She said Solidariteit was not challenging the government’s response to the pandemic.
“What is being challenged is the irrational and arbitrary decision of the minister to prohibit all manner of faith-based gatherings, no matter where they were convened and how many people attended, while she allowed at the same time a variety of social gatherings at restaurants, gyms, casinos and the like.”
Engelbrecht said those regulations allowed people to go to a place to engage in an economic activity, but did not allow people to practise their religion.
“If those social gatherings are allowed at restaurants, gyms, casinos and the like on the basis that they are economic activity, it raises the question of the rationality of not allowing at the same time the spiritual wellbeing of people.”
“It is this discrepancy between government’s treatment of commercial activity and religious activity that lies at the heart of the challenge to the regulations that affect religious and faith-based gatherings.”
She said there was no scientific basis to come to a conclusion that there is a greater risk of Covid-19 spreading at faith-based gatherings than in the course of social gatherings at a restaurant, casino or gym.
She said the challenge was not moot.
Engelbrecht said there has been a steady rise in new cases of Covid-19 infections recently.
“As we approach Christmas, one of the holiest times in the calendar of the Christian faith, the real possibility exists that the minister, in her wisdom, will ban faith-based gatherings once more while keeping open restaurants, gyms and casinos.”
She said because the minister has never properly explained the basis for the distinctions she makes between bans on religious gatherings while she allows people to mill about in malls and the like, the prospect that the ban may be revived was real and present.
The matter continues on Tuesday with arguments from other applicants.