Sent to The Star, Johannesburg Wed 20/07/2011 09:21, Published as “Why only churches?” in The Star (South Africa); July 21, 2011; 318 words
In the comments on the Municipal Property Rates Amendment Bill, it has been pointed out that a part of the bill is designed to kill the rental housing market, and is probably unconstitutional.
There is another important part of what will become the Act, that is equally unconstitutional, and has escaped notice. The current Act forces municipalities to not charge rates on "places of public worship". Despite submissions, the amendment makes no provision to remove this zero rating from the new Act.
The Bill of Rights, clause 9 (Equality) says (1) Everyone is equal before the law. (2) Equality includes the full and equal enjoyment of all rights and freedoms. (3) The state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on any grounds, including religion.
The zero rating of property used for religious purposes constitutes unfair discrimination in favour of those who belong to religious bodies. What is the justification for this? Are the gods short of money? Why should religion be favoured over other recreational activities, even over schools and crèches, old-age homes, and other worthwhile endeavours?
Comments must be faxed to (012) 334-4811 or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org by 22 July 2011.