Pagans and Christians oppose CRL commission's ‘state capture’ of religion

Cape Town - Pagans and Christians have dismissed recommendations by the CRL Rights Commission to register every religious practitioner, calling it "state capture of religion".

Non-profit Christian organisation Freedom of Religion South Africa (Forsa) and the South African Pagan Rights Alliance (Sapra) have a expressed a strong opposition to the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL) recommendations to regulate religion under a single umbrella body.

It comes three days after the CRL presented its report to Parliament on The Commercialisation and Religion and Abuse of People’s Belief Systems.

"Pagan submissions by this Alliance and by the Pagan Council were ignored, perhaps because we opposed the proposal," said Damon Leff director of Sapra.

Paganism encourages a strong environmental ethic often associated with Wicca or witchcraft. This is expressed in the veneration for the Divine Feminine (God as Goddess), most often portrayed as ‘Earth Mother’ or as the ‘Goddess of the Earth’.

According to a statement, Forsa said it finds the "proposals by the CRL to establish an extensive national structure to license (and thereby control) every ‘religious practitioner’ and ‘place of worship’ to be unnecessary, unworkable and unconstitutional".

Their proposal effectively amounts to ‘state capture of religion’.

Sapra said it intends to make submissions to Parliament once the process has started. Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva, chairperson of the CRL denied Sapra’s allegations.

"The participants in the hearings were part of a random sample. Only religions which were broadly represented at a percentage above 3% were part of the hearings. So in this case, size did matter," she said.

CRL investigated religious abuses after media reports of religious leaders feeding congregants live rats and snakes surfaced. The Chapter Nine institution is tasked with the constitutional mandate to promote the rights of religious communities. Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said they applied a random sampling of institutions from main line; traditional churches to African Independent churches and African Traditional Religion to ensure a "fair representation".

She said there were budgetary constraints which prevented them from engaging with all religions.

A total of over 85 religious and traditional healers’ leaders were interviewed. "We already worked with Sapra concerning the witchcraft community. Their views were already canvassed," said Mkhwanazi-Xaluva.