AfriForum and Solidarity Helping Hand on 27 January 2021, approached the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg on an urgent basis to set aside the ban on religious gatherings as contained in the COVID-19 regulations. The Begrond-instituut and individual congregations of various churches also form part of this application.
Under the current level 3 lockdown regulations all religious gatherings, including church services, are banned. These regulations were once again instituted earlier this month due to the second wave of COVID-19 infections.
AfriForum and Helping Hand are however of the opinion that this regulation violates citizens’ right to spiritual well-being. In their court documents, the two organisations ask that the ban is set aside to allow religious gatherings provided that guidelines are complied with to prevent the spread of the virus. Alternatively the organisations ask that religious gatherings are permitted with restrictions not stricter than those of theatres, casinos, gymnasiums, restaurants and so forth.
“It is outrageous that casinos, film theatres, gymnasiums and other institutions are allowed to do business under certain conditions, but members of churches are prohibited from attending services. Citizens have the right to practise their religion freely and without fear. Our forefathers sacrificed a lot to be able to practise their religion according to own conviction, therefore we cannot allow the authorities unilaterally depriving believers of this right,” says Monique Taute, Head of Campaigns at AfriForum.
Hannes Noëth, Executive Director of Solidarity Helping Hand, says it was clear from the start that a social crisis would follow the economic crisis. “The social crisis has already started. However, one cannot handle such a crisis without spiritually feeding and strengthening people, and the churches play a prominent role in this regard, irrespective of the church’s denomination.”
“We realise people must be safe and responsible, churches too, but churches need to have the freedom to hold services or to decide for themselves without fearing the government. They need not have to fear the government. Church councils and managements are responsible enough to either assemble safely and carefully, or not at all. The government shouldn’t have the power to decide whether churches must be open or closed,” says Noëth.
Read the original article in Afrikaans on AfriForum