FOR SA has been carefully monitoring the developments concerning the CRL Rights Commission Report on the Commercialisation of Religion and Abuse of People’s Belief Systems including their recommendations for the regulation of religion in South Africa.
They have now published their Final Report (click here to read
), which they intend to present to Parliament sometime in early June. They are asking for amendments to be made to the CRL Act to enable the Commission to become the final arbiter of religion in South Africa, with the ability to establish an extensive national structure to license (and thereby control) every Religious Practitioner and Place of Worship. President Mandela said that “the Church should be the watchdog to the Government” whereas this proposal, however, will reverse the roles and make the State the watchdog over (and ultimate controller of) the whole religious community of South Africa.
Having considered the CRL’s Final Report, we remain deeply concerned about the implications of their proposed recommendations for freedom of religion in South Africa. For more information and in particular, for our detailed critique of the Final Report and our concerns, we encourage you to click here to read
the “Open Letter” FOR SA sent to the Chairlady.
A few highlights from the “Open Letter”: The Final Report does not specify how the proposed Peer Review Committee will operate. This is critical to know, since this one body will govern the entire Christian religion. It is also clear that this body will make decisions on doctrine, because they must decide whether or not an Umbrella Organisation will be recognised, taking into account (among other things) whether it has “set minimum standards of good governance, ethics and acceptable religious practices as per their religious doctrine” and whether the spiritual leaders of the Umbrella Organisation are able “to ensure that [member of this Umbrella Organisation] remains on a good spiritual path”
The Report also fails to specify the proposed conditions for an Umbrella Organisation to qualify as such. We are concerned that many of the smaller ministers fraternals and similar organisations will not qualify. They will then be forced to merge with other Umbrella Organisations and they will not have a seat or a say on the Peer Review Committee.
What is clear from the Report, is that every Religious Practitioner will be forced to join an Umbrella Organisation in order to obtain a license, without which he/she will not be able to practice religion. Again, the conditions for licensing (both of Religious Practitioners, and Places of Worship) are not mentioned at all.
The Final Report is silent on how the proposed structure will be financed, although the most obvious solution will be for the CRL to charge an annual fee for the licenses of both Religious Practitioners and Places of Worship. We estimate that this could add close to a Billion Rand to the State coffers.
FOR SA has already repeatedly expressed our solidarity and support for what we understand to be a bona fide
attempt by the CRL to address genuine abuses taking place in the name of religion, while highlighting our deep concern regarding their proposal to regulate and license religion in South Africa, which we view as unnecessary, unworkable and unconstitutional.
The intention of FOR SA’s submission (representing over 6 million people from 277 denominations, fraternals, churches and other religious groups) was to assist the CRL by providing it with a comprehensive analysis of the issues raised in its (initial) Report and giving detailed reasons (both legal and practical) why its proposed solution which effectively amounts to State regulation of religion, was unnecessary.