03 July 2017

South Africa outlaws single-religion schools

Single-religion schools have been outlawed in South Africa after a ruling at the Johannesburg High Court.

Public schools may no longer promote themselves as subscribing to a single particular religion at the exclusion of others, the court ruled.

The Organisasie vir Godsdienste-Onderrig en Demokrasie (Organisation for Religious Education and Democracy), or OGOD, which fights against religious indoctrination through public schools in South Africa, welcomed the judgement.

He said the judgement meant public schools may not promote one specific religion and exclude others.

“Our case was built on the fact that they were called Christian schools and coerced learners to participate‚” Mr Pietersen said, according to South African daily The Times.

OGOD made the application against six predominantly Christian public schools to prevent them from taking part in 71 instances of religious conduct.

While the court did not grant the restraining order, it ruled the schools had breached a section of the Schools Act making it an offence to promote one religion and exclude others.

In his ruling, Judge Willem van der Linde said: “Neither a school governing body nor a public school may lawfully hold out that it subscribes to only a single particular religion to the exclusion of others.”

He earlier said: “The question may be put this way: May a public school‚ through rules laid down by its SGB relative to say its heraldry‚ hold out that it is exclusively a Jewish‚ or a Christian‚ or a Muslim‚ or a Buddhist‚ or an atheist school?”

“Accepting a notional feeder community of 100 per cent single religion parents, could it ever pass muster of the need for a national democratic respect for our country’s diverse cultural and religious traditions for that school to brand itself as adhering to that particular single faith to the exclusion of others?”

His judgement read: “The overarching constitutional theme is that our society is diverse, that diversity is to be celebrated and that specific rights are conferred and dealt with in pursuance of that principle.

“Within this context, public schools are public assets which serve the interests of society as a whole.”

The national department of education said the ruling was consistent with its own policy that no one religion should be promoted above another, South Africa’s Independent Online reports.

“The aim is not to ban religious practices in schools but about protecting children and emphasising that schools should engage in religion education rather than religious instruction and not promote one religion over another,” a spokesperson for the department said.

Source: Independent UK

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