Re­li­gions do not need reg­u­la­tions

CityPress - - Voices - Enock Phiri

Fol­low­ing a se­ries of me­dia head­lines and re­ports of be­liev­ers seem­ingly be­ing hyp­no­tised by their lead­ers to do all sorts of ab­nor­mal things – rang­ing from eat­ing grass and snakes, and drink­ing petrol, to oth­ers be­ing sprayed with in­sec­ti­cide to be cured of var­i­ous evil spir­its – the com­mis­sion you lead, Com­mis­sion for the Pro­mo­tion and Pro­tec­tion of the Rights of Cultural, Re­li­gious and Lin­guis­tic Com­mu­ni­ties, launched an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into what it called the com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion of re­li­gion, to curb ap­par­ent and preva­lent abuses and mal­prac­tices.

I wish to em­pha­sise – as a pas­tor and leader of be­liev­ers, I ab­hor all forms of ex­ploita­tion, whether they are com­mit­ted by politi­cians, re­li­gious lead­ers, em­ploy­ers or peo­ple in lead­er­ship po­si­tions. I be­lieve it is even more un­godly and wicked to use the Bible or any sa­cred book to ex­ploit God’s peo­ple – this makes such lead­ers no dif­fer­ent from the im­pe­ri­al­ists who used the Bible to steal land from the na­tives.

My ini­tial re­sponse was that of sus­pi­cion due to your con­duct that came across as par­ti­san and gave the im­pres­sion that you wanted to en­trench the ris­ing cul­ture of turn­ing our coun­try into a nanny state by reg­u­lat­ing re­li­gion. Fur­ther­more, the ap­proach of the com­mis­sion seemed to have been tar­get­ing par­tic­u­lar sec­tions of the Chris­tian faith, thus com­ing across as a witch-hunt with the in­ten­tion of hu­mil­i­at­ing those with di­ver­gent views.

How­ever, I chose to sup­port this in­ves­ti­ga­tion and sub­se­quently wel­comed its pre­lim­i­nary find­ings while await­ing the re­lease of the fi­nal re­port. I am also pleased that the com­mis­sion col­lab­o­rated with Unisa’s Bureau of Mar­ket Re­search to pro­duce an in­ves­tiga­tive study of the com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion of re­li­gion in South Africa.

I hope that the rec­om­men­da­tions in the pre­lim­i­nary re­port were in­spired by the judg­ment made by Judge Sandile Ng­cobo over the case pre­sented by state pros­e­cu­tors with re­gard to whether pos­ses­sion of cannabis was not the cen­tral as­pect of Rasta­far­i­an­ism. Judge Ng­cobo de­clined to pass judg­ment and made the fol­low­ing state­ment:

“As a gen­eral mat­ter, the court should not be con­cerned with ques­tions whether, as a mat­ter of re­li­gious doc­trine, a par­tic­u­lar prac­tice is cen­tral to the re­li­gion. Re­li­gion is a mat­ter of faith and be­lief. The be­liefs that be­liev­ers hold sa­cred and thus cen­tral to their re­li­gious faith may strike non-be­liev­ers as bizarre, il­log­i­cal or ir­ra­tional. Hu­man be­ings may freely be­lieve in what they cannot prove. Yet, that their be­liefs are bizarre, il­log­i­cal or ir­ra­tional to oth­ers or are in­ca­pable of sci­en­tific proof, does not de­tract from the fact that these are re­li­gious be­liefs for the pur­poses of en­joy­ing the pro­tec­tion guar­an­teed by the right to free­dom of re­li­gion. The be­liev­ers should not be put to the proof of their be­liefs or faith. For this rea­son, it is un­de­sir­able for courts to en­ter into the de­bate whether a par­tic­u­lar prac­tice is cen­tral to a re­li­gion un­less there is a gen­uine dis­pute as to the cen­tral­ity of the prac­tice.”

I wel­come the rec­om­men­da­tions of the com­mis­sion’s pre­lim­i­nary re­port that high­lights the need to pro­tect re­li­gious free­dom with­out at­tempt­ing to have it reg­u­lated by the state and the need for the re­li­gious com­mu­ni­ties to reg­u­late them­selves more dili­gently in line with the Con­sti­tu­tion and the law.

In a so­ci­ety where 86% of us are Chris­tian and only 5% do not fol­low a spe­cific re­li­gion, as re­ported in the 2016 Stats SA Gen­eral House­hold Sur­vey, now, more than ever, be­liev­ers have rea­son to self-reg­u­late, as long as lev­els of gov­er­nance and com­pli­ance are higher.

I ac­cept that re­li­gious or­gan­i­sa­tions need to un­der­stand their re­spon­si­bil­ity in con­nect­ing re­li­gious free­dom and re­course to eth­i­cal and com­mu­nity re­spon­si­bil­ity. Is­sues such as ac­cred­i­ta­tion and li­cens­ing of re­li­gions; re­li­gious in­sti­tu­tions ex­pected to be af­fil­i­ated to an um­brella or­gan­i­sa­tion; and the estab­lish­ment of a peer re­view coun­cil which will give per­mis­sion to op­er­ate to in­di­vid­ual re­li­gious lead­ers re­main chal­lenges which re­quire fur­ther en­gage­ment.

As tempt­ing as it might be, all due to a few un­scrupu­lous re­li­gious lead­ers, South Africans must refuse the reg­u­la­tion of their re­li­gion. They have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to hold their lead­ers to high moral stan­dards that pro­mote val­ues of ac­count­abil­ity, trans­parency, trust, hon­esty, fair­ness and, most im­por­tantly, con­sid­er­a­tion for the dig­nity of oth­ers.

Com­pla­cency has no space in re­li­gion; be­liev­ers must never feel dis­em­pow­ered to act against hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions, in­clud­ing those per­pe­trated by their lead­ers. The gospel pro­motes ac­count­abil­ity and respect for fel­low hu­man be­ings. Be­liev­ers to­day owe it to fu­ture gen­er­a­tions to re­port crime and mal­ad­min­is­tra­tion so as to weed out the bad el­e­ments among us.

In do­ing the work of the Lord, re­li­gious lead­ers have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to pro­mote hu­man rights and we ought to be ex­am­ples and role mod­els of eth­i­cal lead­er­ship. Any act that seeks to ex­ploit con­gre­gants or ex­tort money from them must be con­demned in the strong­est terms. Any acts to use spa­ces of wor­ship for money laun­der­ing, tax avoid­ance and fraud­u­lent ac­tiv­i­ties ought to be re­ported to law en­force­ment agen­cies.

I fully sup­port the de­ci­sion of the com­mis­sion to refer some of the non-com­pli­ant, tru­ant and un­re­pen­tant re­li­gious in­sti­tu­tions to or­gans of state that deal with such mat­ters, in­clud­ing the Na­tional Prose­cut­ing Author­ity, depart­ment of home af­fairs and the depart­ment of so­cial de­vel­op­ment. I un­der­stand that, in some in­stances, ac­tion can only start as a re­sult of re­ported cases by cit­i­zens. How­ever, if part of its man­date is to “pro­tect”, the com­mis­sion will have to be more proac­tive so that all South Africans can en­joy the tan­gi­ble ben­e­fits of our con­sti­tu­tional democ­racy. Yours in His glo­ri­ous name Pas­tor Phiri is speaker, writer and founder

of Restora­tion Min­istries

TALK TO US Should re­li­gion be reg­u­lated by gov­ern­ment?

SMS us on 35697 us­ing the key­word RE­LI­GION. In­clude your name and prov­ince. SMSes cost R1.50

Thoko Mkhwanaz­iXaluva

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.