Call for public action on two urgent religious freedom threats

Freedom of Religion South Africa has called on SA Christians to take action on two urgent matters that pose serious threats to our religious freedom

The first call is to participate in a DEAR MR PRESIDENT campaign that FOR SA has initiated

“We are asking every individual or organisation to take two minutes and send a letter of appeal directly to the President, asking him not to sign the Hate Speech Bil but rather to send it back to the National Assembly,” says Michael Swain executive director of FOR SA

He says the President has the power under section 79 of the South African Constitution to send back any bill that he believes is unconstitutional — “and this surely is. It contravenes the Constitution’s founding value of the rule of the law by failing to define the essential element of ‘hate’.”

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“The result is that citizens are unable to know beforehand whether they are committing a crime or not. The penalty is up to FIVE years in jail!”

You can easily participate in this campaign by clicking here.

The second matter is a call on all Christians to make use of the final opportunity to push back against the so-called Spy Bill before the deadline for public comment on Thursday February 15.

The controversial General Intelligence Laws Amendment Bill, 2023 (or “Spy Bill”) was introduced in Parliament on November 17 last year. The first version of the bill was so glaringly unconstitutional that the parliamentary law advisors produced a second, apparently improved, version.

The revised version was opened for public comment from December 17 to January 31 – a time when many people were on holiday. After FOR SA wrote to Parliament requesting more time for public comment the deadline was extended to February 15.

FOR SA is concerned that the Spy Bill’s overly broad and open-ended definitions will enable the South African Intelligence Agency (i.e. spies) to subject South Africans – including religious institutions, their leaders and members – to invasive, secret vetting investigations. The outcome of these “security competence tests” will determine whether these institutions and individuals are provided with security clearance certificates, or not.

Ultimately, this could lead to forcibly shutting the doors of those religious institutions that are refused security clearance, says FOR SA. This is tantamount to direct state interference with religion: the State deciding who can and who cannot have a church, a mosque, a synagogue, a temple, etc.

While protecting national security is important the Spy Bill could be abused to silence critical voices or those who refuse to bend to the will of those in power, says FOR SA.

In essence, the bill legalises mass surveillance – including the scrutinising of financial records and private communications. There is also a lack of proper oversight mechanisms to prevent abuse of power or legal recourse when abuse occurs. You can comment quickly and easily by visiting www.forsa.org.za and selecting your desired option on the STOP THE SPY BILL! banner. Individuals can submit their comments through the DearSA platform and organisations can download an organisational template.

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