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Freedom of religion, a constitutional right and area of global concern
2017-01-17

 Description: Prof Shaun de Freitas Tags: Prof Shaun de Freitas

Prof Shaun de Freitas
Photo: Mamosa Makaya





Freedom of religion is enshrined in the South African Constitution, states that everyone has the right to freedom of religion, which more specifically entails the freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief and opinion. It makes provision for the protection of religious communities in South Africa. Consequently, the maintenance and protection of such a right is of fundamental importance.

Prof Shaun de Freitas, Associate Professor of Law at the University of the Free State (UFS) specialises in constitutional law, with a specific focus on the right to freedom of religion, and has produced several publications in the field. The latest is titled “Transcending the Private-Public School Divide in the Context of the Right to Freedom of Religion in South Africa”, Chapter 19, in Religious Freedom and Religious Pluralism in Africa – Prospects and Limitations published by Stellenbosch University in 2016.

Prejudice a challenge in all societies
There are numerous challenges faced by religious groups around the world concerning prejudice, association with terrorism and political power and influence. Therefore, research in this field becomes important in helping to uphold the rights and freedoms of religious minority groups, to be able to foster understanding between communities.

Balancing responsibility and religious rights
His current focus is on challenges that have arisen in South Africa, more specifically pertaining to the right of medical practitioners to object conscientiously towards participating in certain medical procedures, the parameters of freedom related to religious associations and the inclusion of religious expression in public schools. These matters are also relevant to many other parts of the world (including, ironically enough, those democratic societies that endeavour to make diversity flourish).