The committee met for the consideration and adoption of the Cultural, Religious and Linguistic (CRL) Rights Commission’s report on the regulation of religion and abuse of people’s beliefs page by page. There was little discussion, and the report was approved with amendments.
The Chairperson said that on the Committee’s China study tour, good lessons were learnt. In their report, they needed only to mention the people they had met in China and the issues that were raised in those meetings, and what the purpose of the visit was.
Committee Report on CRL Rights Commission’s report
The Chairperson said they should go through the Committee report on the Cultural, Religious and Linguistic (CRL) Rights Commission’s report on the regulation of religion and abuse of people’s beliefs page by page.
Ms B Maluleke (ANC) said on page 3 of the report, the Commission’s findings that the death of worshippers due to default on their medication was too high.
Mr K Mileham (DA) said as he recalled, it had been reported that the worshippers were using fake products. However, he also remembered that the worshippers were giving money to the church instead of spending it on medication. There were no figures or anadoctal evidence to prove this matter. He had no problem with this finding on the report.
The Chairperson said that was the Commission’s observations.
Ms Maluleke said they must be sure as a Committee, so that if the Commission disputed this finding, it should be somewhere in its report.
Mr Mileham said the Commission had not objected to any of this, and should have changed the finding when it presented to the Committee last time.
The Chairperson insisted that the support staff should ensure that it did not put in something which was not mentioned in the Commission’s report, because some worshippers could be offended and that may become a big issue. Therefore, they needed to ensure they put the right observations in the report. The support staff should work and improve on the grammar of the report.
Mr Mileham said that under “observations,” he agreed that religion must not be commercialised, but did not think that self-regulation and commercialisation were the same. They needed to separate the two, so as a Committee they needed to say that religion should not be commercialised. Another bullet point must say that most denominations had been self-regulated and this was working well for them. Therefore, these should be two separate issues.
Mr E Mthethwa (ANC) asked for clarity with regard to the observation that there was disagreement with regard to the regulation of religion through legislation.
Mr Mileham said there was disagreement in terms of whether or not freedom of religion and whether regulation through legislation of religion was constitutional. There was a lot of disagreement because many people had said there was a need for legislation to regulate religion, whereas the other group of people said that was unconstitutional.
The Chairperson said there was disagreement in this regard because the point that had been made was that in terms of religion, church and state should be separated. Professor Meyer had given a lot of input from his experience all over the world, even indicating how China and the Soviet Union had tried to regulate religion, but generally it did not work. Therefore, the professor had insisted on a recommendation that churches preferred self-regulation rather than being regulated by the state. Also, the churches had raised a point that the Commission could not be a body that regulated and deregulated churches. Therefore, there really was disagreement with regard to the constitutionality of the state regulating churches.
Mr A Masondo (ANC) said on the last bullet point of the observations, that the Committee should change it to state that some of the stakeholders at the hearings had said the Committee must not approve this report, because not all of the stakeholders had said it should be approved.
Ms Maluleke said that it should be noted that this report was going to be a public document and as a Committee, they should be clear in terms of what was written on the document because the stakeholders that had presented their inputs to the Committee should not be under the observations of the Committee, as stated in page 6 of the report. The observations of the Committee should start at page 8 of the report.
The Chairperson said generally this referred to the people who had made presentations at the hearings. The body, headings and grammar of the report would change and be drafted accordingly. At the end the report, they would list all the stakeholders that had attended the hearings.
The Chairperson said they must be sure of their recommendations in terms of correctness, and whether they had emanated from the issues that had been discussed in the hearings. As a Committee, they had agreed on the National Consultative Conference (NCC) with its term of five years.
Mr Mileham suggested that they take the third bullet point of the recommendations, which stated that "arising from the NCC", and the religious sector should make that a bullet point. There would then be a sub-bullet point which stated that "establishes a charter for the religious sector with the aim of self-regulation of the sector". This would be followed by another sub-bullet point: "develop a code of conduct for the religious bodies, which should be recognised by legislation",
The Chairperson said that was what they needed, resulting from the NCC.
The Committee noted the report from Commission, and made its recommendations.
Mr Maluleke moved the adoption of the report.
Mr Mileham seconded the move.
The Committee adopted the report with amendments.
Report on the China Study Tour
The Chairperson said that on the China study tour, good lessons were learnt. In their report, they only needed to mention the people they had met in China and the issues that were raised in those meetings, and what the purpose of the visit was.
He would meet with the researcher and the secretary to draft and finalise the report. Once the report was done, would be circulated to all Members of the Committee.
The meeting was adjourned.
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