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Court to decide whether schools can uphold religious ethos

File picture: Boxer Ngwenya

File picture: Boxer Ngwenya

Published May 10, 2017

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Johannesburg – The Johannesburg High Court will hear arguments between the Organisasie vir Godsdienste-Onderrig en Demokrasie (OGOD) and six public schools on whether or not the schools can hold particular religious ethos and values.

OGOD alleges that they are acting in the public’s interest and particularly to protect children from having their rights infringed on the altar of religious observances and instruction.

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OGOD’s case against the schools is that it’s against the National Policy on religion and education, and against the constitution for any public school to promote a particular religion to primarily associate itself with a particular religion.

African Christian Democratic Party MP Cheryllyn Dudley said this case concerns the right of public schools to hold a particular religious ethos and values.

She said the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools which represents the six learning institutions viewed this an attack to the Christian religion.

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“The only schools being directly challenged, however, are those upholding Christian values. While the Constitution allows religious observances, it is silent on the issue of religion education and religious instruction,” she said in a statement.

Dudley said OGOD is against learners disclosing the religious adherence to the school, to keep a record of learners’ religious adherence and to segregate learners on the basis of their religious adherence.

She said the organisation is also asking the court to interdict each of the schools individually, and to order them stop certain religious practices in their schools, including the following:

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* having mottos and school badges that reference or symbolise a belief (particularly in a tribute God); 

* the singing of religious songs; having SCA activities as part of the school’s weekly activities (even during break times); 

* reading of scripture and prayer at the beginning or end of school assemblies or the school day; 

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* inviting religious leaders to speak to learners; 

* allowing prayer to a Christian God before or during sport games; 

* the handing out of Bible material or promotion of Bible stories; 

* and presenting creationist teachings.

The matter is expected to be heard on 15-17 May.

African News Agency

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