This week has seen the State proposing two pieces of legislation which arguably pose one of the greatest threats to religious freedom (including the autonomy of the Church to govern her own affairs) and free speech in South Africa yet! If we do not take action on these, our freedom to believe, speak, and lives our lives according to the Word of God may well be forever changed.
CRL Report on Regulation of Religion
On Wednesday, October 26 2016 the CRL Rights Commission released its Report on the “commercialisation” of religion and abuse of people’s belief systems, on its website (http://www.crlcommission.org.za/download-documents.html – scroll down to “Commercialisation Report”). Pages 31 – 39 contain the Commission’s proposals for regulation, and are most important (and most concerning!).
The CRL Rights Commission has invited comments on the Report, by no later than FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 18 2016. Comments can be submitted directly to the Commission at firstname.lastname@example.org
Hate Crimes & Hate Speech Bill
This week also, the Department of Justice released the long-awaited draft Hate Crimes & Hate Speech Bill. A copy of the Bill is available on the Department’s website at http://www.justice.gov.za/legislation/bills/2016-HateCrimes-HateSpeechBill.pdf.
This Bill will make certain offences a “hate crime” (and as such, carry a heavier sentence) if the offence was motivated, for example, by the victim’s race, gender or sexual orientation etc.
What is really concerning about the Bill however, is the extremely broad definition of “hate speech” (section 4 of the Bill), which includes in its scope any communication that is considered “abusive or insulting” and intending to “bring into contempt or ridicule” a person or group of persons on the basis of, for example, their gender, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity etc. (Related offences include the distribution, including through e-mail or social media, of communications that contain such “hate speech”).
Needless to say, this definition will have dire implications for Christians, and will make it illegal to speak certain Scriptures which people holding to a non-Biblical worldview, may regard as “offensive”. In terms of the Bill, “hate speech” offenders will be sentenced to a fine or 3 years’ imprisonment, and a fine or 10 years’ imprisonment for a repeated offence!
The deadline for comments on the Bill, is THURSDAY, 1 DECEMBER 2016. (The Department intends to introduce the Bill in Parliament in March 2017 already!). Comments can be submitted directly to the Department of Justice at email@example.com
A united voice
As an organisation that works to protect religious freedom in South Africa, Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA) is extremely concerned about the impact that these proposed laws will have on religious freedom, free speech and the autonomy of the Church to govern her own affairs. As such, FOR SA will be submitting comments both on the CRL’s Report and the Hate Crimes Bill.
Church leaders who share FOR SA’s concerns, are welcome to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org – either with a view to adding their support to the submissions that FOR SA will ultimately make, or preparing their own submissions on the back of ours. We also welcome any input that you may have in this regard!
We have not been given much time to act, but act we must – for the sake of our own freedom, but also that of generations to come! What we do, or fail to do, today, could forever change the religious landscape of our country. Pray for us as we defend our freedoms before government and Parliament, but also stand with us – together, we can make a change for the good of our country and ultimately, for His glory!
*For more information about FOR SA, to join the organisation (at no cost) and/or sign up to our Newsletter, visit www.forsa.org.za Also follow us on Facebook at “Freedom of Religion SA”.
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 doors open for the Gospel by advocating for religious freedom. We appreciate every gift, big or small! To make a donation (through EFT or Payfast), visit http://forsa.org.za/donate/