Religious Freedom and Equality as Celebration of Difference: A Significant Development in Recent South African Constitutional Case-Law
Du Plessis, L
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This contribution focuses on the way in which the South African Constitutional Court has, since 1997, been dealing with the (seemingly) eccentric claims of (assumedly) idiosyncratic 'religious Others'. Developments in this regard have, for the time being at least, culminated in the Constitutional Court's landmark judgment in MEC for Education: KwaZulu Natal v Pillay 2008 (2) BCLR 99 (CC), 2008 (1) SA 474 (CC) (hereafter Pillay). Constitutional Court judgments since 1997 manifesting the adjudication of such unconventional claims are assessed, eventually getting to Pillay as benchmark. This remarkable judgment, dealing with a deceptively mundane issue, has played a considerable role in fleshing out a jurisprudence of difference, putting an adherent of a vulnerable, minority religion in the right. This is not just a high point in the adjudication of constitutional entitlements of the religious (and cultural) Other in South Africa, but also a significant contribution to the growth of a jurisprudence sensitive to the predicaments and constitutional entitlements of unconventional, 'non-mainstream' claimants of religious (and cultural) rights. Finally Pillay illustrates that the constitutional guarantee of the right to freedom of religion, conscience, belief and opinion (entrenched in section 15(1) of the Constitution of Republic of South Africa 1996) can be crucially dependent upon due effect being given to the proscription of unfair discrimination on the grounds of religion, conscience, belief and opinion elsewhere (namely in section 9(3)) of the Constitution.