The faithful have sometimes been persuaded to eat grass - something the CLR sees as abuse. Picture: African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Johannesburg - Owing to abuse of congregates by some pseudo pastors which includes persuading gullible church members to eat grass to find salvation, the Portfolio Committee on Women in the Presidency Portfolio Committee on Women in the Presidency is pushing for laws to deter such practices. 

The Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights Commission) has briefed the portfolio committee on the commercialisation of religion and the abuse and exploitation of people’s belief systems.

However, African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) MP Cheryllyn Dudley said "committee views" proposed by the CRL peer review mechanism were unsuitable for the religious sector.

"We note the cautionary reminder that any intervention must be within the confines of the constitution, bearing in mind that it enshrines freedom of religion for all South Africans,” said Dudley in a statement on Wednesday.

“The religious sector would agree with the committee that the regulations and peer review mechanism as proposed by the CRL Commission will not work."

She said the religious sector was concerned that in an effort to deal with criminals posing as religious leaders, the freedom of religious communities could be threatened and they would be open to discrimination and abuse of power.

The portfolio committee has suggested legislation to regulate churches operating outside the law. It is recommending a Religious Act; registration with a council within a regulatory framework and provision for a complaints procedure. It wants to see municipalities enforcing by-laws, preventing churches from operating in areas not demarcated for religious services.

The committee also suggests the South African Revenue Services ensures the collection of tax on church revenues.

African News Agency/ANA