“Loving corporal punishment” has been found to be beneficial and in the interest of children, the Joshua Generation Church in South Africa said on Tuesday.
This is one of the “errors” pointed out by the church after the South African Human Rights Commission found that moderate chastisement of children and the advocacy and use of corporal punishment in the home is unacceptable, regardless of whether it is based on religious teachings or not.
The church said it has “no alternative but to appeal… for the sake of protecting the family and the freedom to believe in SA”.
Legal counsel for non-profit Christian organisation, For SA, and church spokesperson advocate Nadene Badenhorst told News24 the church did not promote corporal punishment and believed it is up to the parents to decide what is best for their children.
The church, she said, had no particular stance on corporal punishment.
“Parents must be free to bring up their children according to their own moral or religious convictions,” she said.
The SAHRC recommended that the Joshua Generation Church, the respondent in the matter, give a written undertaking that it will desist from advocating corporal punishment as a method of disciplining children, and that trainers and pastors involved in presenting the church’s parenting course take a course in “alternative forms of non-violent discipline of children”.
Badenhorst said the course notes were removed from the church’s website early in 2013 already, “before the complaint was even received from the HRC, have not been taught, used or distributed by the church since and will also not be taught, used or distributed by the Church again in future.
“In the circumstances, the church has long since complied with the HRC’s recommendation that it ‘remove all references to physical punishment from its teaching materials’. Surely, the Commission is not suggesting that the Church should also cut out Scriptures from the Bible,” said Badenhorst.
International treaties do not expressly prohibit spanking as argued by the HRC and complainants, Badenhorst argued.
“Neither is it correct that SA law, or the SA Constitution, prohibit spanking in the home.
“The fact is that reasonable and moderate spanking is perfectly legal in terms of our common law, and until Parliament or the courts decide otherwise, the SAHRC cannot punish anyone for something that is not illegal and acts irregularly in doing so.”
Badenhorst said a large body of evidence and learning suggests that “loving corporal punishment by parents is beneficial and in the interest of children”.
“The SAHRC knows this, as Joshua Generation Church submitted comprehensive peer-reviewed research in this regard to the Commission and for the SAHRC to now suggest otherwise, is disingenuous.
“What is more, in its report the SAHRC admitted that it ‘is not best placed to evaluate’ the social science studies submitted by the parties. In the circumstances, the SAHRC is out of line to now make such evaluative comments to the media.”
SA law already firmly protects children against domestic violence and abuse including disciplinary spanking that exceeds the legal boundaries, she said.
“Creating another law that bans spanking in the home will do little more than misdirect taxpayers’ money and government’s resources into court cases and ‘sensitisation trainings’ involving potentially responsible parents and families that are not at risk.”
The church was also “100% against abuse of children, which should be prosecuted in terms of existing laws”.
“There is however a fundamental and obvious difference between abuse and non-injurious spanking.
“The concern is that, should all spanking (including non-injurious spanking, within the bounds of the law) be criminalised, good parents who love their children and only want what is best for them, will potentially end up in jail or have their children removed from them.”
Violating religious freedom
Badenhorst said the State is further violating the religious freedom of people of different faiths who believe, according to their interpretation of sacred texts, that it is their parental duty to provide appropriate guidance to their children – including, at times, to spank them within the bounds of the law – for their education and benefit.
“In this regard, we point out that Joshua Generation Church received the signed support of religious leaders representing 12 million people in SA in support of its position, including the Muslim Judicial Council and Jewish Board of Deputies.”
But while the church respects the authority of the State, it would appeal the finding as it “cannot on behalf of its members undertake that they will not believe, teach or hold to any portions of sacred texts”.
“It is not for the Church to dictate to parents how they should raise their children, or how they must interpret the Bible in this regard. That is between them and God.
“Likewise, for the SAHRC, or the State, to dictate to parents how they should raise their children, or what they should believe, is a gross violation of human rights and against the Constitution.”
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