Spanking probe: Church forced to appeal SAHRC’s “censorship of belief”

Andrew Selley, Senior Pastor of Joshua Generation Church and founder and CEO of Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA).


Following the South African Human Rights Commission’s finding against them on Friday, January 22, Joshua Generation Church in Cape Town has said that they have no choice but to appeal the SAHRC’s findings and recommendations which they regard as an “unconstitutional censorship of religious belief in South Africa”.

According to the Church, they cannot comply with the SAHRC’s request for a written undertaking that they will stop believing and teaching certain Scriptures from the Bible. Such undertaking would violate the religious freedom of those who believe, according to their interpretation of the Scriptures, that it is their parental duty to provide appropriate guidance to their children (including, at times, where needed, and always in love, to spank within the bounds of the law) for their education and benefit.

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JoshGen as a church does not however actively “promote” spanking (as the SAHRC has incorrectly found). The church believes that people must be free to interpret the sacred texts for themselves, and to decide for themselves what they believe to be best for their children. It is their constitutional right.

Overwhelming support
A news report this week has maliciously branded JoshGen as a “sect”. Far from a sect, this well established Church in Cape Town is supported in its position by religious leaders representing an overwhelming 12 million people in South Africa (including The Evangelical Alliance of South Africa (TEASA) who in itself represents 4 million Christians in South Africa, the Jewish Board of Deputies and the Muslim Judicial Council).

Member of Parliament Cheryllyn Dudley has also come out in support of JoshGen and taken issue with the SAHRC’s Report which she believes to violate parental rights and the constitutional right to religious freedom. According to the ACDP MP, “Parliament, the representatives of the people, considered this issue thoroughly over many years and concluded that it would not serve the desired purpose for reasonable chastisement to be abolished.”

She explained that criminalising spanking as the SAHRC proposed, will turn a majority of loving parents into criminals, divert attention and already constrained budgets away from addressing the very real problem of abuse and violence against children in South Africa. “In SA we have laws to deal with abuse and violence which must be implemented – any extra strain on the scarce resources, both skills and finances is unthinkable”.

Christian families already at risk
Should the SAHRC’s proposal to criminalise spanking (in all instances, even when non-injurious) be adopted by Parliament, it is very possible that potentially responsible parents who love their children and only want what is best for them, will end up in jail as is already happening in countries like Sweden where the ban on spanking has resulted in hundreds of innocent parents being arrested and prosecuted. Worse even, children will be removed from the family home and placed in foster care, with no guarantee of being reconciled to their parents.

Those who say that this will never happen, may be surprised to learn that this is already happening on their doorstep. In Pietermaritzburg recently, children were removed from Christian homeschooling parents who were accused of “indoctrinating” their children with their religious belief. The children were only reconciled with their parents months later after a battle for their children’s return in court. If this is already happening on charges of “religious indoctrination”, one can only imagine the consequences for potentially innocent parents accused of assaulting their own children!

The Constitutional Court has already found that although our Constitution does not expressly protect the right to family life, international treaties which SA has ratified, oblige the State to protect the family as the natural unit of society. In terms of these treaties, the State (including therefore the SAHRC) has a duty to respect the right and responsibility of parents to determine how they will raise their children.

SAHRC used to drive an anti-religion agenda
The Constitution tasks the SAHRC with the protection and promotion of human rights in South Africa. This includes not just children’s rights, but all constitutional rights including the freedom to believe, and to freely speak what one believes (or not believes). People may not be forced to choose between obeying their faith or obeying the law, with consequences should they choose to rather obey their faith. The SAHRC’s job is to protect faith, not criminalise it.

It is unfortunate that the SAHRC is allowing itself to be used as a “vehicle” to drive an anti-religion agenda in South Africa. In this regard, it is interesting to note that the complainants in the case against JoshGen, self-identify as atheist / secular humanist activists, who have openly stated on social media that they “know our numbers are limited, but we do have the laws that are on our side, that is what we can use, and the human rights as our vehicle to drive our rights forward to block their [referring, in the context of the post, to JoshGen and other evangelical churches] backward ways”. It appears that the same complainants also helped to initiate the case of OGOD v Laerskool Randhart & others, which is aimed at removing Christianity from public schools and will be heard later this year.

The complainants, and it appears also the SAHRC, obviously hold to a very different worldview and beliefs contrary to that of the Bible and the Christian church in South Africa including JoshGen. It is their constitutional right to do so, and also to say so. Equally however, it is the right of the church and believers in general to believe, preach and teach, and live their lives according to the sacred texts. It is unfortunate that the same acceptance and tolerance often is not extended to them.

Andrew Selley, Senior Pastor of JoshGen, commented that “the complainants are not members of the Church and has, to the best of our knowledge, never visited JoshGen. Neither has the SAHRC. If they were to, they would see that as Christians, we really love and value children as precious gifts from the Lord. We take our responsibility to protect, nurture and care for children very seriously, knowing that we will have to given an account to God for this. While we are sorry that we have been targeted, we do not hold this against the complainants and hope that they can see that our heart is genuinely for the children.”

Standing together for freedom FOR SA encourages parents and people across different faiths to stand with JoshGen, for the sake of protecting family and religious freedom in South Africa. This is a matter of great concern not only for them as a church, but for us all. Our freedom to believe (including to believe differently from each other) is at stake. South Africa belongs to all who live in it.

The Church has already expended a great deal of time, effort and money on litigation in this matter which is likely to end up in court. Stand together for freedom, our freedom as citizens of South Africa, by making a financial contribution to the legal and other costs associated with this matter. FOR SA’s bank account details are: Account name: FOR SA Bank: ABSA Account nr: 4062114352 Branch code: 632005 Reference: Spanking.


  1. Sure, we could use a lot of money and time to fight this…. or we could just teach school subjects in public school and church subjects in church.

  2. Nicholas Collins

    The so-called SAHRC and the intolerant bigoted complainants are clearly morally in the wrong. Failing to discipline children, and preventing others from disciplining theirs is simply child abuse, as the child grows up into a monster. The SAHRC is therefor guilty of child abuse, and the social workers who kidnapped (that is the correct term for stealing children from their parents) are no less than criminals.

  3. Today, the most notable proponents of spanking are evangelicals. They not only preach the gospel of corporal punishment, they also impart messages that lay the foundations for abuses against children and the protection of such abuse by our legal system. Spanking may have been endorsed in the time of the Bible’s writing, but so was slavery and women not owning property. A woman would also have to marry her rapist if he was caught. We’re in a new era here, and it is intellectually irresponsible to assume that all the things in the Bible should be so broadly applied to people here and now. The spirit of the teachings of Jesus promoted mercy, compassion, understanding, and respect for the individuality of others, and the spanking I grew up with absolutely did not reinforce any of that. As a result, I have a very hard time accepting any argument from those who say that they differentiate between spanking and abuse. Jillian Keenan wrote about spanking as a sexual act — and how that’s why it shouldn’t be used as punishment:… when you cause blood to rush to a child’s butt, you’re also causing it to rush to his or her other sex organs. The other time this kind of genital blood engorgement happens is during erection or arousal.
    Oxytocin, a hormone that is released during arousal, can increase pain tolerance by as much as 75 percent. So I wasn’t surprised to read that some kids who are regularly spanked experience a surge of oxytocin when they sense danger. It makes sense. If a kid expects a parent to cause physical pain, why wouldn’t her brain trigger an unconscious state of arousal to release the hormone that helps mitigate that pain? Does the possibility that parental spankings trigger sexual arousal hormones along with tears make anyone else a little uncomfortable? Her piece raises questions that have been uncomfortably simmering in the back of my mind for years. If modesty is so important to conservative Christianity, why is it okay for parents to ask their kids to bare their butts for spankings? If we want our kids to tell people “No” if they’re being touched inappropriately, why is it okay for an authority figure to hit children in their genital regions?

    • Sonia Odendaal

      Sarah Smith your comment is laughable to say the least. I grew up with a few hidings (well deserved) which I will not forget but I certainly did not have a rush of sexual arousal, that is plain rubbish. I am a normal person without any hangups and so are my adult children who also grew up with spanking. They don’t have drug, alcohol, sexual/pervert misbehavour, are both successful and normal people and so are their children. I asked them whether they experienced the arousal and as I expected the answer was no. So please, don’t try and put Jillian Keenan’s writings above the word of God. God is not in a time-dimension as we are and so His word is as good for our time today as it was thousands of years ago.

    • Just sad that a doctor would look at as a sexualised, just wonder if this dr would believe micky mouse was a potential child molestsant, don’t believe rubbish if you love your child, do what is best, in this world there are no boundary’s,giving to kids them this my save them from dying on the street of drugs, alcohol abuse, I hated hidings, it was terrifying, today I am involved in helping those whom need help, it did not turn me into some kind of sexual predator,because i got a dam good spanking, so called doctor you really need help.ether you are for God or against him, be wise in your writings, they will be account in the future.

  4. This is not about child abuse really. The anti-theists who complained to the HRC actually do not care about the children. There are millions of children in our country who are in desperate need, growing up in dysfunctional homes with substance abuse, severe physical abuse and neglect, bad role models, etc. What have the God haters done about those children who are in dire need?
    This whole situation is primarily an attack on Christians and the Church. See this whole situation for what it really is. If the government follows through on it, how will it be enforced, in a country where too many children are already parentless and homeless, and the social welfare system is under severe pressure?
    Will we end up with situations like this one in Norway?

    • Mike Guest (B.Th.)

      100% right Eleanor! There seems to be a worldwide agenda (dare I say conspiracy?) to to destroy Bible based Christianity by attacking the family, as they know that the family is the foundation of belief.
      Wishy washy politically correct “Christianity” is deemed to be OK as it hijacks the people, diverting them from the truth of Bible based faith…

  5. As a Bible believing Christian of 42 years I am fully convicted that the Scriptures clearly give parents the injunction to use spanking, provided it is carried out in love and without excess for discipline & correction. I used it where I thought it appropriate & necessary on my own three children when they were young.
    The proviso is that the hands should never be used for the act, they are to be used for loving, consequently a rod of some sort should be used. Secondly there must be rules which are understood which when broken carry the penalty of spanking. We had a flat wooden spoon on which was written ‘Wacko’ which was kept in one place so that it had to be fetched to be used. Which leads to the third proviso- never chastise in anger, cool down first and explain to the child the reason for the spanking. My children now grown adults carry no resentment, and have not been emotionally, mentally or physically abused or damaged but are responsible people.
    Much more could be said on the subject but space does not permit.

    PROVERBS 23 VS 13 & 14 – Don’t fail to discipline your children. They won’t die if you spank them. Physical discipline may well save them from death.
    PROVERBS 13 VS 24 -Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children. Those who love their children care enough to discipline them.
    Erin Caffey age 14 wanted to go out with her boyfriend James Wilkinson, but her parents stood in her way. So she took some initiative and planned the murders of her family. In March 2008
    A 14-year-old boy, Joshua Smith, shot his mother to death as she slept. She wanted him to quite the gang.
    Kirsten Nicole Lovinelli A 15-year-old girl who was disciplined by her father for something she had done. Her phone taken away. What happened next, however, turned out to be very different, the girl attacked her father with a hunting bow and wounded him horribly in his torso. Showing no remorse, she didn’t let him use a phone to call 911 but made him crawl/drive to the neighbor’s house to use a phone.
    12-year-old boy shoots His mother Sara Madrid, had been arguing with her son over chores and then left the house.
    4-year-old shot his father for not fulfilling the desire of getting a PlayStation 3. The child, after stewing in disappointment like every preschooler for a total of one minute, decided to jump right into misery and, while his father was undressing, picked up Pa’s gun and shot him from behind.
    13yr old girl dub the Lady Medicine Hat called her boyfriend of 23 and told him that she wanted to kill her entire family because her mother had been mean to her. And he did kill them all.
    Two brothers, aged 10 and 11, attacked two other children (around the same ages) in Edlington. The two victims were on a playground when the brothers (who were new to the area) lured them away. They were then punched and kicked several times, assaulted with bricks, sticks, and glass, and burned with cigarettes. One of the two victims was also sexually assaulted. When the two boys were found, they were initially assumed dead because of the severity of their injuries. The two brothers were arrested and they were quoted as saying they had stopped the assault only because their arms hurt.
    Fifteen-year-old Nehemiah Griego shot his family in Albuquerque in January 2013. Griego loved guns and apparently also loved to dress up in military fatigues and walk around the house. He was homeschooled by his parents along with his siblings. On that Saturday, by his own account, his mother had annoyed him. In response, he picked up a gun and shot her in the head. He went down and showed the corpse to his brother, who began to cry. Nehemiah then shot his brother as well, picked up an AR-15 rifle, and shot his two sisters. When his father returned home, he got a dose of lead as well.
    PROVERBS 13 VS 24 -Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children. Those who love their children care enough to discipline them.

  7. Feel free to encourage effective alternative methods of discipline, and inform parents of them; but do not use the coercive power of the secular-humanist state to usurp parental authority or bully and harass Bible-believing Christian families.

  8. A proper understanding of the shebet (translated “rod”) and its role in the Ancient Jewish world, along with an understanding that muwcar (translated “chastise” or “correct”) carries the connotation in Hebrew of “come let us reason together”, further combined with the absence of the modern idea of spanking in Torah, it is important that as believers we approach the idea of spanking with skepticism.
    When something is required by God it is clearly explained and while we find directions for how often a slave may be beat with a rod and the penalty for the master whose blows lead to death we find no similar instructions on how to beat a child. Study into rabbinical teaching and understanding of what many Christians have come to refer to as “the rod verses” further reveals debate on whether these verses even refer to corporal punishment at all and, if they do, the exercise being limited to striking a young man across the face with a shoestring.
    In many churches today the practice of spanking has not only become the primary method of parenting but it has been coupled to the Gospel in such a way that it is pure heresy. Christians who choose to not spank have their salvation questioned, even by pastors, and are told that their children will not be able to enter into salvation.
    The Great Command is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself. “On this hangs all Torah and the Prophets.” The idea of neighbor is expounded upon in the parable of the Good Samaritan and the point, according to Jesus, is that each individual is the neighbor. Everyone is the neighbor. This includes children. The Great Commission is to go and make disciples of all nations—first to the Jew and then to the Gentile. Neither the Great Command nor the Great Commission is accompanied by an instruction to spank children.
    Many who are drawn to paganism have shared that they came from a Christian upbringing in homes where the rod was not spared. They were beat in the name of Christ and therefore want nothing to do with him. Others, from more neutral backgrounds, are attracted to the teachings of Jesus himself but are offended by the way that believers treat children. Anyone who can preach love of neighbor while striking their children is considered a hypocrite and while the teachings of Jesus, who never struck a child, but embraced and blessed them, can be accepted the teachings of a church that insists on striking children is rejected. Many are confused at the linguistic olympics that go on within the church in an effort to redefine spankings as “not hitting, but discipline.”