An assessment of constitutional guarantees of religious rights and freedoms in South Africa

Gildenhuys, J. L. (2002-03)

Thesis (LLD)--University of Stellenbosch, 2002.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The central issue which is considered in this thesis is the meaning of the constitutional guarantees of religious rights and freedoms in South Africa. In other words, it is concerned with the functions of the state, through its laws or conduct, in respect of religion and with its relationship towards the institutional church or religious community. It is argued that religious freedom is, in fact, a bundle of rights and freedoms. The "essential rights and freedoms of religion" which constitute this "bundle" are identified in the context of the historical development of religious rights. It is shown that religious rights theories have developed in the West which include concepts of freedom of conscience, the right to freely exercise religion, accommodation of pluralism of a confessional and institutional nature, equality of all religions before the law, nondiscrimination on the grounds offaith, institutional separation of church and state and some separation of state (or law) and religion. It is maintained that no single principle could by itself guarantee religious freedom and that these rights and freedoms are mutually. supportive of and mutually subservient to the highest goal of guaranteeing religious freedom. These essential rights and freedoms are therefore treated as constituting minimum standards for the protection of religious freedom and it is argued that religious freedom as protected in the South African Constitution should be interpreted to incorporate these multiple principles. It is shown that, prior to the promulgation of the interim Constitution the essential rights and freedoms of religion were not adequately protected in South Africa and that the constitutional entrenchment of these essential religious rights was necessitated by various factors in the preconstitutional South African society. The position with regard to religious rights and freedoms in post-Constitutional South Africa is considered by briefly sketching the broader constitutional context and by assessing the constitutional clauses protecting religious rights to determine whether the essential rights are protected. The religious rights provisions in the Constitution are analysed in detail in order to determine how they should be interpreted and implemented to ensure adequate protection of the essential rights and freedoms of religion in South Africa.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die sentrale vraagstuk wat in hierdie proefskrif ondersoek word is die betekenis van godsdiensregte en vryhede wat in die Grondwet verskans word. Dit ondersoek die funksie van die staat, hetsy deur wetgewing of staatsoptrede, ten opsigte van godsdiens en ten opsigte van kerke of godsdiensgroepe. Daar word geargumenteer dat godsdiensregte inderdaad uit 'n aantal regte, oftewel, 'n bondel regte, bestaan. Die essensiële regte en vryhede van godsdiens wat hierdie bondelopmaak word geïdentifiseer met verwysing na die historiese ontwikkeling van godsdiensregte. Teorieë van godsdiensregte het in die Weste ontwikkel wat die volgende essensiële regte en vryhede insluit: vryheid van gewete, die reg om godsdiens vrylik te beoefen, akkommodasie van pluralisme, gelykheid van alle godsdienste en nie-diskriminasie op grond van godsdiens, institusionele skeiding van kerk en staat en gedeeltelike skeiding van staat en godsdiens. Die argument lui verder dat 'n enkele beginsel nie opsigself godsdiensvryheid kan waarborg nie en dat hierdie regte en vryhede mekaar wedersyds ondersteun en tesame die doel van godsdiensvryheid dien. Die essensiële regte en vryhede van godsdiens word daarom behandel as minimum standaarde vir die beskerming van godsdiensvryheid en daar word 'n saak uitgemaak dat godsdiensvryheid in die Suid-Afrikaanse Grondwet geïnterpreteer behoort te word as synde hierdie veelvuldige beginsels in te sluit. Die proefskriftoon dat die essensiele regte en vryhede nie voor die inwerkingtreding van die interim Grondwet in Suid-Afrika genoegsame beskerming geniet het nie en dat die konstitusionele verskansing daarvan deur verskeie faktore in die pre-konstitusionele Suid- Afrika genoodsaak is. Die posisie na die inwerkingtreding van die Grondwet word geëvalueer deur kortliks die breë grondwetlike konteks te skets en vas te stelof die artikels in die Grondwet wat met godsdiens handel, inderdaad die essensiele regte en vryhede van godsdiens beskerm. Hierdie artikels word in diepte geanaliseer ten einde te bepaal hoe hulle geïnterpreteer en geïmplementeer behoort te word ten einde die essensiele godsdiensregte en vryhede genoegsaam te beskerm.

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