Parties close arguments in school religion matter

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May 17, 2017
Parties close arguments in school religion matter

File picture: Independent Media

OGOD told the South Gauteng High Court on Wednesday that the point of the Constitution was to protect minorities and that diversity could not be celebrated until exclusivity was achieved.

Court proceedings began with arguments in the matter from Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools (Fedsas) along with other organisations who were against the banning of religious practices in South African schools.

OGOD (Organisation for Religious Education and Democracy) said that the Constitutional rights that would be infringed included the right to equality, belief as well as the freedom of religion.

Fedsas said that the School Governing Bodies (SGB) were the rights bearers on religion in the schools, and that schools were a specialised community of their own which meant their SGB’s could not be defined like the government.

They read a judgement from another case which endorsed the outcome which said that the SGB was recognised as the legislative of the school.

In that matter, the court concluded that the learners and parents had to approach the head of department if they felt their rights were infringed and have the policy set aside.

Since Monday the court has listened to opposing views in the matter brought by various organisations who were against the banning of religious practices in South Africa and others in favour of them.

The application by OGOD is requesting the court to ban religious practices at schools, which runs counter to the conviction of 95 percent of South Africans who identify themselves with a religion.

OGOD responded on Wednesday, by saying that this meant that a school’s SGB could adopt certain values, which was different from adopting a religion.

They said it couldn’t be in a child’s best interest to indicate a value that was suitable for the SGB and that there would be nothing wrong in adopting values and stating that they were in respect to a certain religion.

Fedsas continued to argue that the report spoke about six schools and had investigated the situation in each of the schools and there were too many variables to apply to other schools.

They said that schools were different in many ways, which underlined the legislative intention to recognise that just like communities they were each different and religious practices had to fit each one.

They said that there couldn’t be an endorsement of a specific religion and that international human rights organisations said that parents were allowed to play a role in determining the education of their children and that was in place by having a SGB. Fedsas added that the constitution stated that all schools needed to be without an ethos which was routed in one particular religion.

OGOD concluded by telling the court that the justification of the schools relied on celebrating diversity and that they didn’t rely on unfair discrimination but on equity.

Judgement on the matter was reserved.

– African News Agency

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