A motion by a Christian organization to find the Covid-19 provisions pertaining to religious assemblies unconstitutional will be heard in the Johannesburg High Court next week.
Religious Freedom of South Africa (FOR SAs) contest the full statewide Department of Cooperative Leadership and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) prohibition of religious gatherings in relation to Covid-19 lockdown regulations earlier this year will be heard virtually Monday through Wednesday.
“FOR SA is asking the court to define under what circumstances and to what extent the government can prevent people from exercising their religious freedom rights guaranteed in Section 15 of the Constitution, “said FOR SA executive director Michael Swain.
” That includes the right of people to gather personally to practice their faith together. ”
FOR SA argues that the religious community is unfairly discriminatory and their religion When the Cogta government enforced a total ban on religious gatherings while allowing other similar gatherings, civil liberties were violated.
“Freedom to practice one’s religion is central to the lives of millions of South Africans . There shouldn’t be a world where you can sit side by side in a casino and pull the handle of a slot machine, but if you then fold your hands in prayer, you can be arrested and prosecuted.
” Nor can the government hide behind the mask of confidentiality to avoid accountability for its decisions and actions, ”added Swain. “The public has the right to see the science and data the Minister relied on when she decided that passengers in a crowded taxi are less likely to infect and spread the Covid virus than gatherings that mask, disinfect and socialize Sitting aloof in a place of worship, “said Swain.
FOR SA emphasizes that no one asks for religious gatherings without proper hygiene, disinfection and social distancing protocols. It argues, however, that the government must decide either that all indoor gatherings are safe or that no indoor gatherings are safe.
FOR SA argues that religious leaders are officially identified in the regulations as “essential workers” must be recognized.
“Unless they can provide scientific evidence to support their position, it is irrational – and therefore unconstitutional and unlawful – for the government to allow people to sit together in a restaurant (often exposed), but forbidding them to sit in a pew masked and socially distant, “said Swain.