CRL launches “astounding” new push for state control of religion

Attendees at this week’s National Consultative Conference of the CRL Rights Commission (PHOTO: Facebook).

At a national summit for religious and church leaders at Rhema Church (Rhema Summit) two weeks ago, the CRL Rights Commission threatened church leaders that if they did not come up with solutions for the abuses and malpractices in the religious sector (and particularly in the church) on that day, the CRL would ask “ordinary people” to do so at its Fourth National Consultative Conference (NCC).

The CRL this week doubled down on its threat, when it asked the approximately 500 delegates at the NCC – largely made up of community councils, traditional leaders, traditional healers (but only a handful of religious leaders) —  to adopt a resolution that the CRL should “continue with a process to control religious practitioners” and to “push for the proposals that the CRL has placed before Parliament”, including a peer review mechanism.

Rhema Summit resolutions ignored
These resolutions ignore the resolution at the Rhema Summit a mere two weeks ago, which was attended by about 800 senior leaders from across the faith spectrum. This specified that a broadly representative and inclusive process should be conducted on local, provincial and national levels to develop truly self-regulatory solutions by the religious community for the religious community.

This process is due to culminate in a further three-day summit in October when these findings will be presented and adopted. The CRL is well aware of this resolution, having co-organised the Rhema Summit and been presented with a report on the outcomes.

The CRL’s decision also conflicts with the report by the COGTA Parliamentary Portfolio Committee, which effectively rejected the CRL’s proposals for (State) regulation of religion. Instead, COGTA recommended that the religious community be given the opportunity to address the issues identified in the CRL’s report and to develop effective solutions, including a Code of Conduct for the sector.

According to Adv Nadene Badenhorst, Legal Counsel of Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA), who attended the NCC this week: “The Rhema Summit was a key part of COGTA’s recommendations, and it is astounding that the CRL now views this significant meeting as inconsequential and ‘unconstitutional’. This raises serious questions over the bona fides of the commission and its agenda.”

Critical questions
In light of the CRL’s NCC resolutions, it is important to ask some critical questions:  Who would the State approve to sit on peer review committees, which would decide who can (or cannot) practise their faith? What criteria would be used to decide who is eligible (or not) to receive a licence? How would an expression of faith be defined as “appropriate”, given that the Constitutional Court has already decided that even if a religious practice or belief is “bizarre, illogical or irrational”, it still enjoys constitutional protection (provided of course it does not amount to harmful, criminal or otherwise illegal conduct)?  Who would pay for the vast bureaucracy that would be needed at local, provincial and national levels to ensure that registration is enforced? And is a heavy-handed approach necessary given that existing laws are evidently effective in curbing criminal activity and excesses, when enforced?

In the same way that the state in recent years has tried to curb and curtail the media, the focus has now swung to the religious sector.  However, one thing we can know from a simple look at the broad sweep of human history is that whenever a state (including an “institution of state”, such as the CRL) has taken control of the religious sector, persecution and oppression inevitably follow.  Why the ANC-appointed Chair of the CRL has chosen to pick a major battle with the faith community of South Africa in an election year remains a mystery which surely needs to be explained.

FOR SA Executive Director, Michael Swain, comments that “President Ramaphosa’s statement this morning that government will not ‘go overboard and start regulating churches and religions’, is encouraging, particularly as he declared that it could be considered ‘unconstitutional to start regulating faith-based organisations’. We welcome his approach to engage faith-based organisations on how we can work together to solve these problems, rather than rushing into legislative control.”

The president’s remarks followed widespread reaction to a  notorious video clip that went viral this week of a pastor supposedly raising a congregant from the dead.

The CRL Rights Commissioners’ term is coming to an end today. Interviews for the short-listed candidates were postponed indefinitely on Saturday, and the Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs is yet to make a statement in this regard.



    is the constitution not covering an protecting only south African citizens?

  2. Jesus and the apostles warned that false prophets will come, especially as the End Times draw nearer, so why do we get uptight when His predictions are fulfilled? Leave religious beliefs to indivudals to choose, and use existing criminal laws when religious leaders break existing laws. …

    If the State does regulate religions, and this affects our freedom to believe Scripture, and to preach the Gospel, then we will accept another prediction: “All who will live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” The Bible and History proves that Persecution is healthy for the Church.

  3. For many years the Christian Church regulated its own conduct, academic qualifications, discipline and good order. What had changed? Why? That all religious ministers should hold at least some qualification and accreditation are principles to be fully supported, – but why the sudden “threatening” stance by the CRL? Should the large Christian denominations not begin to do a bit of throat clearing and remind the SA government of the many services rendered to society before and behind the daily scenes?

  4. Correct Hugh. Bible doesnt guarantee religious freedom but freedom to serve n worship Him. NO ONE can stop that. We fight for freedom n what do we do with it. Compete with each other n gather multi million buildings n halls for a few or less hrs a week for ourselves. Just like government leaders have done. Christianity started at bottom of social ring of society hated n persecuted by ALL. Saw n lived life from the bottom n THRIVED. 350 yrs later became state religion. All scramble for the too n became just like our govt. Csnt see the folk lord Jesus csm to save at the bottom n ch became a money grabbing circus. A joke to the world. No light or salt or pillar of truth. Persecution…. bring it on. It’s already hell at the bottom. Ch need to find out why its here.
    Obviously not all, but a very very very generalization of the ch todsy.we csnt sit back n do nothing but were reaping what we are sowing n been sowing for hundreds of years.

  5. this are he times Jesus Christ predicted told us that we will see happening

  6. The CRL and especially the commissioner have a sinister agenda. While it wants to have religion controlled it says nothing about the sangomas, traditional faith healers etc and those traditional healers that makes people drink blood, snake skin etc. Let’s not be fooled: this CRL is an ANC design and a prelude to socialist, communist suppression as we saw it in Russia, China and other socialist communist countries. The CRL is testing the waters. If us as believers are not going to stand up against it they, the ANC with it’s socialist communist comrades, will eventually dictate to the church and believers of Jesus Christ in general. Do I buy Ramaphosa’s “assurance?” The answer is NO! Lastly no other party in SA will govern…when that day comes, the ANC will take full control of government, ban all political parties and squash the church and all those that believe in Jesus Christ! God forbid!

  7. No where is it considered that those who follow these false prophets and engage in harmful practices shoulder shoulder some responsibility for their ignorance.