Align hate speech to SA law

The Star Early Edition - - LETTERS - Mark Pen­rith

WE BE­LIEVE hu­mans, cre­ated in the im­age of God, have in­trin­sic dig­nity. And so, when hu­mans suf­fer vi­o­lence or ha­tred due to race, religion, ide­ol­ogy, gen­der or any other char­ac­ter­is­tic, it is an in­jus­tice, an af­front to God.

As far as the Pre­ven­tion and Com­bat­ing of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill is used to fos­ter an en­vi­ron­ment where we can peace­fully co-ex­ist de­spite dif­fer­ences, we com­mend it.

How­ever, we be­lieve the “hate speech” sec­tion vi­o­lates other con­sti­tu­tional rights. The con­sti­tu­tion lim­its “hate speech” to “an ad­vo­cacy of ha­tred” which “con­sti­tutes in­cite­ment to cause harm”. If tested, the ques­tion would be whether a rea­son­able man would re­gard the speech as “an ad­vo­cacy of ha­tred” and fur­ther as an “in­cite­ment to cause harm”. The link be­tween the cause and ef­fect is ob­jec­tive.

The bill, how­ever, ad­dresses speech that is “threat­en­ing, abu­sive or in­sult­ing” hav­ing the po­ten­tial to “bring into con­tempt or ridicule”.

The cause is vague and the ef­fect is sub­jec­tive. Our chief con­cern is the po­ten­tial sup­pres­sion of free­dom of religion, be­lief and opin­ion; the pos­si­bil­ity of pun­ish­ing those who sim­ply ex­press views of a re­li­gious or moral na­ture. While we write with our own con­stituency in mind – who base their re­li­gious con­vic­tions and be­liefs upon the Bi­ble, be­liev­ing it is suf­fi­cient and au­thor­i­ta­tive for all mat­ters of faith and con­duct – we can see how this bill could ad­versely im­pact not just our churches but the broader Chris­tian church, other re­li­gious prac­ti­tion­ers and even the free press.

We ask that the bill be amended so that the scope of the “hate speech” sec­tion aligns to the con­sti­tu­tion, thereby pro­tect­ing our con­sti­tu­tional right to free­dom of ex­pres­sion and free­dom of religion, be­lief and opin­ion; or pe­ti­tion that a re­li­gious ex­emp­tions clause be in­cluded. Our democ­racy, free­dom of ex­pres­sion and of religion, be­lief and opin­ion de­mand a so­ci­ety in which we can freely ex­press our deep­est con­vic­tions, with­out fear of be­ing crim­i­nally charged. Chair­per­son, Chris­tian Cit­i­zen­ship Network of the Bap­tist Union of South­ern Africa

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