Freedom Of Religion SA takes battle against religious gatherings ban to court
... And they are backed by churches and religious organisations representing more than 11m congregants
Churches and religious organisations representing more than 11m people have backed a court application by Freedom Of Religion SA (For SA) to force government to lift the ban on religious gatherings and recognise religious leaders as essential service providers.
Michael Swain, For SA executive director, said support for the Johannesburg high court application demonstrates the frustrations of millions.
“It points out that religion, because of its fundamental importance as a human right, enjoys even greater constitutional protection than the economic sector.
“We believe religious leaders, who have been at the forefront of providing relief, comfort and support to their congregants during this pandemic, should be allowed to make the decision on whether to open their venues for faith-based gatherings,” said Swain.
In his address to the nation earlier this month, President Cyril Ramaphosa reiterated that all gatherings, except for funerals, are prohibited under adjusted level 3 of the lockdown.
"Research has identified several risks that arise from religious services and other gatherings. These include the risks associated with enclosed spaces, large groups, close proximity to others, staying for a long time in one place, and loud talking and singing.
"We will continue our discussions with religious leaders on how best to safely meet the desire of many our people to worship in congregation while working together to preserve life," Ramaphosa said
Swain says For SA has previously written to government numerous times, mostly without any response, to address its concerns regarding the treatment of the religious community throughout the lockdown period.
The court application seeks to force government to detail scientific reasons behind the ban.
“We believe we have no option but to ask the court to review the regulations so a fair assessment can be made about whether the decision is reasonable and justifiable in accordance with the requirements of the rule of law, the constitution and just administrative action”, said Swain.
He told TimesLIVE that while some churches have resorted to online services, many congregants do not have access to the internet, which he says “severely impacts their right to practise their religion”.