The ACDP would like to place on record that we disagree with the motion of desirability on the Civil Union Bill which was adopted in the Home Affairs Committee today.

This Bill is clearly being fast tracked and we call on the public who have concerns to prepare to make submissions to the Committee who will now have to embark on a public process before finalising and adopting the Bill.

The African Christian Democratic Party is disturbed by this decision which indicates Parliament and the department’s intention to force officiating officers of civil marriage to violate their consciences.

The Bill - proposed by a COPE Member of Parliament - seeks to repeal Section 6 of the Civil Union Act that provides for a marriage officer to be exempted from solemnising same-sex marriages on the grounds of conscience, religion and belief. And if passed, would allow that civil servants who are marriage officers be compelled to solemnise same-sex marriages regardless of their religious beliefs.

The ACDP expressed their concern in the committee today but was not given an opportunity to ask the department if they have tried to address this problem by means other than legislation. For example, a special desk for Civil Unions staffed by persons employed specifically for this purpose.

ACDP Member of Parliament Cheryllyn Dudley today said that, “We are a society that professes to value freedom of choice yet we are becoming more and more selective about who gets to choose and who does not. We are using legislation to override people’s moral consciences, which smacks of methods used during the apartheid era.

“Our constitution protects freedom of conscience, religion and belief and Members of Parliament have a duty to see that people are not compelled to act against their conscience in the course of their work and that they are not discriminated against on these grounds.

“In the words of Family Action SA, ‘no one should be forced to accept a moral wrong, participate in it, or serve as an accomplice’.

“Although there seems to be broad consensus from the side of the department and the committee, the people have not yet spoken and the ACDP believes freedom of religion and belief is a concept shared and valued by most South Africans.

“It should be noted that a significant number of South Africans are doubly concerned that this legislation is in fact part of a broader agenda that intends forcing churches and religious institutions to conduct civil unions - in the name of marriage - in their places of worship. More and more court cases are being used to harass religious bodies on this issue and there is huge suspicion that section 5 - which presently protects marriage officers of religious organizations - will be targeted in due course.”


28 August 2018