Atheist Group Wants Court to Remove Christianity from Schools


Last week, news broke in national media that an atheist organisation has instituted legal proceedings in the Johannesburg High Court against six public schools (two in the Cape, and four in Gauteng), all of whom hold to a Christian ethos and Christian values. The organisation is effectively asking the Court to order that Christianity be removed and banned from the schools.

The case, which is a watershed case for religious freedom in South Africa, will in all probability end up in the Constitutional Court.

The Facts
Organisasie vir Godsdienste-Onderrig en Demokrasie (OGOD) is an atheist organisation working to eradicate Christianity from schools. In this particular case the schools that OGOD has targeted, are Laerskool Randhart (Alberton), Laerskool Baanbreker (Boksburg), Laerskool Garsfontein (Pretoria), Hoërskool Linden (Johannesburg), Hoërskool Oudtshoorn and Langenhoven Gimnasium (both in Oudtshoorn).

In terms of the admission policy of all of the above schools, learners of all religions and belief systems (including Muslim, Jewish, Jehovah Witnesses, Christian and atheist) are welcome to enroll at those schools.  Should learners (or their parents) of their own free will choose to enroll at those schools however, they do so with the knowledge and understanding (and by implication, agreement) that the schools hold to a Christian ethos and Christian values, as determined by the school governing bodies of those schools.

At all times, participation in any Christian practices or activities (including attendance of sermons, prayer, VSCV activities, evangelism opportunities, etc) are completely free and voluntary. No learner is ever forced to participate in such practices against his/her will.

In its court papers, OGOD alleges that the schools in question are breaching a number of constitutional rights, including the right (of non-Christians) not to be discriminated against on the basis of conscience, religion and/or belief. OGOD is asking the Court to grant an order effectively removing and banning any form of Christianity from the schools.

The schools, who have been given a number of days to reply to OGOD’s court papers, are meeting with the Federation of School Governing Bodies of South African Schools (FEDSAS) to consider their position and approach to the case.

The Potential Ramifications
This case could potentially have severe ramifications for religious freedom and ultimately for the spreading of the Gospel, in South Africa.

Should OGOD be successful, the effect will be that teachers and learners will be silenced from speaking or testifying about God in a school context. They will not be allowed to read the Bible or pray (either individually, or together with other Christians) at school. Creation, as a Biblical teaching, will be banned from schools. Learners will not be allowed to participate in VCSV or other Christian activities at school. And doors will be shut to pastors and Christian ministries working into schools. In a nutshell, our schools will become sterile environments to the seed of the Gospel – this, when statistics have shown, that between 80 – 85% of people make a commitment to Jesus Christ before the age of 18!

“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forcesof this world rather than on Christ.” Colossians 2:8

Direct Attack on Christianity
Although the outcome of the case could potentially affect the religious freedom of other faiths as well, it is blatantly obvious that this case is a direct attack on Christianity. Why else would only “Christian schools” have been chosen as targets for this landmark case? There can also be no doubt that the aim is to remove one belief system (Christianity) and replace it with another (atheism). This is evident from the court order that OGOD is asking, namely a prohibition on any form of Christianity in the schools.

By Andrew Selley, Founder and CEO of Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA).

Published on, 5 September 2014.

A Christian Response
The Christian Action Network has been warning since 1991 that the freedom of Christians in South Africa to believe, preach and live their lives according to the Word of God, is under threat. Tens of thousands marched to Parliament in 1995 and 1996 and gave submissions against the secular state proposals to the Constitutional Assembly.

In the last year, there has been a spate of new attacks. We have told the stories of pastors, Christian ministries and Christian business people who have been victimised by activist lobbying groups driving a secular humanist agenda. Christians who have had to defend their freedom of conscience, religion and belief before the Human Rights Commission, Gender Equality Commission and Courts. This time, the attack is on the most precious and most vulnerable – our children, the future of our country.

FOR SA - an organisation that works to protect and promote religious freedom and the autonomy of the Church in South Africa, has already been in touch with FEDSAS and a number of the headmasters involved, to offer their support and assistance in defending the case. In addition to FOR SA, a few political parties and other organisations (including Afriforum who is reported to have made a significant contribution towards the legal costs involved in defending the case) have also already given the schools their show of support. The African Christian Democratic Party says it will oppose attempts to stop Christian values from being taught in schools “as our Constitution promotes the freedom of religion and not freedom from religion”.

Against this background, FOR SA urges pastors and Christian leaders to give them their signed support, so that they can speak as a loud and united voice on issues affecting our religious freedom.  On a previous issue relating to religious freedom, FOR SA was able to rally the signed support of leaders representing 12 million people in South Africa. See Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , Tel: 021- 556 5502.

As Christians, we cannot afford to sit idly by as our freedoms to believe, teach and live our lives according to the Word of God, are being eroded. We have to take a united stand – for the sake of religious freedom and for the sake of keeping the Gospel “free” in our country (and in this instance, in our schools)!

“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:6-9

“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4

Please Pray
Finally, we encourage all Christians to pray! James 5:16 tells us that “[t]he earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”  Let’s keep bringing these matters before our Lord, and trust Him to grant us wisdom and grace and lead us in victory – for the sake of our country and ultimately, for His glory!

Please forward this to all Christian Leaders you know so we can all protest.

Recommended Resource:Biblical Principles for Africa (also available in Afrikaans and French).

See also:
Religious Freedoms at Risk in South Africa
Homeschooling Freedoms at Risk

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Africa Christian Action
PO Box 23632
Cape Town
South Africa
Tel: 021-689 4481 
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