FOR SA says schools should not be intimidated into not exercising their rights to practice faith, invite Christian ministries
Attorneys acting for the six public schools that were targeted by activist group OGOD over their religious practices have advised that they will not be appealing the judgment delivered by the Johannesburg High Court on June 27 2017, reports Freedom of Religion SA (FOR SA).
In a commentary on the decision posted on its website FOR SA writes: “This means that the judgment stands, and that (in terms of the declaratory order made by the court) it is illegal for a public school:
- to promote or allow its staff to promote that it, as a public school, adheres to only one or predominantly only one religion to the exclusion of others; and
- to hold out that it promotes the interests of any one religion in favour of others.
“Since this judgment will affect all 24 000+ public schools in South Africa, it is important both for public schools and religious practitioners or ministries working into public schools, to understand the practical implications. In this regard, see a blog prepared by FOR SA.
“Since the judgment, OGOD’s Hans Pietersen has delivered letters of demand on 29 more public schools across South Africa, demanding compliance with (his interpretation of) the OGOD judgment. As a result, some schools are turning away Christian ministries who have been working with them for some time.
“However, neither this judgment nor the law prohibits religious observances per se. We therefore advise all public schools not to have a knee-jerk reaction based upon fear of non-compliance based upon what is typically a misunderstanding.
“FOR SA has prepared a guideline for schools and religious practitioners or ministries working into schools, to advise what the OGOD judgment practically means and how they can make sure their religious policy or rules fall within the boundaries of the law. For a copy of the guideline, please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org,”
In another post FOR SA reports it has been participating in a Department of Basic Education task team on drawing up and implementing a charter on rights and responsibilities for religious conduct in learning environments.
It says the department hopes to finalise the draft charter by mid-August whereafter it will be presented to the Minister for consideration. Once the minister is satisfied with the draft, it will be published for public comment and will be available on the FOR SA website.