Original Research - Special Collection: Broken Bodies aand Ideological Master Narratives

Why do you hate me so much? An exploration of religious freedom from the perspective of African religion(s)

Sibusiso T. Masondo
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 73, No 3 | a4628 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v73i3.4628 | © 2017 Sibusiso T. Masondo | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 02 May 2017 | Published: 31 October 2017

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Sibusiso T. Masondo, School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

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The advent of the 1996 constitution and the promotion of freedom of religion gave space to previously discriminated religious traditions to flourish. There have been a number of revivals of aspects of African Traditional Religion. The Bill of Rights guarantees Religious Freedom but tends to limit it to Freedom of belief. People have every right to believe and practice as long as their practice is in line with the law. This paper is a reflection on the difficulties posed by the notion of Religious Freedom as contained in the 1996 South African constitution for practitioners of African Indigenous Religions and other minority religions. In a case that captured the imagination of the legal fraternity, Gareth Prince, a practicing Rastafarian, was prevented from joining the Bar of the Western Cape because of a prior conviction of being caught in possession of dagga, an illegal substance. He argued that he used cannabis as part of his religious observance. Justice Ngcobo, in his judgement dismissing the case, made it very clear that ‘the right to freedom of religion is not absolute’. In other words, religious practices need to fall within the provisions of the law of the land. At the core of our argument is that the intellectual and cultural resources that were mobilised in writing the South African constitution failed to reflect on the religious practices of indigenous people and other minority religions.


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