Religious observances at state institutions

Equitable and voluntary religious observances at state institutions

Some Pagans have, whilst visiting public clinics, felt obligated to endure Christian prayer services conducted by staff members of the clinic. Some consider interrupting these services as disrespectful to the rights of Christian patients, whilst others are uncertain about their own rights in such situations. What does the law say, and what are your rights?

The law

Section 15 (2) of the Bill of Rights reads:
Religious observances may be conducted at state or state-aided institutions, provided that—
(a) those observances follow rules made by the appropriate public authorities;
(b) they are conducted on an equitable basis; and
(c) attendance at them is free and voluntary.

Note that whilst such prayer services are permitted, they *must be equitable and voluntary*. If said services are exclusively Christian, do not offer alternative faith services, and disregard your right as a non-Christian to be asked whether you wish to attend said service before the service begins, the observance is neither equitable nor voluntary.

Your rights

Nurses and other clinic staff members need to be reminded that they are employed by the State as medical professionals, not as religious preachers. Clinics are not churches!

You have the right to object to any and all religious observances at state institutions if said services are neither equitable nor voluntary.

Address your objection clearly and politely to the person conducting the religious observation and inform the clinic manager of your objection and your reasons for objecting to the religious observance.

SAPRA ‘Your Rights’ Resource