SAPRA supports CRLRC’s review of Christian religious public holidays

The recent decision by the CRL Rights Commission to review religious public holidays is welcomed by this Alliance.

In a 2007 discussion document entitled ‘The RDP of the Soul’ [1] the ANC’s Commission for Religious Affairs (CRA) urged that the multi- religious nature of South Africa be recognised and has proposed that Christmas and Easter, Eid ul Fitr, Diwali and Yom Kippur be celebrated as Public Holidays.

The document, a review and analysis of the Liberation struggle, attempted to encourage the reconstruction and development of the nation’s spirit, and to “devise policies and set out comprehensive programmes for secular transformation by spiritual values… wherever people are learning to transform human community together.”It reaffirms that unity of the spirit “is the RDP of the soul”, and calls on all religions to “agree on the great spiritual truths which drive humanity”, and to “hold the same values in common whether it is love, joy, or peace; honesty, justice or integrity; generosity, responsibility or loyalty”.

The ANC’s proposal was a tangible realization of the already constitutionally enshrined guarantee to equality of religion in South Africa, and it fulfills the aspiration of the ANC’s Freedom Charter [2], declared at the ‘Congress of the People’ in Kliptown, South Africa on 26 June 1955, “that only a democratic state, based on the will of all the people, can secure to all their birthright without distinction of colour, race, sex or belief”.

The then Commission’s proposal to increase the number of religious Public Holidays was welcomed by members of diverse religious groups. It was especially welcomed by Pagans lobbying for the transformation of the existing Public Holiday calendar in which the only two religious public holidays, Christmas and Easter, are Christian. [3]

The South African Pagan Rights Alliance is of the opinion that South African Pagans should also be afforded the same recognition with the addition of Pagan religious holidays to the official Public Holiday calendar.

SAPRA would argue that the ANC CRA’s 2007 proposal to “recognise the multi-religious nature of our society and Constitution” can not be achieved by dismissing as irrelevent the request of smaller religious minorities for equal recognition.

We hold that the rights to freedom and equality of religion enshrined in the Bill of Rights are not apportioned on the basis of numerical adherence, but aught to be granted to all religious expressions equally, without favouritism or bias.

References:

[1] The RDP of the Soul
[2] Freedom Charter
[3] Public Holidays Act, No. 36 of 1994