Christian Action Network's Submission on the Hate Speech Bill - 30 Janaury 2017
TO: The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development
For attention: Mr T Ross
RE: Comments on the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill
Organisation: Christian Action Network
Name: Taryn Lourens
Capacity: International Co-ordinator
Tel: 021 – 689 4480
DATE: 30 January 2017
The Christian Action Network is a non-profit network of 130 members, representing over 7000 congregations and 5 million Christians in 19 different African countries, with the Executive Head Quarters located in Cape Town, South Africa.
We fully endorse the submission given by Freedom of Religion SA (FORSA), and have used some of their comments together with our comments below.
Extremely Broad Definition
The Bill's extremely broad definition of hate speech under section 4, includes in its scope any communication which is considered "abusive or insulting" and intended to "bring into contempt or ridicule" a person, or group of persons, on the basis of their gender, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc. This includes email, or social media communications as well as teachings from a pulpit, or in a Bible study. Instead of an objective definition of what constitutes "hate speech" (for example those who sing "Kill the Boer! Kill the Farmer!" or those advocating Islamic Jihad to behead Christians), this Bill seeks to focus on subjective definitions of where an individual may feel offended, even if that was not the intention.
Perceived Intolerance Towards a Particular “occupation or trade”
Also, of particular concern to us, in terms of the proposed definition of “hate speech” (section 4(1) of the Bill), is that if a pastor were to say from the pulpit, or if a Christian were to post on social media, that prostitution, or abortion, or euthanasia is wrong, it is entirely possible that he/she could be charged with “hate speech” based on his/her perceived intolerance towards a particular “occupation or trade” and, if found guilty, be sentenced to 3 years in jail.
As our ministry educates the public about the harmful effects of prostitution, abortion, and euthanasia, through presentations at schools and churches, and through various media, it would mean that we would be particularly vulnerable to such prosecution.
Dialoguing about the Christian Faith Threatened
Our ministry is also regularly involved in dialoguing about the Christian Faith with people from other ‘faiths’. If a believer were to have a conversation with a person of a different faith, or someone who does not share or accept his/her religious beliefs and convictions (on, for example, the way to salvation, creationism, gender issues, marriage, procreation, discipline of children, etc), and that person were to take offence in any way, the believer could potentially face a charge of “hate speech” based upon a perceived prejudice towards the other person’s “religion” or “belief”;
Religious Freedom on Social Media
If someone were to post a Bible verse on social media that says that homosexuality is a sin, that person could potentially be charged with “hate speech” based on his/her perceived intolerance of another person’s “sexual orientation”, even where there is no actual victim!
There is No Need for New Laws to Deal with Abuses
There are always abuses, in any area of life, including in religion. However, the answer is not to ask, or allow, state authorities to interfere in religious freedom. There is no need for new laws. Laws against slander, or libel and others give more than enough opportunities for the relevant authorities to prosecute crimes. Furthermore, hate speech is already defined in the Constitution. Section 16(2)(c) of the Constitution limits “hate speech” to speech that amounts to “an advocacy of hatred … that constitutes incitement to cause harm”. In terms of South African case law, the question of whether speech in fact “advocates hatred” and further “incites harm” (both elements of which need to be present in order to qualify as “hate speech”), is an objective enquiry. It asks whether a reasonable person, assessing the “advocacy of hatred” within the particular context, would objectively conclude that there was a real likelihood that the speech in question would cause harm.
Serious Threat to Religious Freedom and Freedom of Speech
We believe the Hate Speech Bill to be a serious threat to our Constitutional rights to religious freedom and freedom of expression. We urge that this Bill be scrapped with immediate effect.The state should concentrate on fighting crime and corruption, not on threatening these hallmarks of democracy.