View Full Version : Court case concerning school prayer ban

Liberator Germaniae
Sunday, February 18th, 2007, 05:03 PM
School's prayer policy divides community


A GHOST from SA’s apartheid past appeared in the Pietermaritzburg High Court this week when a white parent tried to force a black school governing body to disband because it had refused to retain the school’s Christian identity.

Francois Lichtenstein, a father of two pupils at Newcastle High, went to court on Wednesday in an effort to compel the predominantly black governing body to dissolve for failing to uphold the former Afrikaans school’s Christian tradition.

Since last year, the school has opted to observe a moment of silence instead of prayers because of its religiously diverse population.

Lichtenstein asked the court to order chairman Dr Paul Ramkissoon to convene an urgent parents’ meeting to pass a vote of no confidence in the governing body because of its refusal to abandon policy and bring back Christian prayers during school assembly.

He said the adoption of the moment of silence caused a “heated debate” during a governing body meeting last year.

“Word of what happened at the meeting spread fast amongst the members of the school community and caused concern amongst parents of the Christian faith,” said Lichtenstein.

He said white parents were concerned that changes would be made to Christian-based religious observance without proper consultation.

As a result, said Lichtenstein, white parents had formed a voluntary association called the Christian Parent Initiative in July last year.

“The association didn’t have confidence in the governing body and decided to have a vote of no confidence passed on it so that it would be dissolved,” said Lichtenstein.

The disagreement on the school’s prayer policy has split the small, conservative, northern KwaZulu-Natal town along racial lines, with white parents accusing the new governing body of “railroading” a change in religious practice without consultation.

Last year headmaster Jan du Toit ordered non-Christian pupils to leave the school assembly.

In his answering affidavit, Ramkissoon said Du Toit had defied an order by the governing body to adopt a moment of silence while the policy on religion was being settled, and told him that he was not prepared to listen to a prayer by any other religious group.

Ramkissoon argued that the school’s ethos was still largely white, Afrikaans and Christian — despite its racial composition having radically changed in recent years. He said black parents had been presented with “false allegations” claiming that the governing body wanted to replace Christianity with Islam.

“Whilst I have the greatest respect for people of Afrikaner origin and their culture and religious beliefs, some discriminatory practices were still taking place at the school.”

Ramkissoon said that the single-faith policy promoted sectarianism and failed to take into account the multi-religious nature of the school population.

“These policies were in direct contrast to the national policy on religion and education and with the various other legislative enactments and most importantly the Constitution,” he said.

Judge Nic van der Reyden said it was “really pathetic” that the matter had to come to court. “I’m not siding with any religious group. It’s a question of hoping that the parties will reach consensus.”

But Gerrit Coetzee, who represented Lichtenstein and the Christian Parent Initiative, said Christian parents would continue to oppose the “unlawful” action taken by the governing body.

Source (http://www.sundaytimes.co.za/PrintEdition/Article.aspx?id=388595)

sheriff skullface
Sunday, February 18th, 2007, 05:15 PM
you should pray at home not at public places, why do people have to get so touchy and emotional over this kind of stuff, maybe if the blacks and whites lived in different areas and had different schools you wouldn't have this problem

Liberator Germaniae
Sunday, February 18th, 2007, 05:28 PM
you should pray at home not at public places, why do people have to get so touchy and emotional over this kind of stuff, ...

Under South Africa's previous white-minority administration state-owned schools started each morning with a prayer, which was usually held in the assembly hall. Regardless of how one may feel about this practise, I myself think that it is preferable and more honourable than actually getting rid of it because of a school's now religiously diverse pupils.