[notice]Attorney and blogger Nikki Venter lays out her reasons, as a Christian, for deciding to place her X in a different spot in the upcoming national election.[/notice]
There are two things you need to note about this blog before going in so you are not sorry to have wasted your time reading it :)
1) It is aimed at people who value their freedom of religion and freedom of expression, and
2) I’m a Christian so the views expressed herein are in line with my beliefs.
As most of us are now aware, the Human Rights Commission of South Africa has recently been pushing at the boundaries of freedom of religion and freedom of expression in South Africa. There is a recent case where they have taken on a church in the Western Cape for preaching out of the bible that parents can use moderate spanking as a form of discipline for their children.
In spite of the fact that:
1) moderate parental spanking is not illegal in South Africa so the church was in no way breaking the law, and
2) the church was preaching in accordance with scripture and thereby exercising religious freedom,
the HRC nevertheless opened an investigation against the church and there is a real current threat of a law on the cards in South Africa which states that churches, synagogues, mosques and any other religious institutions may not preach (amongst other things) any portions of their scripture which advocate discipline by spanking. For those of us that don’t believe in spanking, this may seem like a small thing – but the issue at stake here is not spanking. The issue at stake is religious freedom and the state being able to veto what can and can’t be preached in any pulpit, which in effect gives the state the power to outlaw portions of scripture. Spanking may be the first issue, but when the state starts to legislate what can and cannot be preached out of the Bible, Torrah, Quran or any other religious book, this is not something to be taken lightly.
Freedom of conscience
Another two subjects where the state has threatened to curb freedom of expression and religious conviction are those of abortion and homsexuality. The state does not want any religious institution to be able to preach in its own pulpit that abortion or homosexuality is a sin. At this point some people’s backs get up, but again the issue is not whether you are for these things or against them. The issue is – are you allowed the freedom of conscience to be for or against them. Are you permitted to exercise your religious belief or conscience without the state interfering and saying that you may not preach out of certain portions of your scripture. It is easy to get side-tracked by the issues but the real issue is the freedoms that are currently at stake.
State interference into religion, belief and conscience is a slippery slope. It may start with an issue that causes you to say “Thank God the State is interfering there and curbing that freedom!” But sooner or later an issue of conscience that is close to your heart will come up, and if the state has already set a precedent of being able to curb the freedom of belief and conscience of its people, it is very difficult to reverse that precedent.
Recently, in Cape Town a man was arrested for imparting his beliefs that abortion is wrong. He did so in a non-violent way, merely exercising his freedom of belief and expression and was taken to court for doing so. The question is – Should a government agency have the power to curb the right to freedom of conscience and freedom of expression? Freedom of expression does not mean we like or agree with what other people are saying. You may hate what I’m saying, but you should value my right to say it – because as long as my freedom of expression is alive, so is yours. Voltaire summed it up nicely when he said “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”
At the moment, there are too many examples of state intervention into religious freedom to even mention and the number is growing everyday. So much so that last year, the religious institutions of South Africa felt the need to join hands across religions and say “No more.” The forming of the body known as “Religious Freedom SA” and the fact that it has in a very short space of time grown in number to represent about twelve million South Africans of different faiths should tell us two things:
1) the threat is real, and
2) South Africans are thankfully not going to take it lying down.
My important voting factors
When I vote, these are my important factors (we all have different factors which we take into account but these are mine… because this is my blog – lol):
1) Which party is doing the most to try and protect the freedom of all religions in South Africa?
2) Which party is anti-abortion? This is a personal one for me and I don’t expect everyone to feel the same but my personal belief and logic is as follows: I believe that the taking of a life is murder. I’ve held that belief since I was two bricks high and I first found out about the concept of a baby being killed inside its mother’s womb. I actually won our school’s public speaking competition at the tender age of eleven taking on this very heavy subject, so it is something that is close to my heart and has been for a long time. I don’t believe that you can say that it is acceptable to kill a baby at 24 weeks (like our law does) but not at 25 weeks. Was there a “magic fairy dust” moment between 24 and 25 weeks that suddenly makes the baby worthy of the right to life? The lack of logic astounds me. If a baby is a baby at 25 weeks then it was a baby at 24 weeks, and 23 weeks, and 22 weeks… I’ve seen a scan at twelve weeks and I saw a full little body with every little part already formed. I saw the baby moving and I heard its little heartbeat so no-one can tell me that a 12 week old baby is not alive. In my second pregnancy, they put a little shocking device on my stomach to test my baby’s reaction in the womb and see if she was okay. I will never forget as the little shocker went off, I watched her heart rate climb as the fear came over her. She felt the shock and she felt the fear and her little heart rate skyrocketed. Pro-abortionists like to call these little people “tissue” in order to mask the reality of what is really happening, but if little fully-formed human beings are merely tissue, then I have three little balls of tissue running around my home, each of which I would’ve had the right under South African law to kill in the womb if had I wanted to do that. The point I am making is I personally believe abortion to be murder of the most innocent and vulnerable members of our society. The law states that if you are willingly involved with a crime or if you know about it and do nothing, you are an accomplice to that crime. So if I vote for a party that supports what I believe to be murder, then I’m an accomplice to every little life that is taken and there are approximately 80 000 taken every year in South Africa. So I personally cannot vote for any party that supports abortion.
3) Which party, although not advocating any particular religion holds firm to Judeo-Christian values and will govern upon those values for the good of ALL people regardless of their religion?
4) Which party is free of corruption and will tackle corruption head on?
5) Which party is a friend to Israel – Again, this is a personal factor for me as a Christian and is quite important to me in deciding how I vote.
Those are my five “must-haves”. We all have different ones but, as a Christian, those are mine. As far as I know, there is only one party that ticks all these blocks so that will be the party I vote for.
Voice of minorities
I have in the past always voted DA because logic told me “We need one strong opposition party in South Africa.” It never actually occurred to me that in South Africa, the parties rule by proportional representation. The South African system is not a “first past the post” system meaning that the winner takes all and the losers wait for the next election. In South Africa, the number of votes any party gets is directly proportionate to that party’s seats in parliament and ultimately its voice in parliament. It’s actually a wonderful system because all the minorities are heard, from the EFF to the FF. All of them will get their proportionate number of seats in parliament and will get to have their say on the bills that get passed in this country. The EFF will no doubt provide the left voice, the FF will provide the right voice, the IFP will bring the Zulu voice, the DA will bring the liberal voice and the ACDP will bring the Judeo-Christian voice. Every seat each of these parties get, makes their voice louder in parliament. The logic of “Vote for the strongest opposition” would apply in a “first past the post” country but it does not apply in a “proportional representation” country. In a proportional representation country, every person can and should vote their conscience. I think the only question one should ask before voting is: “Which party holds the same values I do so I can be sure they will bring my voice to the halls of parliament?”
I remember Diana Ross saying once “Every decision is made either out of fear, or out of faith.” As a Christian, a fear-based decision will be “I need to vote for the strongest opposition.” A faith based decision will be “If God can work through a donkey, then He can work mightily through a few upright men in parliament.” Like I heard someone saying last night “One person plus God is a majority”. So this is the first time that my vote will be about conscience more than strategy. When I stand in that voting booth, I know I am not going to be alone in there and I will stand account for where I put my X.
The reason I’ve written this blog is not to enforce my views on anyone but to encourage you to vote your conscience in this election (whatever that may be) and to make sure you know the policies of all the parties before putting your X down. That is all.
- Nikki Venter is a practicing attorney and has a Masters degree in Commercial law. During her studies at the University of Cape Town she was elected as the vice president of the Students Representative Council and was also chosen to head up the UCT Constitutional Committee at the time. Since then she has worked at various international corporations as an in-house lawyer and has now settled into private practice. She has been married for 12 years, has three children and currently resides in Cape Town.