Code of Conduct for Religions in South Africa

Compiled by the South African council for religious rights and freedoms

The Code of Conduct for Religions appearing below is the response of the South African Council for Religious Rights and Freedoms (CRRF) to the alleged abuses in certain religious communities uncovered over the last few years.

Of course, where criminal offences are committed, the law has to be enforced. South Africa has an extensive and well-developed legal system to deal with such offences. However, the CRRF believes that religious communities should act decisively themselves to eradicate malpractices and abuse and bring their own house in order. Any further regulation of religion by the State would be inconsistent with the right to religious freedom, and would not necessarily be effective. In taking this stand in favour of self-regulation of religion, the CRRF joins the views of most religions and religious bodies in South Africa.

The CRRF accordingly developed a Code of Conduct for Religions in South Africa in which the duties and responsibilities of religious bodies and religious practitioners are set out, in the same way as our rights are set out in the South African Charter of Religious Rights and Freedoms, which is also available here. Actually, the Charter is the starting point and guideline for the Code of Conduct. As our rights by definition carry responsibilities, the Code of Conduct in a sense represents the flip-side of the Charter, but contains more than that. Drafts of the Code of Conduct have been circulated widely, and adjusted to give effect to comments received. So far we have received support from many religious communities.

The CRRF believes a Code of Conduct is just a first step, and could form the spearhead for other manuals and training materials that have been or may be developed for the information of religious bodies and practitioners. We believe that by informing and educating leaders as well as members of religious communities in matters of civil responsibilities, good governance and sound financial practices much of the reported abuse would be combated more effectively.

The CRRF respectfully proposes this Code of Conduct for Religions in South Africa as a work in progress. We invite religious communities to take ownership of the Code, consider it carefully, and forward to us any comments they may have. With everybody’s input and cooperation, we can work towards a final document, and maybe a supplementary manual explaining some aspects in more depth, which all stakeholders (individuals, religious bodies, religious practitioners, and others) can endorse and support. This form of self-regulation by religious communities is the proper way to address the issue, instead of the State making more laws to regulate religion.

Please send any comments to both Prof Pieter Coertzen and Prof Rassie Malherbe. Our email addresses are and