Bill attacks freedom of speech — our right to tell people what they don’t want to hear

Michael Swain
Michael Swain, FOR SA Executive Director

It is a sad day for democracy and the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression when the State decides to legislate what is (or is not) acceptable speech, and further prescribes criminal sanctions in the form of fines and jail time for those who may be found guilty or breaking the nebulous and undefined boundaries they prescribe.

This is exactly the situation we are facing following the recent publication of the Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill, on which comments and submissions are due Tuesday January 31 2017.

While the apparent and commendable intention of the bill is to help redress incidents of racism and xenophobia, it is concerning that it significantly extends the scope of “hate speech” while at the same time lowers the threshold of what will qualify as “hate speech”.

– Submitting comments on the Bill by no later than next week Tuesday January 31.
-To make it easy, FOR SA has prepared a sample submission which can be downloaded at Church organisations or individuals can copy/paste the submission, or use it to prepare their own submission, and then e-mail the submission to

– Signing the Petition at and share as far and wide as possible!- Joining FOR SA and signing up to our Newsletter (at no cost) at

– Also follow us on Facebook at “Freedom of Religion SA”

– Helping us protect our freedom, by making a donation towards our work at We appreciate every gift – big and small!

– Praying for our country, and for God’s wisdom and favour on our work.

Section 4(1) of the Bill defines “hate speech” as speech that is “threatening, abusive or insulting” and which has the potential to “bring into contempt or ridicule”. All of the aforementioned terms are undefined in the bill, which leaves the bill wide open to multiple interpretations and unfair applications.

It is true that freedom of speech must have some limitations – and it does.

The laws against defamation mean that you cannot say or write something untrue that will damage another person’s reputation.

Our laws also do not allow you standing up in a crowded theatre and shouting “Fire!” when the lights go down, and then claiming innocence of any injuries caused in the subsequent stampede for the exits.

We also have the common law crime of crimen injuria (willful injury to dignity) and the Equality Act, which provide ample legal sanctions against “hate speech” and it was under these very laws that Penny Sparrow was recently sanctioned for her racist remarks.

However, and most importantly in our current context, the South African Constitution clearly recognises the value of freedom of speech by narrowly defining “hate speech”. Section 16(2)(c) limits “hate speech” to speech that amounts to “an advocacy of hatred … that constitutes incitement to cause harm”.

In terms of South African case law, the question of whether speech in fact “advocates hatred” and further “incites harm” (both elements of which need to be present in order to qualify as “hate speech”), is an objective enquiry.

It asks whether a reasonable person, assessing the “advocacy of hatred” within the particular context, would objectively conclude that there was a real likelihood that the speech in question would cause harm.

Although not yet properly tested at a Constitutional Court level, it is likely that if someone advocates “Kill the farmer, kill the Boer” and then encourages the audience to “Go now and burn, loot and pillage their farms”, this would constitute “hate speech” because both these elements are fulfilled.

“Grace Bible Church” incident
The recent incident at Grace Bible Church is a great illustration of the way our constitutional rights can live in harmony.

To give a brief re-cap of the events, well know TV Idols judge Somizi Mhlongo walked out of a Sunday service at Grace Bible Church when the visiting pastor, while addressing various behaviours that the bible identifies as sinful, said that homosexual acts were “unnatural”.

The position of the Church, subsequently clarified in a media statement, is that homosexuals are welcome to attend their services and that they do not discriminate against them in any way.

However, the Church equally affirmed that it adheres to the traditional Biblical position that marriage (and sexual relations) are reserved for a man and a woman in a monogamous, lifetime relationship.

In this instance, the Church was simply exercising its right to freedom of religion in terms of the South Africa Constitution (section 15).

In a nutshell, these can be described as (i) the right to have a belief (ii) the right to express that belief publicly and (iii) the right to manifest that belief by worship and practise, teaching and dissemination.

Specifically, in the Constitutional Court case of National Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality and Another v Minister of Justice and Others, Judge Sachs held that “persons who for reasons of religious or other belief disagree with or condemn homosexual conduct are free to hold and articulate such beliefs.”

Mr Mhlongo equally has the right to believe whatever he wants, and to say what it is he believes or does not believe.

He therefore exercised those rights by voting with his feet and by taking to social media to express his offence with the message at Grace Bible Church.

Mr Mhlongo further has the constitutional right to choose for himself which church or other religious gathering, he chooses to attend or associate with.

If he cannot associate himself with the religious convictions and beliefs of Grace Bible Church, he has every right to choose another church or gathering that believes differently.

While Mr Mhlongo may not agree with or like what was preached (or indeed the Church’s position on homosexual relationships) — that does not make it hate speech.

It is important to note that while the constitution protects us from the negative effects of hate speech, it does not grant us the right not to be offended.

Freedom of speech is by definition offensive, since it is there to allow for robust debate and a range of opinions to be expressed.

It is not there to ensure that the current status quo of political correctness is protected, nor is it there to create “safe spaces” where any speech that is potentially offensive is banned.

On the contrary, our constitution recognises that we live in a pluralistic society where people hold diverse beliefs and views on matters, and which further guarantees that we are all free to express our views, openly and without fear of punishment.

The price tag of this freedom is that we need to be willing to tolerate views that are different to our own – even views that we may find to be personally offensive, disturbing or shocking.

George Orwell once famously said: “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they don’t want to hear!”

This is what free speech in a truly free society really means. Without the freedom to offend, free speech and free thoughts cannot truly exist.

Hate speech laws are therefore very illiberal and also potentially very dangerous. In the words of former US Federal Judge Michael McConnell: “Speech is constitutionally protected – not because we doubt the speech [may] inflict harm, but because we fear censorship more.”

Thus, even in a context where people may “misuse” their right to free speech (or even use it to offend), this is a risk that open and democratic societies must take.

By contrast, the focus of the impact of hate speech in terms of the current bill is completely subjective, centering on the feelings and perceptions of the “victim”.

As such, it is in conflict with (and in contrast to) established case law, and it will in all likelihood be abused by an array of activists who are completely intolerant of viewpoints that conflict with their current version of political correctness.

No doubt, some people will think that the change of law proposed by the bill is a good thing because it will shut down bigots and other “haters”.

However, the whole purpose of protecting freedom of speech is to ensure that people are free to express opinions that may not be popular and may even be found by some to be deeply offensive.

If we are not careful and alert, we are in danger of seeing one of the most-hard won freedoms being swept away in the stroke of a pen.

The Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill can be viewed at (scroll down to and click on “Hate Speech Bill”).
Submitting comments on the Bill by no later than next week Tuesday, 31 January. To make it easy, FOR SA has prepared a sample submission which can be downloaded at Church organisations or individuals can copy/paste the submission, or use it to prepare their own submission, and then e-mail the submission to
Signing the Petition at and share as far and wide as possible!
Joining FOR SA and signing up to our Newsletter (at no cost) at Also follow us on Facebook at “Freedom of Religion SA”
Helping us protect our freedom, by making a donation towards our work at We appreciate every gift – big and small!
Praying for our country, and for God’s wisdom and favour on our work.


  1. Honour to you for wishing what is right. However, South Africa is no longer a republic, but a demoncrazy. And if you look throughout history and present day geographical history, you will notice one ominous presence in a lot of oppressed nations: They call themselves “democratic”.

    They are not wrong, merely untruthful. Because they have free and fair elections, and the people MUST vote for the single candidate. Or if there are two, either they are in league or, well, we know about the unopened ballot boxes that have already been marked. Happened with every election since 1994.

    Our country needs not another law or/and petition against it; our country needs to return to YHWH and his Son as the God of South Africa. The First Commandment states that YHWH is the ONLY god for His people; the elaboration thereon, is that He want no other gods in His sight. So much that He even told Israel that He does not even want to hear the names of the devils worshiped by other nations, in the mouths of His nation.

    In return for His protection, South Africa had chosen to betray the covenant at Blood River; imported Rick Warren’s One World Religion- inciting Purpose Drivel Lies; sold churches to be turned into mosques; supported the building of a constitution that puts Man as the highest being (the entire ideology behind Human Rights – otherwise, a Godly nation would focus on human duties, that conveniently are discarded in the name of socialist equality); implemented an illegal system that puts itself in the place of Jesus Christ by calling the innocent guilty and the guilty innocent (it is written, cursed be he who does this); removed Creation from the schools and forces evolution although there has never been any physical, tested proof of Darwin’s lie; pushing the geologic column although the only place on earth where the column is found as in the textbooks, is in the other text books….

    To quote Mike Hoggard (you probably never heard of him, because he’s neither a charismatric, nor in it for the money): you cannot go to heaven while calling God a liar.

    Take a chapter out of Leviticus and another out of Deuteronomy; remove anything remotely negative from Isaiah 43, keep only the pretty words that people want to hear. Wipe Matthew 23 entirely, because that is “Un-christlike”; and you have the modern churches’ modern, powerless gospel. Wherewith the pastor poison their flocks to:

    1. Have other gods (YOU are the most important to God? – no, He does things for His Name, NOT Man’s (Is.48, Is.66, Ez.20)). And no, allah/satan and brahma are NOT the same as YHWH.
    2. Make and worship idols (visualise your destiny (which is also witchcraft, which is ONLY hated throughout the Bible by YHWH); be sweet and kind when dealing with sin, you might hurt others’ feelings – again, wipe Matthew 23 if that’s the stance in the church).
    3. Use the Name of YHWH blasphemously. Begin by calling ALL people God’s people/ children. So what happened to the idea of the Pharisees not accepting the words of Jesus, because they are OF THEIR FATHER THE DEVIL? By saying all people are God’s Children, He is blasphemed by making Him equal to allah/satan/lucifer/brahma and whatever gods you wish to add to the mix.
    4. Contempt the Sabbath. No, not the Seventh Day; the Day in which you claimed that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Saviour, in which you entered into His Rest (Sabbath = rest; Sabbath day – rest day). By claiming Once Saved, Always Saved, by claiming the Law does not stand any more – oh it stands, very much so, and when you choose to go out under the protection of Jesus Christ (because we have FREEDOM IN CHRIST), that hammer of judgement SHALL crush you until/ unless you repent. Or die, after which there is only Hell to pay.
    5. Disobey their mother and father. Because the woman is everything and the man must obey her. A body where the neck decides for the head is dead. Nothing about the woman must submit to her man and support him. There’s a little blasphemy doing the rounds on FB, that a man must create a heaven for his woman if he wants his angel to live with him. No, the angels were created to serve YHWH and to be servants to Man, YHWH did not create angels to rule over Him. Likewise He created woman to serve and support man, not to rule over man. Nor to cast man out of his own house when she decides to leave for her own ego. Women’s rights is merely a physical embodiment of satan’s (fallen ANGEL) rebellion wish to cast YHWH (FATHER God who OWNS the Kingdom) out of His Kingdom.
    6. Kill when you feel like it. Of course not, that would be silly. Really? Except for war and protection of others, killing is never justified. War is, to protect what YHWH gave to His people. Protection, to keep others from getting harmed by a killer. Yes, the death penalty is a Godly institution. And by removing the population’s freedom to protect themselves from attackers/ rapers, murderers, both by law and by disarming them, murderers and rapers and human traffickers have freedom to reign the land as they wish. And somehow, the humanists in charge refuse to see that vigilantes are merely the extension of their refusal to deal in the God prescribed way with murderers, rapers and human traffickers.
    7. Take any woman you want, even though she is another man’s. In a majority part, by excusing divorce for any reason. Shame her ego is damaged. It is easy to feel pity, because they generally refuse to allow the new man to get both sides of the story. One-sided is injustice and totally evil. If a woman chooses to divorce, let her be reconciled with her husband or stay single until he dies. And no, this is not applicable to men: Or if anyone wishes to differ, please explain how YHWH never changes (so the Christians claim), yet King David was written to be a man after YHWH’s own heart, even though he had in total eighteen wives? And the ONLY one to be considered a sinful experience, was the eighth, THE WIFE OF URIAH THE HITTITE. Yes, I am aware that Jesu said that a man who divorces his wife to marry another commits adultery; did it occur that this does not mean that he is not allowed to have more than one wife, but that he should not decide to cast away who he has, because he decided on a newer model? And that if both husband and wife are okay with it, there is no infidelity because there is no “secrets” kept from one another? The only legitimate reason for divorce in YHWH’s eyes, is infidelity on the woman’s part.
    8. Steal. Because you know, this is actually mine based on how much I’ve over-payed at your store in the past. Or the more popular: “Don’t make an issue of it, it’s only earthly things, you can always get a new one!” Make a huge issue of it now and maybe save a soul in the hereafter. (Israel had no jails – thieves were to work back what they stole seven times, and if a thief was killed during a break-in, it was not punishable. And now the Christians wonder why their emasculated gospel of pieces of peace, has the opposite reaction? YHWH promised peace to the land that follows His commands – a clear indication that this country belongs either to no-one or to satan).
    9. Lie as you wish. Because you know, we cannot all take the truth. Make it easier on them. Had my dad not clearly told me that “God has only children, no grandchildren, time of grace is running out”, I probably would still have gone through life believing that calling on satan in times of need is the right thing to do. Guess what, the Truth is going to cast the liars into the Pool of Fire on Judgement Day.
    10. Covet what another has. If you want it, work for it and get your own. No longer, our modern socialised gospel tells us that the workers must take care of the lazies. Make demands, it is your “god-given” right. And when the workers cannot give any more, kill them in the name of freedom, fraternity and equality for all. In case you do not catch that, I am stating here that this country is free-falling towards a bloody revolution. Don’t ever fell for the lie of the “bloodless revolution” in 1994. That was merely the betrayers of Christianity casting their lot with the communists and muslims.
    And even worse: What is happening now in South Africa, politically and naturally, the drought and ruined crops, the incitements and calls to death, the overrunning by outlanders and the coming war on Christianity (no, if you say we are already at war, go to the Middle East and see what war is like, you pampered baby) has been promised buy YHWH to the nation that chose to turn its back on Him.

    Enjoy the peace while you have it: And when tyranny becomes law, godlessness rules and the farms get burned and the farmers murdered, As it is happening now.

    South Africa, repent of your evil, of murdering the innocent and the unborn, repent of your lust for unity with devils instead of with Jesus Christ. Time is running out. And remember: the diversion you’ve been ignoring is the main attack.

  2. @Jacobus Out of interest I clicked on this article and I got 2 for the price of 1! ;-)