Gender Bill a threat to religious freedom, Parliament told

parly
Parliament.

Controversial new draft legislation, named the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill, was considered at public hearings at Parliament on Wednesday, January 28 and Thursday, January 30, 2014. The Bill, amongst other things, prescribes a minimum quota of 50% female representation in decision-making structures, and gives the Minister wide powers to enforce compliance.

In the ACDP’s Media Statement on January 28, 2014, Cherylynn Dudley, MP of the ACDP, expressed concern that the Bill will do more harm than good. “This does not strengthen democracy when it effectively interferes with freedom of choice and dictates on grounds of gender”, she stated.

FOR SA, a new organisation standing for “Freedom of Religion in South Africa” and pioneered by Cape Town church leader Andrew Selley, addressed Parliament on the threat that the Bill poses to individuals’ freedom of belief, as well as to the Church’s autonomy to govern its own affairs in accordance with its interpretation of the Bible.

FOR SA contended that the Minister’s power to decide to whom the Act will apply, is too wide and therefore unconstitutional. It contended further that Churches and religious / charitable organisations should be specifically excluded from the Act.

A FOR SA spokesperson and an Advocate of the High Court of South Africa, Nadene Badenhorst stated: “As an organisation and as Christians, FOR SA is for women and unequivocally believes that the dignity, value and capabilities of women equal that of their male counterparts and are therefore equally worthy of respect, protection and promotion. As such, FOR SA commends the intent of the Bill and welcomes the efforts to liberate and strengthen the hands of women in society in broad.”

FOR SA’s concern however is that, while the Bill may eliminate discrimination against a certain category of women (those who see leadership as a worthy pursuit), it discriminates against other women (whose biblical conviction may be that headship – at home as in the Church – is carried by men). “While one freedom (gender equality) is won, another important freedom (freedom of choice, which includes freedom of religion, thought and belief) is lost,” says Badenhorst.

Thought control
“By seeking to legislate values based on its value system and interpretation of the Bible, the State is dictating what people should believe or not believe. This is a degree of thought control, which can never be justified,” she told Parliament.

Selley, who heads up FOR SA, believes that the Bill also allows the State to interfere with the autonomy of the Church to govern its own affairs according to its interpretation of the Bible. The ramifications of this for the Church is that churches and/or religious organisations who teach and practice beliefs that are seen to be discriminatory against women, may be forced to choose between adhering to their faith or obeying the law. For these reasons, FOR SA believes that the Bill is open to constitutional challenge.

In her conclusion, Badenhorst reminded Parliament that our Constitution entrenches freedom of religion as a fundamental right, and implored Parliament “not to pass laws that will bring about freedom from religion, thereby undermining and destroying one of the hallmarks of a free and open society.”

Other interest groups present at the hearing, condemned the perceived “patriarchal attitudes and practices that still permeate our society, including our homes and our Churches”, with some groups calling that Churches and religious organisations be specifically included in the Act.

Many interest groups pointed out other problems with the Bill, including that there is existing legislation with the same objectives; the additional administrative and financial burden that it will place on companies and organisations; and the major cost involved in implementing and monitoring the Act – all for the taxpayer’s account. Following the hearings, the Portfolio Committee will deliberate on the Bill and on the way forward.

35 Comments

  1. True Christians will, if forced into choosing, choose to follow Biblical teachings instead of government legislation that contradicts the Bible. This will effectively turn good honest and loving citizens into criminals in the eyes of the law. Does any government really want to do that?

  2. Concerned_Christians

    “True” Christians will follow the examples of Christ and treat, even woman, with respect and dignity. When treating people fairly and with dignity starts to trample on your “Religious Freedom” then you know you are not walking with Christ.

    • Hello concerned christians. I believe all true male christians will honour women above themselves, placing their dignity ,value & worth above their own. If we learn anything from Christ as men-it is that we are too lay down our lives for women, & place their interest above our own. We live to serve them!We must not confuse roles & values between the sexes. We are created different-that does not mean that one has more dignity, or respect than the other. Love in Christ. Andrew

      • Concerned_Christian

        Mr. Selley – sorry but that is just weasel words. “placing their dignity ,value & worth above their own” – if you actually live these words why do insist that woman is incapable of running a church? Is a woman somehow mentally retarded, too unstable or hysterical? Or is it simply because you have a penis that you insist that women cannot make a decision that effects you or your church?

        • Dear concerned someone. Some questions- are you Carol Bower? Are u in reality an activist? For the record- I have never said that a woman is incapable of leading a church. The issue- as observer has mentioned is that the State- (with your endorsement )is possibly attempting to overide the freedom that democracy should provide. You are welcome to act & believe as you want to, but to try force anyone to believe something is despicable. Democracy should protect diversity of thought, belief & speech- not force uniformity. Whenever the state has crossed these lines historically people have been persecuted. You are attempting to blur the matter & incite christian against Christian. I expect a comment back from you as you are an activist & are attempting to use age old propoganda tools to incite people to your cause. People should be free to believe & follow their conscience & scripture without interference from any State. There are many churches with women pastors- in fact, I came to Christ through the preaching of a woman pastor. Those who see this as Gods will are welcome to join & fellowship in such churches. While those men & women who read the bible differently should be free to follow their beliefs in these matters.It is for this freedom that I am challenging the WEGE Bill. Blessings Andrew Selley

          • For the record, I am not Concerned_Christian (or any other kind for that matter)

          • Concerned_Christian

            Dear Mr Selley, I am not sure who Carol Bower is but it sounds like she is a woman I should meet.

            I stay anonymous because I come from a church similar to yours, I suspect. And I know first-hand how your type of church treat woman “dissenters”. I represent a few Christian voices and there are many more out there.

            Mr Selley you cannot state what democracy is and how it should protect you and at the same time state that “worldly governments” do not apply to you. It seems you only find “democracy” and “Bill of Rights” useful when it agrees with your interpretations. Cherry pick much?

            The duty of democracy and a government is to protect minorities and make sure every single citizen is protected from their dignity being trampled on.

            You make such confused statements it is a joke.

            But what is really sad is your arrogance of insisting you are a “True” Christian and only you and your Church are the gateway to God.

            You, Mr Selley, is the reason the Church of God is divided.

          • Mr Selley, the courts have already ruled at least once that the church cannot hide behind their religious beliefs as the courts have already determined that where the practice of religion is damaging to people, it can and will be prohibited.

            Your Church espouses the subservience of women and the corporal punishment of children. These views are incompatible with a constitutional democracy, and the Constitution itself gives the conditions in which one right will trump another, so I’m afraid you’re fighting a losing battle.

            So it doesn’t matter what you piously declare about what you don’t mind what other people do, the fact of the matter is that it’s not up to you to mind in the first place.

          • Hi Carol, my old nemesis-LOL,i wondered where you were.Thus far the courts have ruled that reasonable chastisement of children is lawful & within the ambit of the constitution,& this ruling is followed by international courts with over 220 nations allowing reasonable chastisement, including Australia, USA, UK etc.admittedly The fight is on & propaganda rife. We will see where things land in SA.Ultimately christians will always do their utmost to obey the laws of the land. But, where the secular court commands believers to disobey their God-all true followers of Christ will obey God & conscience. We will be prepared to suffer earthly wrath, to secure eternal reward, rather than earthly reward & disobey God.Millions of christians, who are good people will be persecuted for their faith & marginalised if things go your way. Christians are now the most persecuted people on the earth, so it may be-that persecution follows us to SA. If it does-we will flourish anyway, but I hope sanity will prevail & we will be able, as christians to live in peace.I pray that you too see the light of Gods love & mercy. Traditionally, many of the greatest proponents of the annihilation of christianity have become christians. My prayer is that God may grant this mercy to you, as He has me. Blessings Andrew

  3. Why doesn’t Mr Selley rather try to rally the Church of Jesus Christ together with this initiative: Strategic prayer needed to counter ‘witchcraft influence’ in elections instead?

    • Hi Elizabeth-thanks for the comment.I am trying to rally the church-please pray for us in this initiative as raising the dead is undoubtedly easier, as the church is so divided on everything. thanks in Christ. Andrew

  4. ChristopherBlackwell

    I think it is a shame that we don’t automatically let women rise to their own level instead of maintaing a glass ceiling while trying to pretend this is on orders from God. I am sorry for the weak men who are afraid of a strong or smart woman. Instead of holding the women down it might be time for the weak men to work on themselves to become strong and less afraid.

    Remember that the Bible once allowed Slavery, but fortunately most of us have grown beyond that.

    • Hi Christopher, thanks for the response. We are not of the world-in the kingdom we learn that to humble ourselves is more glorious than elevating ourselves. Christ who was God Himself-made himself nothing-lowering himself below angels to serve His creation(Philippians 2).We are to learn from His example & emulate Him. I fear it is the devil who demands to go up-while Christ exhorts those who are His to “go down”.The one who takes the low position-will be exalted. Emsie(My wife) is stronger than me in many areas, but that does not mean she strives to rule me in them. She humbly comes alongside me as my helpmeet-a fact I marvel at & which reveals Christ through her to all who know her. I, as her husband live to love her & serve her-even though I am stronger than her in many areas. Because I/she can-doesnt mean we have too rise to anything selfish…Our desire is to reveal Christ, so we willingly give ourselves in these matters. No man, no woman,no government & no demon will change our conviction in these matters. They are imprinted into us by the Holy Spirit & Scripture & chosen by us in our love of Christ.Others are free to live as they want to & can choose their values. These are ours, & we will “die” if necessary to obey our conscience in these matters. No force on earth should try force us to act differently-especially a society that prides itself on democratic freedoms!
      love Andrew & Emsie
      ps-we wrote this together as a team

    • As we have outgrown many other ‘instructions’ from the bible.

      Our very own Zapiro put it well….http://www.flickr.com/photos/migl15/315588925/

  5. Hi Andrew, I know that you are trying to rally the Church on the gender bill etc but while it seems that it is causing more division than consolidating the Church, don’t you think the prayer initiative to pray against the Witchcraft influence in the upcoming elections and praying together as a Church for the right people to govern our country, will cause the Church to not have to oppose ungodly bills. Having the right, Godly people in place can change the tide in this country…

    • Elizabeth, I love your thinking. It is what the Lord laid on my heart to organise! Please have a look at our FB page “National Day of Fasting SA”. Would love if you could join!

      • Ok will have a look. May God hear the many prayers for this nation of ours and change our beloved country, as Jesus is the only hope.

  6. Elizabeth. We must & do pray, & also do what we can to protect our freedoms. Paul went to Rome(caesar) to try protect the church, he did not only pray.William wilberforce stopped slavery, because he prayed & acted. Division is from Satan & each will give an account to God for how they act in these times. As for me-I am simply following Christs leading-as best I know how, doing what He asks me too.What I think counts for very little in the end-all that matters is that I find & do what Jesus commands me too. Divisions unfortunately will come-Christ has always brought them.I just want to make sure personally that in the end-it is with Him I stand, doing His command.

  7. Hi Andrew, I understand what you are saying and doing. I just thought that striking at the head of the problem (ungodly government), will remove the problems of ungodly bills. But do what you feel God is telling you to do, that is all that matters in the end.

  8. The issue with this Bill is the State’s interference in people’s and organisations’ freedom of choice, and it will affect religious, as well as charitable organisations that are volunteer-driven. We are moving towards Big Brother control of religion. If passed, it will be interesting to see whether the Roman Catholic Church will be forced to have female priests, or Muslims to have female imams. Hinduism also has male priests.
    Note that the so-called “liberals” – presumably feminists and secular humanists – are the ones wanting the State to dictate to religious organisations.
    As far as commerce is concerned, Affirmative Action has already caused enough problems, with businesses closing because of BEE requirements, which has been to the detriment of employment. To enforce gender equality will create even more of a burden. It is a fact that there are certain jobs and careers to which most women are not attracted. In fact, I know of one company, which requires highly technical knowledge and expertise, that has difficulty trying to find suitable staff, let alone (e.g.) blacks or women. If the right people are not available, are companies supposed to employ incompetents (like our civil service does) just because they’re the right skin-colour or sex? Merit (qualifications, experience and good character) should be the primary criteria for employment.
    Those who cannot see that we are heading towards increasing state control as our freedoms are restricted, need to open their eyes.

  9. Concerned_Christian

    Observer – I think you will find that other Christians support this Bill and moving away from your un-Christ like interpretation of His Word. I know, I know – only you and apparently Mr. Selley are “True” Christians, so spare me the attempt at an insult.

    • What does the Bible say about feminism? Should a Christian be a feminist?

      This question is especially important to Christian women. Does the Word of God address feminism? The modern concept of feminism was not present during the time that the Bible was written, but that does that mean that the Bible has nothing to say on the basic issues of feminism. Even when the Scriptures seem to be silent on something that affects us today, there are eternal principles that speak to the underlying issue.

      What are the issues of feminism? Feminism is a counterfeit solution to the real issue of the inequality of women in a sinful society. Feminism arrogates to itself the right to demand respect and equality in every aspect of life. Feminism is based in arrogance, and it is the opposite of the call to the born-again believer to be a servant. The actions of the modern, militant feminists are geared to cause women to rise up and rebel against the order that God has given to mankind. That brand of feminism seeks to impose humanistic solutions that are in direct opposition to the Word of God. Feminism was originally a positive movement, focused on giving women the basic rights God intends for every human being to have. Tragically, feminism has gone past those roots to focus on destroying any trace of a distinction in roles between men and women.

      What then should be the view of a Christian about feminism? A believing woman, who is seeking to obey God and walk in peace and grace, should remember that she has equal access to all spiritual blessings in Christ. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). A believing woman should not allow herself to be a pawn in the worldly agenda of the feminist movement. Men and women have a God-given privilege to fulfill the plan He has set for us. Rebellion against that plan and the arrogance that seeks to put self above God’s Word result in very difficult consequences. We see those consequences in the destruction of the relationship between husbands and wives, the destruction of the family, and the loss of respect for human life.

      “For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world” (1 John 2:16). The principles of the fall are present in this verse. Eve believed the lie that eating the fruit would bring her wisdom. She lusted and she took or arrogated to herself something that was forbidden. This is the basis for the feminist movement. Women have bought into the lie that feminism will bring them what they want, what they think that they “deserve.” However, the promise is empty for the premise is based in pride and pride goes before a fall. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).

      In the last decades, there has been the rise of a society that is so concerned with political correctness and so sensitive to being “offended” that civility has lost its way. However, this is really nothing new for there has always been inequality in the world. There are male and female, different ethnicities, different colors, and different national origins. It is sin in the heart that causes inequality. It is sin in the heart that causes men to treat women in ways that are meant to demean. It is sin that sets one person above another. And it is sin that seeks to use counterfeit solutions to counteract these inequalities. The only true cure for inequality is obedience to God’s Word. If men and women would walk in obedience to God’s Word, feminism would be unmasked for what it is, and the harmony that God has ordained for the relationship between men and women would result.

  10. Although the reasons put forward by Mr Selley against the WEGE Bill are ill-informed, there are a number of legitimate concerns about the Bill.

    The intention of the Ministry to improve circumstances for women’s empowerment and gender equality is supported as are certain of its provisions.

    However the women’s rights sector is not convinced that this bill will have any greater impact on gender inequality than any of the laws, policies and programmes currently in place to achieve a number of the same changes that this bill seeks to make.

    Entrenched value systems of male entitlement and superiority that underpin women’s experiences of discrimination, exclusion and disempowerment, and that pervade all aspects of society remain unchallenged by this or other legislation, policy or programmes.

    A stronger process of consultation with departments, civil society and most importantly, with women around the country is essential to establish what other measures, besides or in addition to the promulgation of legislation can affect real changes in all aspects of women’s lives.

    Without political will and without resourcing, no law, policy or programming will be implemented.

  11. Good heaves – I wouldn’t describe you and me as old anything! The USA is (a) the ONLY country aside from Somalia [which has no government to do] so that has not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and (b) a country with a very poor human rights record – not one I’d want to emulate.

    I addition, legal opinion is clear that it is an open question whether the current exceptions to the prohibition against assault are constitutional, given South Africa’s international legal obligations which demand the prohibition of corporal punishment in all settings. This is especially so in the light of the articles concerning dignity, bodily integrity and the best interests of the child principle.

    The validity of the common law position that parents have the right to reasonably chastise their children is in fact questionable in the light of South Africa’s current legislation, in particular, its Constitution. Common law decrees that corporal punishment must be “moderate” and “reasonable”. What is “reasonable” is determined by the boni mores (obligations arising from morals or honour that may be enforced by law) of society as laid down in the Constitution where the value and bodily integrity of each individual is protected. This means that exceptions to the general rule that any assault on another person is a criminal offence, while legal, can only be considered in the most extreme cases.

    The common law rule that allows parents to use “moderate” physical violence on children infringes on the rights of the child – in particular the rights protected by sections 12 and 28 of the Bill of Rights. In this regard section 12(1)(c) of the Constitution states that everyone has the right to freedom and security of the person, which includes the right “to be free from all forms of violence from either public or private sources”. Section 12(2)(b) also guarantees for everyone the right to bodily and psychological integrity which includes the right “to security in and control over their body”.

    These sections must be interpreted with reference to South Africa’s international law obligations. This is so because section 39(1)(b) of the Constitution states that international law must be considered when interpreting the provisions of the Bill of Rights. Against this background there can be little doubt that the present legal regime infringes on the rights of children. Parliament therefore has a legal duty – based on its international law obligations and on its obligations to take steps to “respect, protect, promote and fulfil” all the rights in the Bill of Rights – to abolish corporal punishment.

    • Dear Carol.
      ABOUT THE UN:

      In 1945, representatives of 50 countries met in San Francisco at the United Nations conference to draw up the United Nations Charter and International Criminal Court Statute.
      The aim was to build an organization that could put a stop to global conflicts and seek a peaceful resolution to geographical disputes.
      The charter outlines the main aims of the UN, which include helping to end world poverty, disease, illiteracy and to develop friendly relations between nations.
      There is no paragraph or subsection devoted to ridding the world of spanking in its entire 13,338-word length.
      The UN is stepping outside it’d jurisdiction in this area. A fact attested to by the USA,UK,Canada,Australia & over 220 other nations not applying the UNs Bill on the rights of a child. Australia recently told the UN to get lost when it was challenged to obey the Bill.Only a few nations have outlawed spanking(just over 30 nations), but there is increasing pressure in some of these from citizens to change the laws back to allow reasonable chastisement.If we follow International law, & common law-then SA may not outlaw spanking as easily as you think. The African Union is increasingly breaking away from UN on multiple issues, & as SA is a member of this body,one wonders…

  12. ChristopherBlackwell

    We are also taught that we are supposed to cherish our women. Might I point out that South Africa has one of the highest statistics of rape again girls and some in the world and has had this problem for many many years. Now who is speaking up against it? Why not

    Might I point out that South Africa has one of the highest statistics of violence against girls and women. This includes beating and murder. Now who is speaking up against it? Why not?

    Someone mentioned the danger of witches. Might I also point out that the people being killed, beaten, and tortured as witches are totally innocent and most of them are women. Who is speaking up against it? why not?

    So when I hear people talk about worrying about feminism, I think of all the hatred in this country against women and I believe what we have is people who want to keep to this way.

    It bothers me hat we have ministers leading this move to keep things the same. It is also minsters that we have leading the false accusation of Satanic crime, who are actually making money off The fear that they are stirring up. This is the second time this has happened in South Africa. First it was the white ministers and now it is the black minister. I think this corruption of the Christian ministry may be a much more serious crime against God than any worry of feminism.

  13. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free,male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal3: 28). The problem of this world is the sin nature. Faith in Christ Jesus – the only Saviour of the world , is the only answer. The Apostle Peter in Acts 4: 19 said, “—judge for yourself whether it is right in the sight of God to listen (obey) to you rather than to God. It’s time for us (the Church of The Lord Jesus Christ ) to pray to God that he should give us a righteous government and righteous leaders in the forthcoming election in accordance with 2 Chro 7: 14. God is the ultimate judge. Blessings. Hlengani

  14. @Concerned “Christian”: In fact I am a woman who is submitted to Jesus Christ as my Saviour and Lord, and to the Biblical line of authority, so before you accuse me of being “unChrist-like” for objecting to a Bill that could be used to infringe on religious freedom, perhaps you should do an attitude check, since I don’t see much “Christ-likeness” in your scathing words.
    Reread my comment and note that I am dealing with the issue of religious freedom and the socio-economic fall-out from the proposed dictatorial/ totalitarian bill.
    It seems that secular-humanist feminist issues are more important to you, and your judgemental concluding remark (which reveals you as being anti those who follow Biblical principles) makes me wonder if you follow liberal theology that has a low view of Scripture.

    • Concerned_Christian

      Spare me Observer. You and your religious freedom is only a smoke screen to protect yourself from treating, as per Christ’s example, others fairly and with dignity; no matter who they are.

      Do you think I do not know what men like Selley is all about? I have first hand experience being in a similar church. In South Africa my, and your, religious freedom is well protected and above many other countries in the world.

      What people like Andrew Selley is looking for is protection from a Constitution to continue their seemingly patriarchal, misogynistic and, which is new to me, corporal punishment practices.

      Your and my religious freedom is in tact.

      Again, it seems that treating people with dignity and respect is a problem for your “religious freedom” and therefore I submit there is a problem with your religion and relationship with Christ.

    • Concerned_Christian

      I find this statement of yours interesting: “In fact I am a woman who is submitted to Jesus Christ as my Saviour and Lord, and to the Biblical line of authority”. It seems you serve two masters? 1) Jesus as we learn in the new Testament and how the New Testament relates to the OT and, like all true Christians, the impact His Spirit will have on your heart. 2) Biblical interpretations by men (funny that).

      Me, I follow Jesus, and let other men squabble in their “interpretations” to satisfy their agendas.

  15. The Primordial Violence: Spanking Children, Psychological Development, Violence, and Crime
    by Murray A. Straus, Emily M. Douglas and Rose Anne Medeiros
    Routledge (August 15, 2013)
    Why do parents hit those they love? What effect does it have on children? What can be done to end this pattern? These are some of the questions explored in The Primordial Violence. Featuring longitudinal data from over 7,000 U.S. families as well as results from a 32 nation study, the book presents the latest research on the extent to which spanking is used in different cultures and the subsequent effects of its use on children and on society. Evidence that shows the relationship between spanking and the subsequent slowing of cognitive development and increase in antisocial and criminal behavior is shown. Both cross-sectional and longitudinal studies are explored in an accessible fashion. An abundance of high quality research has produced findings that are highly consistent from study to study which show that spanking is a risk factor for aggressive behavior and other social and psychological problems. Because of these findings, the authors argue for policy changes and recommend a drastic reduction in the use of spanking. Policy and practical implications are explored in most chapters.

  16. We know the real truth, so just stand fast.

    As we know Christ is supreme over every man, the husband is supreme over his wife, and God is supreme over Christ.

    Order in the Church: 1 Corinthians 14:34-38

    Church Worship: 1 Timothy 2

    If anyone does not like this, then they should and can only take it up with God. It’s not what we want, it’s what God expects. Look not for loopholes or be double minded (Church and world in one)…for we will lose in the end. Let no one insult our God, or curse His throne.

    And if an sister wishes to be in controll or stand equal with a man of God, with re to teaching,leading, and order….then i say show her how big the world is, and let her go and be incharge there.

    In Christ our sisters, our wives, will find favour in God, for they will honour and obey, and be blessed and lifted up for living the truth.

    Amen