Secularist of the Year
The Secularist of the Year is awarded by the South African Secular Society (SASS). The award goes to the individual or organisation that the judges consider to have made the greatest contribution to the separation of religion and government in the country for that year. The prize consists of a trophy and was first awarded in 2017.
Factors considered in the award include, but are not limited to:
- The extent of benefit accrued to, or harm averted from, the secular cause in South Africa and beyond
- Contribution to the normalisation of secular views in the public eye (awareness, media coverage)
- Current – or groundwork for possible future – legislative impact of the nominee’s actions
- Nominee’s overall presence in South African society as a positive role model for secularism
The “Secularist of the Year” Award enables secularists and others who recognise the value of a secular state to celebrate milestones and meritorious achievements in the advancement of egalitarian treatment of South African citizens by their government and society.
2017 – Hans Pietersen (OGOD)
The inaugural Secularist of the Year was Hans Pietersen, founder of the “Organisasie vir Godsdienste-Onderrig en Demokrasie” (OGOD). Hans lodged a complaint in the Gauteng High Court against six public schools in Gauteng and the Western Cape, following complaints by parents about religious discrimination and infringement on their children’s constitutional rights. The court made a declaratory order confirming that a public school cannot promote that it adheres predominantly to only one religion or hold itself out as promoting the interests of one religion over others. In essence, this means that public schools may still conduct religious observances and promote religious values provided that these observances and values recognise a diversity of religions (including atheism or an absence of belief) and do not favour one religion over others.
It is declared that it Offends s.7 of the Schools Act, 84 of 1996 for a public school –
(i) to promote or allow its staff to promote that it, as a public school, adheres to
only one or predominantly only one religion to the exclusion of others; and
(ii) to hold out that it promotes the interests of any one religion in favour of others.