Bennett, Traditional African Religions in South African Law

Traditional African ReligionsThis past November, Juta – Academic published Traditional African Religions in South African Law by Tom Bennett (University of Cape Town). The publisher’s description follows.

Traditional African beliefs, together with African cultural traditions, are enjoying a new-found respect in South Africa, due in large part to the advent of the country’s democratic constitution.  In fact, a large majority of the South African population adheres to some form of traditional belief, often in combination with observance of other religions.  Even so, the traditional faiths are poorly understood and, in spite of constitutional guarantees, receive far from equal treatment, a situation quite at odds with the country’s commitment to equality and religious and cultural diversity.

While there are numerous works on the subject of religion in Africa, there are no works on traditional African religions and their legal implications.  The issue is nevertheless of serious political and legal concern in South Africa, since it raises diverse questions involving freedom of religion, the equal treatment of religions, traditional healing, witchcraft, animal sacrifice, circumcision, marriage and burial.

The overall purpose of the book is to consider whether indigenous African religions, independent African churches and traditional practices deserve constitutional protection and recognition by the state.  If recognised, they will then become subject to certain state controls and benefits:  the need for registration; the licensing of ministers as marriage officers (with consequences for the validity of customary and other marriages);  and significantly, of course, tax exemptions. This book thus explores the legal and constitutional implications of traditional religion and, in particular, the state’s intervention in religious matters.

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