South Africa: Basic Education Welcomes Court Ruling On Promotion of One Religion Over Others

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) welcomes the judgement handed down in the South Gauteng High Court this morning that public schools cannot promote one religion to the exclusion of others. This ruling is consistent with the Department’s own policy informed by South African Schools act and the Constitution that no one religion should be promoted above another.

The DBE did not oppose the relief sought by the applicants, however monitored the case very closely as it was always going to have an impact all public schools.

The case was brought by the Organisation for Religious Education and Democracy against six schools and was opposed by Solidarity who represented the schools in question.

“Religious observances may be conducted at state or state-aided institutions, provided that A) Those observances follow rules made by the appropriate public authorities; B). They are conducted on an equitable basis; and C). Attendance at them is free and voluntary,” said Judge Van der Linde, quoting the ruling being handed down.

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.

No change will take place as a result of this judgement and it will continue to be business as usual for DBE as the court merely reinforced and emphasized our existing policy in terms of religion in schools. The Department will however study the judgement in detail. We remind School Governing Bodies however to review their rules to ensure that they are in compliance with legislation.

Source: Department of Basic Education