Imposing mandatory vaccination on religious gatherings would impact the constitutional right to religious freedom, and the legal autonomy of religious institutions, says Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA) in a letter sent to President Ramaphosa yesterday.
“As such, Government is legally obliged to specifically consult with the religious sector before any mandatory vaccination policy or regulations are imposed on them,” says the letter signed by Advocate Nadene Badenhorst, legal counsel for FOR SA.
The letter refers to remarks by the president during an address to the nation on Sunday, November 28 in which he spoke of consulting with social partners and stakeholders about making vaccination mandator for specific locations.
“While religious gatherings were not specifically mentioned in your address, we note that groups like Business for South Africa (B4SA) have subsequently proposed mandatory vaccination for “places of worship”, it says.
FOR SA requests that in view of its large constituency it be included in Government’s consultation with the religious sector.
The full text of the letter follows:
Dear President Ramaphosa,
RE: CONSULTATIONS WITH THE RELIGIOUS SECTOR ON PROPOSED MANDATORY VACCINATIONS
We refer to your address to the nation on Sunday evening, 28 November 2021, including your statement that Government has been “undertaking engagements with social partners and other stakeholders on introducing measures that make vaccination a condition for access to workplaces, public events, public transport and public establishments”, and that Government would be consulting on making vaccination mandatory for “specific activities and locations”.
While religious gatherings were not specifically mentioned in your address, we note that groups like Business for South Africa (B4SA) have subsequently proposed mandatory vaccination for “places of worship”.
The imposition of mandatory vaccination on religious gatherings will clearly have implications for the constitutional right to religious freedom, and the legal autonomy of religious institutions to determine their internal affairs (including the grounds on which they will allow / refuse persons access to their meetings) free from interference by the State.
As such, Government is legally obliged to specifically consult with the religious sector before any mandatory vaccination policy or regulations are imposed on them.
In particular, Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA) requests that, given the large constituency that we have represented before Government in the matter of COVID-19 and the implications thereof on the religious sector (namely religious leaders and organisations representing at least 15.5 million people from a cross-spectrum of denominations, churches and faith groups) to date, we be included in Government’s consultation with the religious sector on the issue of mandatory vaccination.
We look forward to hearing from you in this regard.
Adv Nadene L. Badenhorst
Legal Counsel, FOR SA
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