PRETORIA, The South African Department of Basic Education has welcomed the judgment handed down in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg that public schools cannot promote just one religion.

This ruling is consistent with the department's own policy informed by South African Schools Act and the Constitution that no one religion should be promoted above another, the department said here Wednesday, adding that it would study the judgment in detail.

The case was brought by the Organization for Religious Education and Democracy (OGOD) which argued that there is religious bias in South African public schools while trade union Solidarity -- which represents the six schools the case was brought against -- argued that the Constitution allows public schools to identify with one religion and promote it.

The department did not oppose the relief sought by the applicants.

Handing down the judgment, Judge Van der Linde said: "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."

The department has reiterated that the aim of the ruling is not to ban religious practices in schools but about protecting children and emphasising that schools should engage in religion education rather than religious instruction and not promote one religion over another.

No change will take place as a result of this judgment and it will continue to be business as usual for the DBE as the court merely reinforced and emphasized our existing policy in terms of religion in schools, the department said, while reminding School Governing Bodies to review their rules to ensure that they are in compliance with the legislation.

Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK

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