Religious freedom watchdog FOR SA warns that the Church and South Africa are facing their “most serious threat to religious freedom to date” in the form of a new bid by the CRL Rights Commission to push for the regulation of religion.
Alerting Christian leaders to a national consultative conference called by the CRL from February 25 to 26, FOR SA executive director Michael Swain says they are asking the CRL for the conference agenda “but we have no doubt that the issue of regulation of religion will be discussed and that the objective is to get ‘buy-in’ from the religious community for a law to be passed, regulating the practising of religion in South Africa”.
FOR SA, which successfully mobilised Christian opposition to a CRL call for state regulation of religion, which was turned down by the COGTA parliamentary portfolio committee in February last year after an extensive democratic process, has warned on several occasions that the CRL was still actively lobbying parliamentary groups and government departments to support its proposed clampdown on religious freedom.
Call to nominate representatives
Swain urges concerned religious organisations to speedily nominate a high-level representative to attend the national consultation conference (NCC) in Pretoria, which the CRL advertised in the Press last Sunday (See notice at bottom of page).
“It appears that seating [at the NCC] is limited, and it could potentially be disastrous if – because of limited seating capacity – organisations who are not in support of regulation of religion, are excluded from the conference. The deadline for nominations is 8 February, but we advise that you send it within the next day,” says FOR SA in its alert.
FOR SA also urges concerned organisations to prepare for the NCC by attending the national summit of religious and church leaders at Rhema Church (Hans Schoeman Street, Randburg) from 9am on February 13. The CRL tasked Pastor Ray McCauley (in his capacity as chair of the National Religious Leaders Council) to convene the summit.
While supporting the summit’s objective of discussing self-regulation of religion by the religious community, FOR SA has previously expressed concerns about the event’s inclusivity and timing.
“We are particularly concerned that the vast majority of church leaders who participated in the two days’ hearings that took place before COGTA in October 2017 (and who were opposed to the CRL’s proposed recommendations) have not been included in the [summit planning] process,” wrote FOR SA legal counsel Advocate Nadene Badenhorst in an article last December.