HomeUncategorizedFOR SA appoints Executive Director to help defend religious freedom

FOR SA appoints Executive Director to help defend religious freedom

 
Michael SwainMichael Swain –passionate about protecting freedoms that impact on the mission of the Church
Cape Town pastor Michael Swain answers questions (see below)  from Gateway News about his calling into an arena that is increasingly capturing news headlines and challenging Christians to respond effectively.

Announcing Swain’s appointment, Andrew Selley, Founder and CEO of FOR SA (Freedom of Religion South Africa) said: “We are delighted to announce the appointment of Michael Swain as Executive Director of FOR SA. Michael will form part of the leadership team of FOR SA (together with myself, Moss Ntlha, Michael Cassidy and Adv Nadene Badenhorst), and will be hands-on in the operations of FOR SA. We are grateful that the Lord has added someone of Michael’s caliber and competence to our team, and are excited for the direction and input that he will bring as we continue to protect religious freedom in South Africa”.

Q: Tell us about yourself?

A: I was born and educated in England, living in London and studying law at the University of Bristol before taking the decision to immigrate to South Africa in 1983. Since arriving in Cape Town, my crowning achievement was to marry my wife Julia in 1988 and to raise our two beautiful daughters, Kathryn and Emma!

I have had a pretty diverse and interesting career, initially in the conference industry where I became the Chairman of the South African Association for the Conference Industry (SAACI) in the Western Cape. A major milestone came in 1990, when I discovered a small campus fellowship with a big vision on UCT called His People. I had an immediate sense of calling to join this church, particularly because I saw the opportunity to use my administrative and business skills to build the infrastructure that was needed to support the rapid growth that took place over the next 10 years, during which time we grew to a membership of several thousand and planted churches in 11 nations.

His People joined a global organisation called Every Nation, and in 2003 Julia and I were invited to relocate to Nashville, Tennessee to be part of their International Ministry Team with the responsibility of overseeing their churches in Europe and Africa. While in the US, I also served as the Executive Pastor of Bethel World Outreach Centre and planted a congregation in Franklin.

In 2009, we relocated again, this time to Stratford-upon-Avon where I worked as the Chief Communications Officer for a privately owned multi-national company and also served on the church planting team for Renewal Christian Centre. However, due to the economic downturn, I returned to Cape Town in 2010 and co-founded a digital marketing business called Dreamsmiths and rejoined the staff of His People shortly thereafter, where I currently serve as a Pastor at the His People Baxter congregation.

 

Q: How did your appointment as the Executive Director of FOR SA come about?

A: A couple of years ago I was phoned by my friend Andrew Selley, the Lead Elder of Joshua Generation Church (“JoshGen”), who told me that they had been cited in a complaint by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) for having certain course notes on their website that allegedly encouraged parents to spank their children. I immediately told him that spanking was only a side issue and that the real matter at hand was a potential infringement on freedom of religion since the case could well set a precedent that would prohibit the church from sharing certain Scriptures.

Shortly thereafter, Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA) was formed and it quickly became apparent that there were a number of cases and potential legislation that would have the effect of negatively impacting religious freedom. Over the past two years, I have tracked closely with Andrew Selley and FOR SA Advocate Nadene Badenhorst as they have defended freedom of religion both in the courts and in Parliamentary committees. Earlier this year I opened discussions with FOR SA and offered to assist them in growing the capacity and effectiveness of the organisation. They saw my passion to ensure that these rights are protected and preserved today and for the benefit of future generations. With my background in law and marketing, together with my experience both nationally and internationally in the church, they recognised that I was the right person for this appointment and I am privileged to serve in this capacity.

 

Q: Why is it important to defend religious freedom?

A: Religious freedom did not just happen. The liberty to choose freely what to believe and how to practice those beliefs is something that has literally been purchased by the blood of martyrs. Freedom of religion is enshrined in our Constitution and it is particularly important to defend it because this right undergirds other critical rights such as freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of conscience.

The challenge is that although at first glance freedom of religion appears well protected by the South African Constitution, in practice it is not an absolute right and as such it will be balanced against other competing rights when a particular case comes before the court. So while freedom of religion is protected in theory, it is frequently coming off second best.

 

Q: It is difficult to keep up with the court cases, investigations, and proposed legislation to do with religious freedom. What are some of the hot issues that you are walking into?

A: There are a number of court cases, processes and proposed legislation in the pipeline that pose a significant danger to curtailing and limiting freedom of religion.

The original SAHRC’s interference with parental and religious freedom in the JoshGen spanking case is still in process. The SAHRC has instructed the church to provide a written undertaking that it will remove all references to physical punishment/chastisement or correction from its teaching materials and the Church’s trainers and pastors involved in presenting its parenting course have been ordered to undergo “sensitisation training”. This case has also had a knock-on effect in the proposed amendments to the Children’s Act, which will legally ban spanking in the home and potentially criminalise otherwise loving and law abiding parents.

In what has been billed as “South Africa’s watershed case for religion in public schools,” an NGO known as OGOD has taken six Afrikaans public schools to court, primarily because they openly allow and endorse Christian practice and teaching in their contexts. Should the Court find (as OGOD asks it to do) that it is unlawful for any public school to adhere to or promote a particular religion, the effect will be that teachers and learners will be silenced from speaking or testifying about God in any school context. Christian societies will be banned and doors will be shut to pastors and Christian ministries working in schools. In addition, any schools that adhere or promote other faiths (e.g. Muslim or Jewish schools) will be equally affected by the judgment.

The CRL Rights Commission has just concluded an investigative study into the “commercialisation” of religion and abuse of people’s belief systems, and will soon produce their Report proposing, amongst other things, the legislative regulation of religion. This is a significant interference to freedom of religion since it will give a body, backed by the power of the State, the right to dictate the beliefs and practices of religious institutions. The long sweep of history – and particularly our own very recent past – has proven conclusively that when the lines between church and State are blurred, there are inevitably unhealthy outcomes.

There is also the proposed “hate crimes” legislation, which is due to come before Parliament this year and which is likely to broaden significantly the definition of “hate speech”. This new definition could – for example – make it a crime to quote Scriptures that call the practice of homosexuality sinful. The problem is that as soon as the State is able to gag pastors and individuals from teaching and preaching biblical truth on any subject, it is a dramatic interference in the fundamental mission and mandate of the Church.

 

Q: What do you see as key goals and challenges as you take up this calling?

A: There has been a notable rise in activism from militant atheists and LGBT groups who are opposed in principle to religion and to the teachings of the Bible in particular. These groups are often not looking for equal rights, but for special rights, and they are skilled at using State institutions such as the SAHRC to carry their cases forward, while those defending their position have to bear the full financial burden of defending themselves. The State is also increasingly using its organs and powers to legislate and interfere in the right to religious freedom, both of individuals and organisations.

FOR SA has a mandate to protect and preserve freedom of choice in religion, conscience, speech and assembly for future generations. We are not asking for anything that the Constitution does not already grant, but we are committed to working actively to prevent both individuals and government from systematically removing or limiting these freedoms. We are calling upon religious leaders and all those whose faith informs and influences how they choose to believe, speak and live out their lives to support our efforts. The alternative is that we may soon find ourselves in a country that embraces freedom from religion, rather than freedom of religion. We need to unite to protect and promote the religious freedom guaranteed us by the Constitution of this country, and we must refuse to allow our rights to be marginalised and minimised in the name of political correctness.

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18 Comments

  1. Julia Swain says:

    What a timely appointment! A great man added to a great team… it is going to be exciting to see what they achieve

  2. Antony Ford says:

    This info is vital for prayer group to bear up before our Lord.

  3. Adriaan Mostert says:

    Defending religious freedom is what OGOD is doing; defending religious discrimination is what FOR SA is doing.

    • Stuart Wragg says:

      Please clarify your statement. why would you say this?

      • Adriaan Mostert says:

        Because, see what FOR SA is fighting for: Right to discriminate against children because of age, by not allowing them the same protections from violence as adults; Right for guest houses to turn away people because of sexual orientation – because human beings of a different sexual orientation does not deserve the same respect as heterosexuals; the right of schools to trample on the dignity of children where they are marginalised and victimised because of their differing beliefs that what the school enforces.

        FOR SA fight to trample on the very core of our constitution –> human dignity – in other words all people are not equally worthy of the same dignity and respect that some people (Christian in this case) wants to claim for themselves.

        And that is why FOR SA will lose because they fight against the Constitution.

        OGOD (as clearly stated in affidavits and hidden by FOR SA to readers) actually wants more religion in schools so that ALL children (as protected by Constitution) are part of that school. The old Apartheid era Christian National Education is exactly what FOR SA is fighting for; it was a system directly opposed to our Constitution because it forced people to follow a certain belief, and marginalised all others. This is exactly what happens in school – time stood still at 1993.

        Does that make sense?

        • Adriaan Mostert says:

          It is for this very reason that Christians, and other minority faiths, support OGOD when they actually cut through the lies sold to them.

          A level playing field for all beliefs / non-beliefs in a school, as stipulated in the Constitution and NPRE.

          It is ironic that non-believers are now being painted as being intolerant, when OGOD is asking for tolerance of all the beliefs of South African citizens in our schools.

          • Billy says:

            Mr Mostert, please do not be fooled the Christians that you hang out with are not Christians. They are hypocrites like the new leader of the DA.

    • Michael Swain says:

      OGOD is actively working for freedom from religion – a very different proposition to freedom of religion, which FOR SA is committed to defend!

      • Adriaan Mostert says:

        Are you saying people must have a religion? And only those who have a religion deserve the protections are afforded by the Bill of Rights?

        Anyway, not very clever sophistry will not get you far.

  4. Billy says:

    Mr Mostert, you can spit in the eye of GOD all you want the truth is that you and your master have been on the losing side side since GOD told him that the Seed of the woman would crush him.
    Homosexuals are increasingly like many unbelievers showing the world what similarities there are between them and ISIS, having very little tolerance for Christians.

    • Adriaan Mostert says:

      Dear Billy – you are aware that ISIS throws homosexuals off buildings?

      The same ISIS the beheads Christians.

      Both are horrific actions towards human beings.

      Not sure how you even find ‘similarities’.

  5. Billy says:

    Ps Swain, congratulations!
    I recall fondly working with Mrs Swain in planning a march to parliament to protest the ANC’s implementation of OBE, which subsequently showed itself to be a failure.

  6. Terry Throp says:

    Abortion is age discrimination, Abortion kills babies! All of U who say you hold the moral ground just leave the life alone for nine months and see what you end up with. Almighty God creates life! WE can only bestow PERSONHOOD. Christians need to stand strong (Dan 11:32) and we will be spending a lot of time in the courts if we are walking in the true Christ like our for fathers in strong true faith did.
    This NEW jesus is not for idolization. Say no to discrimination against Gods laws as the Bible tells us to do.
    God Bless.
    Peter Throp. Value life… all life, even sinners.

  7. Suzette van Rooyen says:

    Congratulations Michael on your new appointment. In Our dealings with you whilst with His People Church, we found you to be a man of integrity. We know that you will be used by the Lord to defend the truth according to His Word.

  8. Peter Mc Gregor says:

    There was much prayer going up for this country during the months of February and March particularly and that is why I believe the president of this country was so effectively exposed and the end is YET still in sight. I am being urged by the lord to encourage all serious believers to continue to pray for this country 24/7/52 as this is our only hope. Believers need to realize that we all need to include prayer for S.A. WHEN -EVER we pray. Christianity is coming under the spotlight,not because it is intrinsically bad, but because in it’s most pure form, it represents the Kingdom of GOD and it exists in an evil world headed by Satan who is totally opposed to GOD.