Organisasie vir Godsdienste-Onderrig en Demokrasie v Laerskool Randhart et al: The right to freedom of religion, diversity and the public school


  • SA de Freitas, Professor University of the Free State, South Africa
  • GA du Plessis Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium



The South African High Court judgment namely Organisasie vir Godsdienste-Onderrig en Demokrasie v Laerskool

Randhart et al (Randhart) confirms the importance of the accommodation of religion in the public sphere, more specifically pertaining to schools. This means that religious observances may be practised at public schools under the Constitution’s prescription that such observances ought to take place freely and voluntarily, equitably and in accordance with the rules of the applicable governing authorities. Randhart also made it clear that diversity necessitates a public school not to promote or allow its staff to promote that, as a public school, it adheres to only one or predominantly only one religion to the exclusion of others, as well as from holding out that it promotes the interests of any one religion in favour of others. This article, in addition to confirming the importance of the Randhart decision for the plight of religious rights and freedoms, provides a commentary on how this should be further interpreted to negotiate insights related to diversity that may still be of a marginalising nature towards the accommodation of religion (as a substantive category of belief) in the public sphere. The message in Randhart is that a public school may not be exclusive towards belief. This needs to be understood as also (in addition to religious observances) allowing for inclusivity regarding forms of expression that, although not reflective of a specific religion, are reflective of religion in the traditional sense in a generalised and collectively representative manner. This would naturally lead to the advancement of diversity, and it is also the responsibility of civil society, school governing bodies and parents to play an active part in such advancement.


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