Pastor calls on SA church to stand united against State interference in church affairs
A Cape Town church that is being investigated by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) over its doctrine on corporal punishment is calling on the Church to stand united against a Government attack on religious freedom.
The SAHRC is investigating a complaint against Joshua Generation Church (JGC) for teaching the Biblical doctrine of ‘spare the rod, spoil the child’. But JGC Senior Pastor, Andrew Selley, who has consulted with religious rights attorneys, said the real issue is an attempt by the State to limit religious and family freedom, which if not opposed, could lead to the ‘outlawing’ of teachings of the Christian church and the Bible.
“We are calling on Muslims and Jews to act as well because it is about fighting for religious freedom,” Selley said in an interview today.
Churches and other religious organisations are asked to consider signing a support letter calling on the SAHRC to dismiss the complaint against JGC. They may place the letter or some variation of it on their letterhead and send it to GKC Attorneys, Attention: G Claassen, PO Box 119, Cape Town, 8000, or email it to: firstname.lastname@example.org. The correspondence should reach JGC by September 5 in order to give them time to include it in their response to the SAHRC which is due a week later.
This morning Selley said that to date there has been an ‘overwhelming response’ from individual supporters and that several big churches in Johannesburg have come on board.
Family Policy Institute Director Errol Naidoo today endorsed Selley’s appeal to church leaders, saying: “If Joshua Generation cannot teach what the Bible teaches on corporal punishment that means that the entire church will have to surrender its right to teach Biblical Christian principles, because if the Human Rights Commission or any Government agency can dictate what the church can or cannot teach it means the end of church autonomy.
“It is vital and necessary for the church to stand united against this totalitarian intrusion into its legitimate working.”
In an email to JGC in iresponse to a query from the church, Tammy Carter, Senior Legal Officer in the Western Cape Office of the SAHRC, says: “… the SAHRC does indeed regard corporeal punishment (the infliction of physical pain) as falling within the definition of abuse maltreatment neglect and degradation. Your understanding is therefore correct. The SAHRC also argues that the infliction of psychological and / or emotional harm is included in this definition.
“The complaint relates to the situation where ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’ is preached. There is no specific incident being complained of. My understanding is that by its lessons the church encourages and promotes the use of punishment rather than invoking positive discipline.”
In a letter to Christian leaders Selley addresses the SAHRC’s ‘maltreatment’ remarks. He says: “This amounts to a caricature of the church’s teaching in relation to the Scriptural basis of parental discipline and suggests that the church is encouraging conduct that would lead to ‘maltreatment, neglect, abuse and degradation’ by the simple fact of its endorsing corporal punishment. Such an approach interferes with a careful set of qualifications about parental discipline involving corporal punishment in the teaching of JGC and, in any case, in our view unduly entangles the State (in the form of the HRC) in the internal workings of both religion and family life.”
He also shares some extracts from JGC’s instruction manual on raising children that discuss the context for corporal punishment, urging balance, love, calmness and the avoidance of harshness. In a personal note on a JGC blog post Selley says: “As a pastor who deals daily with people, I consistently find that children who are not/were not spanked, are the most boundary-less and broken. My belief in spanking is a deep conviction based upon my belief in God and His Word, on my own conscience and my observations of how life works.”
Corporal punishment in the home is not illegal in South Africa but it has been outlawed at schools since 2006. The Government is currently working on draft legislation to outlaw spanking at home.
African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) representative and Member of Parliament Cheryllyn Dudley, who met with JGC leaders today, advised the church to use the opportunity of the SAHRC investigation to inform the commission that it is aware of the problem of violence against children in South Africa and offers parenting courses and other guidance to equip parents to discipline their children in a safe, and non-abusive way.
Selley said the church will inform the commission of its responsible parenting measures as well as its community outreach projects aimed at protecting children.
“At the same time we hope that the church in SA will rally around us and tell the commission to back off,” he said.
The SAHRC investigation of JGC is the second recent case in which the State human rights watchdog’s activities have raised questions about an apparent agenda of attacking religious freedom. In April the SAHRC found Creare Christian Arts Training Centre in Bloemfontein guilty of discriminating against homosexuals for holding a Bible-based view that homosexual practice is sinful. Creare is appealing against the ruling which will be decided in the Constitutional Court.