South African Charter of Religious Rights and Freedoms

The South African Charter of Religious Rights and Freedoms was publicly endorsed in October this year, at a ceremony attended by Constitutional Court Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke. Fortunately, it is not (yet) law – merely an expression of what all the major religious groupings would like to see enacted in law.

Clause 6.4 expresses the view that

Every person has the right to religious dignity, which includes not to be victimised, ridiculed or slandered on the ground of their faith, religion, convictions or religious activities. No person may advocate hatred that is based on religion, and that constitutes incitement to violence or to cause physical harm.

This clause is one of many that should be of concern to all who are committed to South Africa’s Constitutional values, particularly those endorsing and defending freedom of speech. While limitations on free speech can be justified – and are currently provided for – in the case of hate-speech, words like “victimised” and “ridiculed” are absurdly broad, and could be used to justify limitations on any speech act that is offensive to believers. As we know, the bar for offense in these areas is set very low.

Download/read the Charter