THE SACONSTITUTIONAND RELIGIOUS FREEDOM: PERVERTER OR PRESERVER OF RELIGION'S CONTRIBUTION TO THE PUBLIC DEBATE ON MORALITY?
AbstractThe South African Constitution should be interpreted differently from the North American one, or else religion will forfeit any role as a partner in the public debate on morality. The history of interpretation and implementation of the North American constitution serves as an example of a secular scenario that we as South Africans should try and avoid. American jurisprudence on the First Amendment, by which religious freedom in that country is guaranteed, led to a complete separation between religion and the state as representative of the public sphere. This is the result of so-called “secular individualism”. The text of the South-African Constitution allows for an interpretation whereby the rights of groups, also religious, contrary to those of individuals only, are recognised. That allows better for the diversity of a pluralistic democracy as in South Africa. However, tolerance and cultural openness, as active values, are needed to prevent the formation of a theocratic dictatorship, like we had under the previous regime in South Africa. Seen from this perspective, the Constitution is not a perverter but a preserver of religion's right to partake in the public debate on morality
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