Freedom from Religion
South Africa 
An open letter to the South African Council for the Protection and Promotion of Religious Rights and Freedoms
You have recently drafted and approved a Charter of Religious Rights and Freedoms to be tabled as a Law of South Africa. Although the title seems to guarantee religious rights and freedoms it is rather a Charter to advance religion and remove the freedom of religion from minority and atheists, agnostics and freethinkers. It is a charter that seeks to embed religion in schools, universities and state institution using the power of the state and state funds. Amongst other this charter will imply:
  1. The Charter claims to be a charter of religious rights and freedoms. However this charter will not ensure freedom of religion. Instead it requires the government to support religion and have educational institutions classify themselves according to a specific religion. This will split up educational institutions by religion and ensure that minority religions, atheists and freethinkers be governed and subjected to majority religions.
  1. The charter is a disguise to obtain state funding for religion and use the state to advance religious beliefs and dogmas. It calls for the state to actively support religion and to educate children in religion using state money.
  1. The charter requires that medical treatment can be refused on the ground of religious convictions. This will allow the parents of minor children to refuse life saving medical treatment for their children. A court of Law should make the decision in the best interest of the child and not allow a religious dogma to cause death or injury to children.
  1. The charter gives the right to persons to conduct religious observances, expression and activities in state or state-aided institutions. This will be used by persons of religion to conduct public prayer or activities/sermons in state institutions. Although voluntarily, those of a minority religion, atheists or freethinkers will be known and classified by other of being a different religion or unbelievers resulting in prejudice and discrimination against these persons. This will for example legitimize prayer in school.
  1. The charter requires the state to educate children in accordance with their religious or philosophical convictions. The charter thus allows religion to obtain access to state funds to advance and aid religion. It is not the function of the state to provide religious education. This is to be done outside the state.
  1. The charter allows educational institutions to adopt a particular religion. The result of this will be that schools and universities will divide themselves into a specific majority religion. i.e. we will have Christian, Muslim, Hindu, etc. universities and schools. Minority religions, atheists, agnostics and freethinkers will have no choice to attend these majority religion schools in order to receive education. They will be subjected to a majority religion and those choosing not to attend or abstain from the majority religion will be ridiculed and discriminated against. Leadership positions will be assigned to those belonging to the majority religion. Soon teachers and lecturers will be appointed accordingly to their religious observance and not their capability. Text books will be changed to the specific religion. Where will it stop. The role of educational institutions are to educate children in non-religious subjects in a culture of critical thinking and analytical capabilities. It is not the role of educational institutions to teach and advance religion.
  1. The charter calls that private educational institutions have the right to teach their particular religion to any child enrolled in the school. In effect this will deny entry of children of other faiths entry to this school. A child should have the right to attend any educational institution without being compelled to be subjected to a particular belief or religion.
  1. The charter compels the state to give preferential treatment to religious institutions not to pay tax and give other benefits. As such religion is given preferential status by the state. Although one can understand allowing tax benefits to charities, etc., the criteria should be charities rather than blanket amnesty for religion. Religion unfortunately has become a way to wealth for some churches and individuals.
The charter as is will undermine secularity, democracy and freedom in the Republic of South Africa. It will violate the principle of separation of state and religion. One needs to understand the difference between a secular government and an atheistic one. A secular government is one which does not favor one religion over another and which does not favor belief in God over non-belief in God. A secular government is not atheistic but rather allows freedom of religion and non-religion to all it's citizens.