Freedom of Religion SA (FOR SA) is concerned that key churches, denominations and religious organisations have been excluded from the process of arranging a proposed national religious summit on February 13 next year.
“FOR SA has always called for, and supported, a broadly representative and inclusive process whereby the religious community can discuss solutions by the religious community for the religious community, ” says FOR SA legal counsel Adv Nadene Badenhorst in an article posted on the FOR SA blog last week.
“We are concerned however that the process up and until this stage (including the determination of the proposed date and agenda for the Summit) has not been broadly representative or inclusive. 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 process,” she writes.
The planning for the summit is being driven by Pastor Ray McCauley, who (in his capacity as chair of the National Religious Leaders Council (NRLC)) was given the task by the CRL rights commission.
At a media briefing on Friday November 30 McCauley said religious leaders would participate in the February summit as part of a self-regulation process aimed at preventing religious abuses. About 20 religious leaders, including representatives of the SACC, SAUCIC, ZCC, Shembe Church, NICSA, TEASA. FOR SA, which was not invited to the briefing but found out about it via social media the day before, also attended.
FOR SA’s role in mobilising opposition to the CRL’s failed plans to get parliamentary support for its proposal for state regulation of religion earlier this year, could account for the media briefing snub.
Badenhort writes in her blog post: “In the circumstances, FOR SA – along with the majority of denominations, churches and religious organisations who appeared before COGTA – have written to COGTA on 7 December 2018, to place our concerns on record, particularly also with regard to the short time frame leading up to the proposed Summit in February 2019.
“FOR SA has also subsequently met with pastor Giet Khosa, representing pastor Ray McCauley, to discuss the religious community’s concerns and in particular, the perceived need to postpone the Summit to a later date with a view to ensuring that the process, and indeed the Summit, are broadly representative and inclusive – particularly of the organisations who have been committed to the process from the beginning. We believe that it is imperative that the Church stands united on the issue and the proposed solutions – a house divided against itself will not stand. (Mark 3:25). If we do not work together, and it seems as if we are not united, government may well take this matter out of our hands and decide / legislate it for us. It is therefore essential that, as the Church and for the sake of the Church in South Africa, we do try find solutions together.”