Align hate speech to SA law
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