Prevent control of religion by the state
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