Religious communities should take up an invitation by a parliamentary committee to comment on a report calling for regulation of religion in South Africa, says Freedom of Religion SA (FOR SA) in an urgent update emailed to its constituents today.
If religious leaders do not respond promptly to the CRL Rights Commission’s “unnecessary, unworkable and unconstitutional” proposals to licence all religious practitioners and places of worship, parliament could assume the proposals were acceptable and adopt them, warns FOR SA.
It says religious leaders have until August 31 to send submissions on the CRL’s report on “commercialisation of religion and abuse of people’s belief systems” to the parliamentary portfolio committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA).
The FOR SA update says that while there is widespread support for the concerns that the CRL has highlighted (such as people being forced to drink petrol, etc.), the CRL has ignored reason and the voice of the Church in pursuit of its agenda to enforce state regulation and control of religion in SA. It says the CRL ignored every submission presenting and detailing alternative, viable and well-supported solutions to every issue they have identified.
The update [view update here] summarises FOR SA’s main concerns, provides contact details for making submissions to the COGTA portfolio committee, lists possible action steps, and provides links to additional resources.
Presentations of report
The CRL presented its report to the parliamentary committee on June 27 and to the media in Johannesburg on Tuesday.
Following the CRL media presentation, the SABC reported that CRL chairperson Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said that “the circus will be over” and there will be “peace and order” in the country if parliament implements all of their proposals.
According to Africa News Network Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said most “reasonable religious leaders” support the CRL’s report.
But Michael Swain executive director of FOR SA, which represents more than six million people from 277 denominations, fraternals, churches and other religious groups, told Gateway News: “I am in the process of speaking to the senior leaders of denominations and other faith groups and to date they have unanimously stated two things:
“1 – They have not been notified by the CRL of their final report, nor that this was being taken to parliament without further consultation
“2. They confirm that they do not agree with the proposal by the CRL to license (and thereby control) religion in South Africa and they will be opposing this.”
He said FOR SA had tried on numerous occasions to meet with the CRL since it sent them a submission in February. But the commission had declined to meet with them in person, although they attended an open meeting in Kuils River and were notified at the last minute of the portfolio committee hearing on June 27.
He said they attended the hearing where the CRL took close to three hours to present their report. But FOR SA did get an opportunity to speak briefly about its concerns.
“We were given an assurance by the COGTA Chairperson, Mzameni Mdakane, that we would be accorded a further opportunity to present to this portfolio committee,” he said.
The COGTA parliamentary committee has also invited members of the religious community to makes submissions on the CRL report.