Pre­vent con­trol of reli­gion by the state

The Star Early Edition - - LETTERS - John Holder

THE re­mit of the Com­mis­sion for the Pro­mo­tion and Pro­tec­tion of the Rights of Cul­tural, Re­li­gious and Lin­guis­tic Com­mu­ni­ties (CRL Com­mis­sion) is to pro­tect reli­gion in South Africa.

How­ever, steps are be­ing taken to pro­vide the CRL, a Chap­ter 9 in­sti­tu­tion with an ad­vi­sory man­date, with le­gal pow­ers to con­trol in­stead of to pro­tect.

Mon­day Au­gust 21 is the last day for the pub­lic to pro­vide in­put to the rel­e­vant Par­lia­men­tary Port­fo­lio Com­mit­tee con­cern­ing the pro­posed CRL leg­is­la­tion for state con­trol of reli­gion.

The CRL Com­mis­sion is push­ing for leg­is­la­tion that poses a se­vere threat to re­li­gious free­dom. It pro­poses to reg­is­ter or li­cense ev­ery “re­li­gious prac­ti­tioner” in South Africa. Re­li­gious prac­ti­tion­ers must be as­so­ci­ated with a “wor­ship cen­tre”. Each wor­ship cen­tre must be­long to an “um­brella or­gan­i­sa­tion” that must be reg­is­tered with the CRL. Each um­brella or­gan­i­sa­tion must be­long to a “peer re­view com­mit­tee”, of which there will be one per reli­gion. All peer re­view com­mit­tees re­port to the CRL Com­mis­sion. Thus the CRL Com­mis­sion will have the power to de­cide who can or can­not be reg­is­tered as a re­li­gious prac­ti­tioner or um­brella or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Regis­tra­tion of um­brella or­gan­i­sa­tions is to en­sure that “ev­ery wor­ship cen­tre and re­li­gious prac­ti­tioner is at­tached to a broader or­gan­i­sa­tion that will sup­port and guide them in their spir­i­tual work”. Ac­cord­ing to the CRL re­port, the um­brella or­gan­i­sa­tion will be tasked with en­sur­ing their mem­bers “re­main on a good spir­i­tual path”.

In the event that con­gre­gants have dis­putes with the poli­cies or doc­trines of their lead­ers, such mat­ters may be re­ferred to the um­brella or­gan­i­sa­tions and peer-re­view com­mit­tee.

How­ever the fi­nal ar­biter in all such mat­ters (in­clud­ing doc­trine) will be the state-ap­pointed CRL Com­mis­sion.

The threat is that re­li­gious prac­ti­tion­ers who are not reg­is­tered will be out­side the law and there­fore seen as crim­i­nals. The fi­nal CRL re­port does not pro­vide a def­i­ni­tion of a re­li­gious prac­ti­tioner.

The CRL Com­mis­sion will be in a po­si­tion to dereg­is­ter who­ever they would like to. As the CRL com­mis­sion­ers are ap­pointed by the pres­i­dent, the en­tire pro­posed struc­ture amounts to state con­trol of all reli­gion in SA.

Those who wish to stop the pro­posed leg­is­la­tion from com­ing into be­ing can reg­is­ter their ob­jec­tions by Au­gust 21 with the sec­re­tary of the De­part­ment of Co-op­er­a­tive and Tra­di­tional Af­fairs. Jo­han­nes­burg

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