Proselytising the Regulation of Religious Bodies in South Africa: Suppressing Religious Freedom?

Keywords: Secular, freedom of religion, belief


In democratic pluralistic and secular societies, freedom of religion is a fundamental right to be enjoyed by all individuals and religious organisations. A unique feature of this human right is the extent to which it is premised on a personal belief. The latter can be "bizarre, illogical or irrational", but nevertheless deserving of protection in the interests of freedom of religion. However, when the expression of a religious belief or practice transgresses the civil or criminal law it must be dealt with in the relevant legislative framework to hold the transgressor liable. Measures taken by the state to regulate religious bodies in terms of a general supervisory council or umbrella body are an unreasonable and unjustifiable interference with freedom of religion, and hence unconstitutional. I am of the view that the right to freedom of religion depends for its constitutional validity – and viability – on there being no interference (or regulation) by the state except in instances as provided for in terms of relevant legislation.


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Author Biography

Radley Henrico, The University of the Western Cape, Department of Public Law and Jurisprudence.

Faculty of Law



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List of Abbreviations

AHRLJ African Human Rights Law Journal
ATR African Traditional Religions
BYU L Rev Brigham Young University Law Review
Can Bar Rev Canadian Bar Review
Can J L & Soc'y Canadian Journal of Law and Society
CCR Constitutional Court Review
COGTA Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on
Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs
Colum L Rev Columbia Law Review
CRL Rights Commission Commission for the Promotion and
Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities
Duke J Comp & Int'l L Duke Journal of Comparative and International Law
Emory Int'l L Rev Emory International Law Review
FOR SA Freedom of Religion South Africa
ICON International Journal of Constitutional Law
IJRF International Journal for Religious Freedom
Ind Int'l & Comp L Rev Indiana International and Comparative Law Review
J L Relig Journal of Law and Religion
JSR Journal for the Study of Religion
Kansai U Rev L & Pol Kansai University Review of Law and Politics
NGTT Nederduitss Gereformeerde Teologiese Tydskrif
PMG Parliamentary Monitoring Group
PRC Peer-Review Committee
SACRRF South African Council for the
Protection and Promotion of Religious Rights and Freedoms
SALJ South African Law Journal
Tex Int'l LJ Texas International Law Journal
UBC Law Rev University of British Columbia Law Review
Yale J L & Human Yale Journal of Law and Humanities
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