The differences between churches and the CRL Rights Commission reached a new level last weekend when the Weekend Post newspaper led with a report on threats by major churches in the Eastern Cape to campaign against political parties which support the CRL’s religious regulation proposals.
Freedom of Religion SA, which has been mobilising national religious community resistance to what it calls the proposed “state capture of religion”, says the Eastern Cape Church’s stand — in a letter to the ANC’s chief whip — “represents a very significant development, because for the first time since South Africa became a democracy, the Church is threatening to actively campaign against any party which supports the CRL’s proposals and to hold the ANC government (as the majority party) responsible if their recommendations for State regulation of religion become law”.
“The CRL claims that it enjoys broad-based support from the religious community for its proposals. However, well over 200 submissions of objection have already been sent to the COGTA Parliamentary Portfolio Committee and this letter is further proof that the CRL’s proposals are widely seen as unconstitutional, unworkable and unnecessary,” says FOR SA in a press release. FOR SA
Newspaper investigations, following the release of the letter from the Eastern Cape churches and covering letter by Port Elizabeth church leader Dr Jimmy Crompton (See the letters: Chief Whip of the ANC-1), has also brought three “very interesting revelations” to light, said FOR SA executive director Michael Swain in reply to a Gateway News inquiry.
Outlining the “revelations”, he said: “ANC provincial spokesman Mlibo Qoboshiyane said the examples of religious leaders abusing their positions had prompted the decision to introduce the CRL commission. For the first time it has been clarified that the ANC appear to have been behind the CRL in this matter, which may also account for their rejection of any alternative suggestions and solutions from the faith community.
“The CRL has apparently recommended that churches should be registered for tax. Regarding the proposed taxation of churches, CRL Chairperson Ms Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said: ‘Of course they are going to complain about this. You and I pay tax’. However, the reason that churches do not pay tax is because all the money they receive is from people whose income has already been taxed, and the work that churches do is entirely charitable and non-profit.
“It is also important to note that the level of opposition to the CRL’s Report is escalating, not decreasing. The threat by a broad cross section of mainline church denominations to ‘strongly encourage our millions of members to vote against any party that supports the CRL report’ is unprecedented.”
Meanwhile FOR SA legal counsel Nadene Badenhorst confirmed yesterday that the CRL has given notice that they will oppose an application by FOR SA to the Johannesburg High Court seeking protection from defamatory statements by the commission to the public and the media aimed at undermining and discrediting FOR SA..
“They [the CRL] now have 15 business days to deliver their answering papers to our application,” she said.