Dutch Reformed Church branches approach court to lift ban on faith-based gatherings
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Pretoria - The government is facing a second urgent application - this time by, among others, several Dutch Reformed Church branches - to lift the ban on faith-based gatherings under the amended level 3 lockdown regulations.
The churches, of which several are locally based, filed papers in the Johannesburg high court, in which they are asking for an urgent order that faith-based gatherings be allowed.
This will be subject to the regulations which pertain to other gatherings relating to restaurants, casinos, gyms and other entertainment venues.
They are also asking that the government be ordered to urgently supply them with documents on which it based its decision to allow other social gatherings, but to prohibit faith-based gatherings.
Their application comes in the wake of the South African National Christian Forum and other Joburg church groups who are facing the government next week in their urgent bid to challenge the banning of religious gatherings.
The forum, together with Cornerstone Church Ministry and the Antioch Bible Church, have also filed papers in the Johannesburg high court in which they will ask that the regulations pertaining to religious gatherings be overturned.
They will also ask the court to compel Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, to include them in any future consultations which affect faith-based gatherings under the Disaster Management Act.
In their application they highlighted how the ban severely imposed on their work - not only to attend church services during the dire Covid-19 times, but also of them rendering assistance to the poor and needy in their areas.
The Dutch Reformed Church meanwhile, in the latest application, also highlighted similar problems.
No date has yet been set down for this hearing, and as in next week’s hearing, the government still has to file their opposing papers.
Johannes Noeth of Solidarity’s Helping Hand, who is part of the latest application, said in an affidavit that millions of religious people in the country, no matter what faith they were, continued to suffer as a result of the ban on faith-based gatherings.
One of the church ministers meanwhile said he was conflicted because on the one hand God required from church-goers to openly worship him, while on the other hand government banned religious gatherings, both orders of which were expected to be obeyed.
Noeth said there was a differentiation between when the government banned faith based gatherings last year in terms of the lockdown regulations, when most gatherings were banned, and now, while most social gatherings were allowed amid restrictions, but faith-gatherings totally prohibited.
The applicants said they would argue in court that the Constitutional Court had given recognition to the fact that religious freedom includes the right to practice one’s religion in accordance to the tenants of one’s faith.
He said the question arouse as to whether the limitations on religious rights were rational and necessary to curb the Covid-19 pandemic while the economy was functioning, people leaving their homes and even visiting a restaurant or going to the gym, subject to the rules.
Noeth said there was is no scientific basis for concluding that the virus spreads more rapidly in church than at any other social gathering.
“The situation is no longer the same as under levels 5 and 4, when people could not leave their homes,” North said
Dlamini Zuma, gave no reasons as to why she believed religious gatherings should be banned “as they are bigger superspreader events than visiting a restaurant or a casino”.