Legal opposition to government pandemic regulations, which amount to an indefinite blanket ban of all religious gatherings in South Africa, is mounting.
Last Friday the South African National Christian Forum (SANCF), which represents a number of churches in townships and informal settlements, filed an urgent application with the Johannesburg High Court to have the regulations overturned on the grounds that they are irrational and discriminatory given that businesses like casinos, restaurants and cinemas are allowed to operate while churches are shut down.
Now Gateway News has learned that Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA) also intends to intervene in the application on behalf of a number of churches — and that the SANCF is postponing its day in court to early February allowing for both applications to be argued in the High Court in Johannesburg on the same day.
Both groups are unhappy at government’s lack of consultation with them on matters affecting their constituencies. The SANCF’s court action comes after an incident on January 10 in which police fired rubber bullets and stun grenades at a group of church leaders who gathered at a church in Sebokeng to convey their lockdown grievances to media.
FOR SA says that late last year government gave them an undertaking that — in view of the fact that they represent a whopping 15 to 18 million people in the faith community — it would include them in consultations going forward
But FOR SA was not among faith community representatives invited to a recent meeting with the president shortly before he announced the revised level 3 lockdown regulations
FOR SA told Gateway News that in its urgent application to the High Court it will argue that it is unfair and unconstitutional to impose a blanket ban on faith gatherings while allowing people to go to casinos and restaurants
And they will ask the government to show data that supports the idea that the faith community spreads Covid-19 more than any other group — a view that FOR SA hotly contests, especially considering that churches that were previously allowed to meet during lockdown were subjected to the strictest protocols of any sector.