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Cape Town - The SA Human Rights Commission is investigating a Table View church for its teaching that parents may use corporal punishment to discipline children.
The complaint relates to the church’s doctrine of “spare the rod and spoil the child”, Andrew Selley, senior pastor of Joshua Generation Church in Sunningdale, said.
While commission spokesman Vincent Moaga could not be reached for comment, the Cape Times obtained copies of correspondence which the commission’s Western Cape office had sent to the church.
In it, SAHRC provincial manager Melanie Lue Dugmore and senior legal adviser Tammy Carter stated that the complainant, whom they did not identify, had alleged the church’s conduct amounted to the violation of the child’s right to be protected from neglect, abuse and maltreatment.
“In terms of the complaint, the complainant alleges the church accepts and requires the use of corporal punishment by means of the rod, implies corporal punishment does not negatively affect the child, and the church’s purposeful promotion of corporal punishment of children is also published in its teaching materials,” their letter, dated July 3, read.
Carter also stated that the commission regarded corporal punishment as falling within the definition of abuse, maltreatment and neglect of children. Selley said the church, which has congregations in Durbanville, Edgemead and Milnerton, would never encourage child abuse.
“There is a big difference between assaulting a child and disciplining a child… We must have the freedom to preach from the Bible,” he said.
Selley said other religions, like Islam, which also allowed corporal punishment as a form of discipline, could also face being accused of abuse if the SAHRC had its way. “If it goes ahead, it could outlaw every church in the country as well as religions like (Islam) and (Judaism),” he said.
Selley said while it was up to parents how their children were disciplined, the authorities should intervene where there was clear evidence of abuse. His church was given until September 17 to submit its response to the SAHRC, and in the meantime was appealing to other churches to sign a letter of support.
In July, Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini said the Children’s Act would be amended to outlaw spanking of children at home.
Dlamini’s spokeswoman, Lumka Oliphant, said: “We need to acknowledge there is a lot of child abuse around. It is for us to come with a clear understanding and definition of what is appropriate and inappropriate discipline. The rights of religious groups are part of the discussion.”
Oliphant said because the abuse of children was so widespread, the issue of corporal punishment as a form of discipline needed to be discussed.