1. Under the Constitution, citizens have the right to establish independent schools, including religious schools, “at their own expense”. But for public schools, the National Policy on Religion dictates that the state must not pay for the promotion of any particular faith. “The state cannot allow unfair access to the use (of) its resources to propagate any particular religion”. It also rules that public schools “may not violate the religious freedom of pupils and teachers by imposing religious uniformity on a religiously diverse school population”[i].
2. In South Africa in 2012, there were 30 231 established public and registered independent education institutions, according to official figures. Of these, 93.2% are public schools – which means under the Constitution and National Policy that they should not subscribe to a particular faith[ii].
3. Six schools (Hoërskool Linden in Johannesburg, Laerskool Randhart in Alberton, Laerskool Baanbreker in Boksburg, Laerskool Garsfontein in Pretoria and Hoërskool Oudtshoorn and Langenhoven Gimnasium both in Oudtshoorn) are being taken to court (currently in 2014 December) for promoting a Christian ethos in their environments.
4. OGOD (the organisation responsible for taking the above mentioned schools to court) has nothing against independent religious schools, but takes issue with public schools that are using government funds to actively promote evangelical or authoritarian Christianity.
5. In terms of the admission policy of all of the above schools, learners of all religions and belief systems (including Muslim, Jewish, Jehovah Witnesses, Christian and atheist) are welcome to enrol at those schools. Should learners (or their parents) of their own free will choose to enrol at those schools however, they do so with the knowledge and understanding (and by implication, agreement) that the schools hold to a Christian ethos and Christian values, as determined by the school governing bodies of those schools.
6. Both the ACDP and the FF+ are contending this issue, arguing that religious freedom means that schools should have the right to be ‘Christian’ in ethos and practise
7. Some of the activities that OGOD is concerned about include praying before sports matches, having school anthems that refer to a Christian deity, teaching creationism and that all non-believers will go to hell as well as instructing children to draw pictures depicting religious ‘myths’.
8. OGOD is not against religious education in public schools, but rather against promoting one single faith over and above others.
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[i] http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/Does-God-belong-in-schools-20140905 (assessed 01-12-2014)
[ii] http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/Does-God-belong-in-schools-20140905 (assessed 30-11-2014)