The Afrikaans Taal en Kultuurvereniging (ATKV) did not unfairly discriminate against three Muslim complainants who were refused membership because they were non-Christian, said the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

SAHRC spokesperson Siseno Njobeni said the commission received three complaints from separate individuals whose applications to be members of the ATKV and its resort, Goudini Spa, were turned down.

"Two of the complainants applied for membership because they wanted to benefit from the 30 percent discount that members were entitled to at the Spa. The other complainant was aggrieved on the basis that he was Afrikaans-speaking and that he was entitled to join the ATKV," said Njobeni.

He said the ATKV had rejected two of the applicants because they did not comply with the organisation's policy that members had to belong to the Christian faith.

With regard to the other complainant, Njobeni said the commission put it to the ATKV that there had been a prima facie violation of the right to freedom of religion and equality.

In its response, the ATKV had furnished the SAHRC with details of the organisation's objectives, values, membership requirements and the economic benefits for members.

Njobeni said ATKV admitted it discriminated by precluding non-Christians, but argued that the discrimination did not amount to a violation of the right to equality, as it was not unfair.

He said the SAHRC concluded that the ATKV performed two separate activities.

It functioned as a cultural, religious and linguistic association seeking to promote the Afrikaans culture. And, it performed financial functions which amounted to a number of financial benefits to members.

Njobeni said: "The economic benefits are linked to the primary function and there appears to be no reason why the economic function should not be afforded constitutional protection in terms of the rights afforded to cultural, religious and linguistic communities."

He said the SAHRC would remain vigilant in ensuring that language, race and culture were not used as tools of exclusion. - Sapa