die moeilikheid te kom nie. Dit kan dus erg negatiewe gevolge vir die evangeliese Christene hê om aanhoudend vir meer regte te probeer beding.
    Die praktyk het in ander lande geleer dat die nie-Christelike gelowe en liberale Christelike kerke veel meer aanklank by regerings vind as die evangeliese Christendom, met die gevolg dat laasgenoemde gewoonlik die lydende party in skikkings is.
    Christene wat op hierdie komitees dien, moet van moontlike negatiewe verwikkelings en assosiasies bewus wees, hulle nie in ‘n ekumeniese blik laat druk of vir politieke doelstellings laat misbruik nie.

  2. Rev Ian Karshagen

    Being I believe the most important right for every human being, is the right to salvation. Religious rights are necessary ethically speaking, but Christians cannot allow their voices to be silenced, otherwise it removes the opportunity for seekers to enjoy this right of salvation, or on the other hand, to use that same right choose a lost eternity.

  3. Bless you Ms Dudley, for this initiative. May it succeed.In Joshua 24:15 Yahweh’s own people Israel were given Option of choosing between three Religions. This endorsed Religious Freedom, and the freedom to change one’s religion. As Christians, we will not force conversion, but as Ian says, the right to choose is essential.

    Back in the early 1990s I represented the evangelical community at an InterFaith conference in Pretoria to draft a “Bill of Religious Rights”. The Conference endorsed my Motion for the Right to Change one’s Religion. Afterwards, the published Document omitted this clause. When I asked WHY? the Conference Organiser told me that he was (blackmailed) by the Muslims: “Remove that clause or we won’t sign the document”.

    So this new Committee must be resolute in defending “Everyone must have the right to decide for themselves what to believe or not believe and this must include the right to change or abandon a belief and this should never be legally limited.”
    Let’s pray for this success. If such a right is not endorsed, the committee will be toothless.

    There should be no place for religious extremism in SA, such as that of the Imam who told me “You do not deserve to live unless you are a Muslim”.

  4. I applaud the mature and motive manner in which ACDP handled this matter. We really need people looking after our religious interest in parliament .

  5. This could herald a political return to God in parliament and salvation of our beloved country from the looming evils that are at present manifesting.

  6. Thank you for this initiative Cheryllyn; it is long overdue and so necessary in this world, including South Africa: where most governing bodies have cast aside the restraints laid upon us by the very maker of this world and the universe, choosing rather to serve themselves, rather than make sacrifices for others more worthy.Peter McGregor.

  7. Well done and God bless you regarding this watershed initiative.As an educationist of 41 years standing I know this is sorely needed.My prayer is that God would work, through His Holy Spirit,in the formation of the right people for this committee.Please be assured of the prayer support you will need.Choicest blessings as you Honour God in this way.Jeff Fetting.