By Karen Breytenbach

Afrikaans punk band Fokofpolisiekar will be allowed to perform at the 12th Klein Karoo National Arts Festival (KKNK) in Oudtshoorn next month on condition that they refrain from using the words "F*** God" in any of their songs.

The blasphemous comment which was written on a teenager's wallet in a bar caused a public outcry, with Christians across the country protesting the Cape Town band's upcoming performance at the festival.

While a lively debate on the balance between religious rights and freedom of speech was sparked, the KKNK was inundated with letters from the public, threatening to boycott the event.

A group of 23 churches in Oudtshoorn threatened to withdraw their venues and called an urgent meeting with the KKNK board of directors.

The KKNK last week accepted the band's apology, in which they said they had not intended to cause offence.

The pressure group reconsidered its boycotts after the band's apology, but stressed that their final decision would only be announced after a final KKNK board meeting in Stellenbosch on Wednesday.

Interested parties were invited to discuss the issue with the Organisation for Constitutional Leadership at the Commission for the Promotion of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Language Communities, as the board of the KKNK and the churches agreed that the Constitution needed to be acknowledged in the matter.

"We are a secular institution and a company, governed by the Company's Act and the Constitution. We are also a festival which supports freedom of speech, although we respect that the local community, for whom this is the most important event of the year, have a right to air its concerns," said acting Absa KKNK chairman, Schalk Burger.

The KKNK is an estimated R165-million injection into the local economy and boycotts would have hurt local communities, he said.

Burger thanked the religious leaders for their willingness to accept the rock group's earlier apology and expressed the board's regret about the trauma the episode had caused the community.

Burger also asked the religious leaders to "act responsibly in limiting the mischievous implications... that could allow it to arouse unnecessary emotions".

The group of churches said they forgave the band and wished to give them another chance.