THE FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS TO FREEDOM OF RELIGION, EXPRESSION AND ASSOCIATION(First trimester 2022)
THE FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS TO FREEDOM OF RELIGION, EXPRESSION AND ASSOCIATION
An overview of some of CAUSE FOR JUSTICE’S work over the past trimester to promote and protect fundamental freedoms in South Africa
Cause for Justice advocates for the responsible exercise (and enjoyment) of constitutional freedoms. These freedoms include, amongst others, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience, religion/belief, thought and opinion, and freedom of association.
Whilst there are a small number of other organisations in South Africa standing up for these important freedoms, Cause for Justice is involved in some of the most critical matters affecting our fundamental freedoms:
HATE CRIMES AND HATE SPEECH BILL
The Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill* proposes two new criminal offences, namely ‘hate crime’ and the crime of ‘hate speech’. These are proposed together with criminal penalties or sentences in the form of fines and/or imprisonment.
Parliament’s Portfolio Committee of Justice and Correctional Services is currently deliberating on the text (substantive content) of the Bill. Cause for Justice previously delivered written submissions to the Portfolio Committee and made oral submissions before the committee last month. Freedom of speech and freedom of religion, thought, and opinion is likely to be severely impacted and restricted if the Bill becomes law in South Africa.
In our submissions before the Portfolio Committee, we noted that while we do not condone the advocacy of hatred or incitement to harm others, we do not condone imprisonment for merely expressing different and diverse views. We raised a number of specific concerns with the text of the current version of the Bill, and proposed certain remedies/amendments to minimise the risk of prohibiting South Africans from communicating their sincerely-held and/or objectively supported convictions, ideas, opinions and views.
After concluding its deliberations on the Bill, the Portfolio Committee will bring the Bill (whether unchanged or amended) to the National Assembly (NA) to vote on in plenary, whereafter, if passed by the NA, it will go the National Council of Provinces for a similar public consultation, deliberation and voting process.
* A Bill is a proposed piece of legislation. It is typically introduced into Parliament by government for approval by Parliament after public participation processes in the appropriate parliamentary working committees, and political consultation with each political party’s supporters to determine how parliamentarians are to vote on the Bill – whether to approve or reject it.
To learn more:
- Listen to our oral submissions to Parliament [at 1:58:20 to 2:31:00 of the recording].
BELOFTEBOS (Equality Court case)
The Beloftebos venue have been under much scrutiny over the past two years for standing for their view of marriage. They are facing legal action for their decision to only host marriage ceremonies based on their sincerely held religious belief that marriage is a union between one man and one woman.
This is a watershed type case in the context of private business owners potentially being forced to act against their sincerely held beliefs if they want to continue making a living.
After a lot of prayer and reflection, the owners of Beloftebos have concluded their season of hosting weddings at their event venue.
The Human Rights Commission and the same-sex couple who have instituted legal proceedings against the business, have to date not indicated a willingness to withdraw or settle the case. Cause for Justice, as a prospective friend of the court party to the proceedings, have been corresponding with the Human Rights Commission regularly over the past 12 months, and remain poised to formally join the case, if the matter is not resolved between the parties out of court.
HELP US TO CONTINUE TAKING ACTION TO PROTECT OUR FUNDAMENTAL FREEDOMS
The free and responsible exercise of constitutional rights is important to us; we believe everyone should be able to live their lives in accordance with their sincerely held beliefs in our diverse and pluralistic society, subject only to such restrictions as are absolutely necessary to protect people from real harm.
For this reason, Cause for Justice will continue making a stand to defend fundamental freedoms in South Africa.
If you are also passionate about protecting the above freedoms, we invite you to support our work by way of regular or ad-hoc donations. Without your contribution, we will not be able to continue taking up worthy causes such as these.
Cause for Justice is a registered public benefit organisation for South African income tax purposes and may issue section 18A receipts, which entitle donors to claim tax deductions in respect of donations made to Cause for Justice.