Recently I heard a radio discussion in which Christians were asked to set an example by obeying the petty laws that many people consider to be unimportant. Breaking minor laws leads to more serious transgressions and so contributes to the culture of lawlessness in South Africa, it was argued. Christians could help to change the culture by respecting every law. It was pointed out that by adopting a policy of zero tolerance to petty misdemeanours in the 90s, New York slashed serious crime in the city.
This all sounds well and good and offences like littering, parking on yellow lines, walking across the road when the “red man” is displaying, and speeding (which is not the minor offence that we like to think it is!) spring to mind. But the example that received most attention in the radio discussion was ‘well-meaning Christians’ who had recently placed their pro-life stickers over illegal abortion stickers on municipal property in Parow, Cape Town. A local law representative in the studio said that the Christians were breaking a bylaw that prohibits unauthorised advertising on municipal property.The Christians should rather help the local authority to clean-up by removing the illegal posters, he said.
Well, well! This opens an interesting debate. The radio station was no doubt acting in good faith and making a valid appeal for Christians to be exemplary in upholding the law. But they had not spoken to the Christian pro-life activists about their sticker campaign; perhaps their comments might have been different if they had. The local law representative had a different agenda because the City of Cape Town and the pro-life group were already at loggerheads over the issue — a dispute that has been reported in Gateway News in recent weeks. (See Pro-life activists continue sticker campaign despite prosecution warning and City of Cape Town warns pro-life activists .)
City officials resolutely maintain that the pro-lifers are in breach of the bylaw and have emailed written warnings to Value Life campaign spokesman Peter Throp that they will be prosecuted if they continue with their sticker campaign. They dismiss Throp’s view that they are not breaking the law because they are placing their small, self-adhesive, easy-peel stickers on top of the illegal advertisements and not directly onto city property.
Throp has, with others, manually removed stickers over a period of two years only to see them being replaced by more. During this time he has repeatedly urged local authorities to deal with the problem. After the recent prosecution warnings he emailed the Executive Mayor, Patricia de Lille, urging her to see the bigger picture and to support the initiative which is aimed at protecting girls and women from being butchered and even killed by illegal abortionists. In the email he says his conscience dictates that he must continue with the sticker campaign in view of the local authority’s inability to remove the abortion advertisements.
A higher calling
Thorp has in fact sought legal advice and believes that he is acting lawfully. But he has also made it clear that his actions are motivated by a higher calling to be obedient to God. The first apostles kept on preaching the Gospel despite being ordered by authorities not to do so. We admire missionaries who smuggle bibles into countries that have outlawed the word of God. We honour Christians who establish underground churches against the orders of their rulers. Should we not honour Throp and his team members whose campaign is aimed at defending the defenceless?
In an email sent to Gateway News Throp’s wife Terry, says Peter went out yesterday morning to place stickers over offensive advertising. She says he expected to be arrested but he was able to place 300 stickers. His actions were however observed by two public safety officers in Parow, and by public safety officers in Belville — on two separate occasions, and by two metro officers who watched from their van as he placed stickers over offending ads on an electricity sub station.
She says that in Belville a public safety officer followed Throp, removing the Value Life stickers he had just put up. Throp told him to stop but he said he had been instructed to do so. Throp then told him to rather pull the abortion stickers off!
It seems that Mayor de Lille, who has a reputation as a brave campaigner against injustice, now finds herself presiding over a bizarre situation in which there seem to be plenty of officers on the ground to police pro-lifers but no capacity to arrest the backyard abortionists or rid the city of their evil advertisements.
But of course the problem is not restricted to Cape Town. Cities and towns throughout South Africa are littered with illegal abortion posters. This has been going on for years. One does not hear of arrests or convictions and no doubt the criminals who put up their stickers at night are difficult to apprehend. But as Throp has asked, why have their cellphone accounts not been cancelled to protect their victims? Where are the special investigation units? Where is the will of local and national authorities — and for that matter of us, the Church — to fight and overcome this evil?
I for one salute Throp and the Value Life campaign for saying “enough is enough” and taking peaceful action.