UNCENSORED NEWS FROM
HENRY MORTON STANLEY SCHOOL OF CHRISTIAN JOURNALISM
Freedom of Religion South Africa Roadshow
On Tuesday, 28 May 2019, I attended the FOR SA Roadshow Conference and was gripped by the pressing threats to freedom we are currently facing in South Africa.
Contesting Our Freedom
As Advocate Nadene Badenhorst, pointed out, “We need to be proactive in contesting for our freedom. Once laws have been passed it is way more difficult to undo them, than it is to originally stand against them and stop them from changing.” We need to protect and promote our religious freedom or we will lose it. Laws are being implemented that are eroding Biblical values. There is a global trend developing, in which activists are teeing-up a [State] commission against certain organizations, churches and individuals, like pastors. Even if the activists don’t win the case against whom they are accusing, they often bankrupt the accused in the process, which stops them anyway. Which is the result they were initially aiming at. This is undermining Christian organizations all over the world. We need to be knowledgeable of this and be a part of the solution. We cannot be willingly ignorant in the desire to stay hopeful.
It is a time for us to be wise - wise as Christians, wise as businessmen and wise as citizens. We are not to be ashamed of the Gospel. Even back in Bible times Christians were labelled as troublemakers, just as we are today. We are labelled troublemakers, because sadly, the truth is considered hate speech, to those who hate the truth. There is no need though, to be fearful or overwhelmed, but rather we should know what rights we have, and implement them. This, being coupled with being filled with the Spirit, will empower us to stand firm in our Faith and stand up for what the Word of God says. Not just believing it, but being able to say what we believe and living it out in our daily lives!
Living Out Our Beliefs
Today people say you can believe whatever you want to believe, but then we Christians are not allowed to say it, and we are not allowed to live out what we believe. “You are free to believe what you want! But for goodness sake, don’t say it and definitely don’t act in accordance!” But according to the existing South African Constitution, our religious freedom doesn’t only give us the right to believe what we want, but the right to be able to say it and live it out too.
FOR SA speakers, Adv. Nadene Badenhorst and Michael Swain, pointed out how challenges against our religious freedoms manifest in two ways. Firstly, through the changing of laws, threatening to limit what we can say or do, and, secondly, through strategic court cases, where the outcome has far-reaching ramifications, because through these outcomes future laws are shaped. It is important to understand that court cases shape precedents, where a previous case or legal decision, may then be followed in subsequent similar cases in the future. In the case of binding precedent, the previous result has to be followed! So, a court case has higher reaching ramifications than just those directly involved with that specific court case, as those outcomes are then used in future cases and in future laws being made.
There are now laws trying to be passed in South Africa, such as the proposed Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill (“the Hate Speech Bill”), which, if passed by Parliament, will limit our ability to say what we believe. There are many cases where churches, pastors, Christian authors and anyone expressing their views and beliefs, are being taken to court for stating what it is that they believe. What they are able to say is being limited. In effect, people are not being permitted to say, write, or preach what they believe. Or any aspect of it! For example, child discipline - by saying that parents may not give their children hidings, or any form of physical discipline, what they are technically saying is we need to scratch those verses out the Bible. That’s not acceptable! It’s not about whether they have interpreted it correctly or not, or whether spanking is right or not. It’s a problem of freedom of religion, because if they can scratch out one Scripture, however it may be being interpreted, then what stops them from trying to scratch out any other Bible verse next?
Hate Speech or Not Hate Speech? That is the Question!
The definition of hate speech in our Constitution (which is the highest law of the land and to which every other law must conform) is very narrow. It defines hate speech as speech that advocates hatred (i.e. it stirs up hatred) in the listeners and that incites them to then go and cause harm. For example, “Kill the Boer! Kill the farmer!”, or “ISIS must come kill all the gays”. That then is incitement to harm others, and that needs to be regulated, prevented and punished. Where there is a call to action of harm, the state does need to intervene, but it already has the power to do so as there are existing laws in place to enforce that. We don’t need to add any more, infringing further on our rights of freedom of expression and freedom of religion. Any statement, written or verbal, that does not advocate hate AND incite harm is not actually hate speech, including any scriptural statement, such as “Homosexuality is a sin. God puts parameters in place for marriage. For example you cannot marry your brother or sister, you cannot marry a child, you cannot marry the same sex.” That is not hate speech as its neither advocating (i.e. stirring up) hate, nor inciting harm against anyone. In fact, it can actually be said out of love. This is why HOW we choose to say something is so important. Just like saying that lying is a sin, doesn’t mean I hate every single person on this earth, because every single one of us is a liar. We are simply stating what God constitutes as sin in His Word, not out of condescending judgement or hate, but out of love for the person and their soul. Just as Jesus hates the sin that we commit, but still loves us, the sinner – as long as we’re not revelling in our sin and we are rather actually repentant and trying to become more Christ-like. If a pastor said that homosexuality is a sin and so you need to kill gays, then that is definitely considered hate speech and there should be consequences. But if there is no advocacy of hatred against the person and there is no provocation of causing the person harm, and someone simply feels offended, that should not be categorized as hate speech.
Who’s Throwing the Punches?
If just anything that someone felt offended by, was considered hate speech, imagine the consequences! It would be absolute chaos! It would turn into he said, she said! Imagine: “Homosexuality is a sin.” “A sin?! I’m offended! I’m taking you to court! You’re a homophobic bigot!” “A homophobic bigot? I am not! I’m offended! I’m taking you to court!” Anything could suddenly be considered offensive, and everyone would just be taking each other to court.
Ironically, the people who take them to court claim that what was said to them is offensive, but in the process they call others: bigots, homophobes, fundamentalists, etc. Isn’t that offensive too? Often the ones shouting loudest, are the ones guilty of the offense they condemn.
Where is the line drawn currently on hate speech? If your dignity is violated then that is an unlawful act in South Africa, punishable up until now, with the crime of Crimen Iniuria. This could result in either imprisonment or a fine. Cases that have made the news headlines that were cases of crimen iniuria include the likes of Vicky Momberg and Penny Sparrow. In the case of Sparrow, she was charged with crimen iniuria and having pled guilty, was given the choice between 12 months in prison or a R5,000,00 fine. She was additionally sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, wholly suspended five years, during which time she must not be convicted again of crimen iniuria. In Momberg’s case, she was found guilty on four counts of crimen iniuria in connection for racist statements and was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment, suspended by one year.
Freedom of speech is a fundamental right, especially in a democracy. How can a democratic government try and control our speech? Freedom of speech is not only valuable, but absolutely necessary for freedom.
Our Constitutional Freedom of Speech excludes three things: incitement of imminent violence, propaganda for war, or the advocacy of hatred (based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion) and which constitutes the incitement to cause harm. (Section 16(2) of the Constitution.)
If offense is taken, that in itself is not hate speech, it needs to incite harm, hatred or war to be legally considered hate speech.
According to our Lord’s Commandments, the only limit to speech, is do not use the Lord your God’s name in vain, and do not give false testimony against your neighbour, do not steal his good name. Other than that we have freedom of speech, as opposed to South Africa that has many laws. Yet for some reason people say that Christianity is just a religion of rules and regulations, and that we live in a free country.
Our existing freedom is being challenged right now in South Africa. The move to legislate against offensive speech and for it to possibly be considered as hate speech, makes hate speech much more subjective – it is no longer the objectively determinable advocacy of hatred (based on four grounds only) AND that incites people to cause harm, rather the question becomes if the hearer feels offended. As, if someone arguably can see that it could possibly hurt someone’s feelings, it would now be considered hate speech.
What makes the proposed Hate Speech Bill so dangerous is that it makes speech a crime – a criminal offence, with a minimum three-year goal sentence and a life-long criminal record. So, if you say something that someone doesn’t like, you can be arrested and taken to prison, whereas before you actually had to stir up hatred (advocate hatred) in others and incite them to cause the person harm, in order for it to be considered hate speech. Just as it would make sense, if the conversation of people conspiring to plan a murder was heard, it would be unlawful.
Under the new proposed terms, hate speech could be a person communicating that he/she believes that there are only two genders (male and female), this statement will qualify as “hate speech” in terms of the Bill.
While God Loves All People, He Doesn’t Approve of All Conduct
God doesn’t approve of drunkenness, or homosexuality, or paedophilia. While that is Biblically accurate, that could be considered hate speech if this bill is passed, and one could receive a criminal record for that! This bill should make us outraged! They are trying to infringe on what we can say and do. The limiting of freedom of religion will then follow right behind.
Broad is the Way to Destruction
So therefore, as we can see, there are already necessary and adequate laws in place, the addition of the proposed new Hate Speech bill is unnecessary. People like Penny Sparrow and Vicky Momberg are being prosecuted on existing laws, so there is obviously no need to extend these laws. Those advocating the Hate Speech Bill are trying to make the law too broad. What they are trying to change it to is unconstitutional. People will eventually just stop speaking and debating, as they are fearful to say something they may be prosecuted for, so people will just shut up. Exactly what the enemy wants.
So, before they succeed in trying to shut us up, we need to make sure our voices are heard. They are trying to encroach on our freedoms, conscience and rights. If we don’t exercise our freedom of speech we will lose it. Just like all of our rights, if we don’t use them, we will lose them.
The State Raising the Youth
There is a threat against parents being allowed to raise children according to their Biblical convictions, with Biblical values and morals. Parents are far better equipped to know what is better for their children than the state is. Of course where there is abuse, the state needs to get involved and there are many existing laws enabling that. We do not need to just keep adding more and more laws, but rather to properly enforce existing ones. If parents are not allowed to raise their children as Christians, not allowed to teach them Biblical values and morals, not allowed to discipline them, not allowed to home educate them, we are going to end up raising a generation that does need more and more laws because they wouldn’t have been taught values and morals, they will have squashed their consciences and will not know the difference between right and wrong and so will need to have laws guiding them. The problem is people deserting God and His Laws.
Radical Explicit Sexualisation of Children
Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE), as it is implemented in many overseas schools, radically sexualizes children. We are now facing it being implemented in South Africa. The UN and UNESCO promote this, to children as young as 6 years old, teaching them things such as how to masturbate, anal sex is normal, they are also exposed to pornography as entertainment and they encourage children to start exploring their sexuality. Some are trying to make this curriculum compulsory. It is a radical explicit sexualisation of children. But parents should be able to choose who teaches these difficult topics, at what age, with sensitivity and Biblically, but the state is trying to take the right to make these decisions away from the parents.
Replacing God’s Laws
The Civil Union Amendment Bill has been passed by the NA, but still has to be passed by NCOP. (I.e. it needs to be passed by both houses of Parliament.) But, in terms of this Bill, all State-employed marriage officers (i.e. both marriage officers that work at DHA and magistrates) will have to solemnise same-sex marriages.
The result is that people who conscientiously object to same-sex marriage and who cannot, on grounds of their conscience, solemnise it, will not be able to become magistrates. So, subsequently, from there, unable to progress through the legal ranks and become an acting judge, judge, chief justice etc. So in effect, by saying that they cannot rule on their conscience, they are trying to take away the laws that God has written on our hearts, and instead write their own laws in their place.
Fulfilling the Forced Speech Agenda
The new Hate Speech Bill fits right in with the LGBT+ Agenda, where before you have any conversation you will have to ask how they would like to be addressed: as a man? Woman? Both? Neither? Building? King? etc. If you don’t then use their preferred pronoun, then there are penalties. Would I be able to request to be addressed as King Emma? Or what if I preferred to be addressed as President Cyril Ramaphosa? Would this be allowed? If the answer is no, and the reasoning is because well, I’m not President Cyril Ramaphosa, then surely that invalidates the argument as a whole? It doesn’t make sense to me. But either way, if a man identifies as a woman, they should have the freedom to feel that way, but we should not be forced to agree or forced to call them by their pronoun or such. Because that’s not free speech, that’s forced speech. That’s not acceptable. We need to fight for freedom not for infringement.
Freedom of Association
Some Churches say that they cannot marry homosexuals, because it doesn’t line up with their values, as it does not fit the Biblical definition of marriage. This is not inequality. They would say just the same thing if witches came and asked to use the church building for a séance. The church would say sorry we can’t allow it because it's not in line with our values. People should be able to have the freedom to say this and vice versa, if a church wanted to use a mosque for a service, the Imam should have the freedom to refuse if he didn’t agree with the service. The problem is that activists are not looking for equality and acceptance; they are looking for conformity, promotion and more privileges than others.
Freedom of Association
In the case of Ecclesia de Lange she was dismissed by the Methodist Church as a minister, because she transgressed their doctrinal beliefs by wishing to marry her same-sex partner. She then took them to court for discrimination. Current laws that are in place allow each organization to decide for themselves where they can draw the line, but if the proposed bills are allowed to go forward, then the organizations would not be allowed to choose for themselves but will be told what to do. This is taking away the churches right of association. It is taking away freedoms. It’s putting the state in charge of even more matters that it has no right to control. FOR SA points out, it’s not about trying to stand for a particular side, saying that yes they must hire her, or no they cannot hire her. What they are saying is that people, the church, etc., should be able to choose for themselves where the line can be drawn on such matters.
The outcomes in such cases are so important, as it sets the precedent for the outcome of future cases. So, as Adv. Badenhorst said, “a win for one is a win for all, but a loss for one is a loss for all.” We need to use our voices and stand together.
Freedom of religion is very much something that needs to be protected. Although many think of religious freedom as only applying to fundamentalist religious zealots, it is a right that is neutral – it applies as equally to my Muslim neighbour as it does to my Christian brother, or Atheist friend. It’s not about whether this is correct for Christians specifically, but rather a freedom for all people to live out what they believe, because if religious freedom goes for my Muslim neighbour, it goes for me. Standing up for freedom of religion is not standing for Christianity only, it’s standing for the right of everyone to believe as their conscience dictates, and to be able to state it, and live it out accordingly. People need to understand that it’s not wrong to fight for freedom of religion. Freedom of religion is to protect the right to believe whatever you want as long as it is lawful (e.g. in line with taxation laws, and in line with immigration laws, and safety laws etc.), but the new bill is trying to limit people from living out and talking about their beliefs. Although there is a religious freedom exemption clause in the new draft of the Bill, it still falls short from adequately protecting people when they state their religious beliefs. People want to “regulate” things that are going on and therefore they want more laws and want the state to bring down a heavy hand on those who disagree. This happens, when people fear what is different. That’s where the problem comes in.
Crimes Must be Dealt With
Having said this though, people have the right to believe what they want, but one cannot hide crimes under the law of freedom of religion. For example, if you do something that is against the law, such as kill someone, assault someone, or incite imminent harm, this is a criminal act. This is not exercising freedom of religion; it is breaking other laws and human rights. So, we don’t need more laws, we just need the existing laws to be implemented.
Regulation or Ruination?
Organizations should not be closed down on their doctrinal or theological values, as this infringes on their freedom of religion and their right to believe what their conscience dictates. If that gets regulated, then our freedom to believe and live in accordance with our conscience dictates, is also infringed on. So, the problem is, if people want individuals to be appointed to make these decisions, they need to think carefully about the implications of this. Who will appoint those people? How do you know that what they believe will be in line with what you believe? What if they’re not? Or what if they are now, but that then changes in the future? So rather than trying to enforce what people can believe, they should rather allow freedom… for all… as long as what they are doing is not violating others’ rights to life, liberty and property.
Good Intentions May Still Have Disastrous Consequences
This is what happens when you start trying to regulate things. You may have good intentions, but the outcome can be disastrous. 6,000 churches were shut down in Rwanda, as they made a regulation that you have to have a 3-year theological degree before you can be a pastor! Does having a 3-year degree warrant you to be a pastor, or does the Lord’s call on your life warrant you? The Lord’s call on your life! Not to say that it wouldn’t then be wise to educate yourself. 2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the Word of Truth.” This could be done through a degree, but that is definitely not the only right way.
2,000 churches were shut down in Angola, as they made regulations stating that one needed 100,000 signatures before you can be a practitioner! Then if you somehow managed to get that right, they were then charged a registration fee per person per year!
There is a big difference between registration and regulation. It may be fine for organizations to choose to be registered, but their theology and doctrine should not be regulated, unless it's breaking real laws, for example if someone is working as an illegal alien, or inciting harm etc.
But you should, for instance, be able to say you are pro-choice if you want to and I can say I am pro-life. But what I can't say, is, “All abortionists should be killed!” That is inciting harm, which is against the law and vice versa, you can’t say all pro-lifers should be tortured and burnt or whatever.
The over-regulation of anything is dangerous. As soon as you get the power of the state combining with any section of religion, it will end badly. The Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights Commission) is now trying to do this. They are trying to receive executive power, which could then require a change to the Constitution.
Decentralization Is Needed
We need decentralization not further centralization. The CRL’s term of office expired in February of this year (2019). Christians need to apply for chair positions. We need to put action to our beliefs to make a change. If we sit back, people who oppose our views are going to stand up for their beliefs and then limit our freedoms.
What are We Allowing to Happen on Our Watch?
Freedom of religion is freedom for all religions; this is what we should fight for, so that the Gospel can freely be shared. We are fighting for the freedom of all religions and people, because if these bills are passed, everyone’s rights will be infringed upon. We should be fighting for the freedom of Muslims, Hindus, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, whoever, to decide what they want to believe. That is a human right. As Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA) Adv. Nadene Badenhorst, said, “Even though I might not agree with what you believe, I will fight to the death for your right to believe it.” This is a statement I feel we could all do well to adopt.
All these changes are trying to be made on our watch, under our noses, and we are going to be held responsible. We are going to have to give an account to the next generation, as this effects the next generation. What are we allowing to happen on our watch?
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” Galatians 5:1
Africa Christian Action
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Tel: 021-689 4480
“Hate Speech” Bill Threat to Free Speech article
“Hate Speech” Bill Threat to Free Speech audio
“Hate Speech” Bill Threat to Free Speech video
“Hate Speech” Bill Threat to Free Speech video in English/Zulu as presented at the
Ministers Conference 2019 at KwaSizabantu Mission