Hi everyone, for those who do not know me, I am Cheryllyn Dudley, a former member of Parliament, having served 20 years in the National Assembly. I hope this input will assist you and your church or organisation in responding to the PEPUDA bill which is presently in the making!
If you have heard of the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act and the recent proposed Amendments to the act you are probably a little concerned or possibly – someone is telling you, you should be concerned! You might then be asking:
WHY IS PEPUDA SEEN AS A THREAT TO FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND BELIEF?
Very simply it is because Christian beliefs, teachings and practices have come under attack in the name of this act in recent years.
As Christians we know that we all have equal value in the eyes of God but we also know that a diverse people are not the same. We are unique in every way with our different looks, abilities, achievements, energy, skills, talents, desires, beliefs, purposes and so much more.
Sadly, because of the awful manner in which people have been treated in the past and even the present, because they are seen to be different – all discrimination is now seen as dangerous. This is of course absurd and yet understandable when we think of the pain and hardships caused by ‘unjust discrimination’.
State regulation of religion and religious practices, as abusive as some religions and relgious practices are, is NOT desirable and government knows this. However unrealistic expectations are often placed on government.
We should keep in mind that while some may have anti Christian agendas, there are many things motivating this legislation so government is walking a tightrope here and members of Parliament will need to consider and weigh the intended and unintended consequences carefully. This is not going to be easy.
SO HOW CAN CHRISTIANS RESPOND TO PEPUDA?
In order to retain maximum freedom in general; and to protect freedom of belief in particular, it is important for those of us who will be affected, to participate in the legislative process by raising concerns that are specific to the legislation and to make relevant suggestions.
Having looked carefully at various concerns being raised, most seem to be regarding what could happen and most of what could happen is already a possibility as the law stands. What is a concern however, is that activists are always ready to make mischief and if their costs are paid there will be no constraints and harm can be done regardless of whether or not the accusations are warranted. This should definitely be challenged.
As the proposed definitions line up with the ordinary meaning of the words, I am not convinced that the broadening of the definitions will significantly further impact on religious freedom. Even without broadening the definitions of ‘equality’ and ‘discrimination’ there have been attempts to compel churches to employ or elect people who are unsuitable to hold office due to their beliefs and life style choices. The constitutional protection of freedom of religion and belief has however proved to have a balancing effect when court challenges have been raised and sanity has prevailed.
Our call on government and parliament could be to define ‘fair discrimination’ so as to recognise the need for organisations to appoint office bearers and accept membership in line with the objective and purpose of the organisation.
It is also reasonable to request that a clause recognising the protection of freedom of religion and belief in the constitution be included in this legislation. This clause should state that no unnecessary or unreasonable restrictions should be placed on persons and organisations that would compromise these freedoms.
Because harm can be caused with or without intent to cause harm when discriminating, it makes sense to me to have special courts which prioritise reconciliation and fair expectations regarding fair discrimination or a rational need to differentiate. In dealing with such issues discretion will be needed to decide where an apology, education or restitution should be made.
The provision that both an employer and an employee will to be held liable for unfair discrimination should be amended to compel a company or organisation to discipline a person found guilty but should not be held liable beyond the expectation that the company or organisation must prove they have made genuine efforts to promote ‘equality’ and the prevention of unfair discrimination.
Once the department has considered the submissions and determined whether or not to make any amendments or further recommendations, the bill will be submitted to Parliament and considered in the relevant committee. Another round of public participation will ensue before proposals are considered and deliberated on in committee. By a majority vote it could then be sent to the National Assembly or NCOP to be debated in the house. If it passes in the one house (which is presently the likelihood due to a majority in committee representing the majority in both houses) it then goes to the other and the process begins again with more opportunities for public input and debate. Only once the legislation passes both houses, does it go to the President to be signed into law. Then the department has to make regulations to enable implementation.
This is a long process which creates many opportunities for true Christianity to shine through when the object is to win hearts and minds – not necessarily those things we may feel entitled to.
SPEAKING TRUTH TO POWER
Whether you are an MP, an NGO, CBO or individual, firstly state your concern clearly and precisely (long preambles do not help). Express your concerns respectfully and graciously, briefly, honestly, accurately (without exaggeration, grandstanding or fear mongering). It will make you so much easier to listen to.
Explain how your concern will affect people and what you are asking Parliament or government to do about it. Recommend what you believe is the best way to solve the problem and how you think this can be done in the simplest and most effective way. Link your recommendation to what relief it would bring and how consequences for others could be avoided. Make available the names of who you have consulted and who you represent on the issue.
It is our hope as Dia LOGOS that Christians will choose to see this process as an opportunity for us to model a behaviour that is not in line with our natural human inclination to be defensive, rebellious and to fight. We can choose to let our words spread hope and not fear, love and not enmity, wisdom and not folly, humility and not superiority and arrogance.
PETITIONS & SUBMISSIONS
When making a submission, remember that departments and members of parliament tend to label submissions that are ‘obviously coordinated’ as one, so there is value in individualising your response. At the same time organisations may request to make oral submission on behalf of a broader constituency and making your support for this request known is also good.
Comments must be submitted to the Department of Justice by
WEDNESDAY, 30 JUNE 2021
I pray your submission will help serve God’s purposes in our nation and express our desire and willingness to strive for a shared future that celebrates diversity.
For the attention of Ms F Bhayat
- addressed to The Director-General: Justice and Constitutional Development Private Bag X81 Pretoria 0001
- delivered at SALU Building, Room 23.23, 316 Thabo Sehume Street, Pretoria
- emailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org or
- faxed to 086 754 8493.
Examples that can be used as a guide for individuals:
I am concerned that broadening the definition of “equality” and ‘discrimination’ without making provision for faith based organisations to be exempt, will result in unfair accusations and pressure on churches to allow people to hold office or membership in institutions whose beliefs and policies they do not agree with or aspire to live by. This would seriously undermines freedom of religion and belief.
It is my belief that broadening the definition of “discrimination” to mean that intention to discriminate is not required will require special courts, that are best placed to promote reconciliation and unity with discretion to decide where an apology, education or restitution should be made.
It does not make sense to expect faith based organisations or NGO’s not to discriminate when it comes to membership and those who hold office as the beliefs held must be considered. I request that these institutions be exempted where applicable.
Providing that both an employer and an employee can be held liable for discrimination by an employee is extreme and open to abuse.
This could be amended to compel a company or organisation to discipline the person but the organisation should not be liable beyond the expectation that it has made genuine efforts to promote equality and the prevention of unfair discrimination.