Where will intolerance end?

2010-10-23 16:49

The Woolworths Christian magazine fiasco raised a number of pertinent ­questions. Do retail chains like Woolworths have the authority to delist products from their stores when they consider it necessary?

The answer is yes, absolutely, if the decision is based purely on business principles.

However, this is not what transpired at Woolworths over the past week. ­

Several Christian magazine titles were informed of the retailer’s unilateral ­decision to immediately remove and delist all religious magazines from its stores.

I sent an email to Woolworths chief ­executive Simon Susman enquiring about this sudden turn of events.

Susman responded that “Woolworths has a policy in place for many years not to stock and retail religious and political magazines”.

He said this policy was overlooked for approximately eight years, during which time Christian titles like Joy, Finesse, ­Vision, Juig, Lig and Leef were sold at Woolworths stores in error.

In response to an enquiry from a ­Christian shopper on its Facebook page, Woolworths’ legal department provided a contradictory reason.

It said Woolworths had conducted a ­review of all its magazine titles and, ­amazingly enough, discovered all the Christian magazines were poor sellers.

The sudden and unilateral nature of the expulsion, and the contradictory ­responses from Woolworths officials, confirmed my suspicions that this was not purely a business decision.

But even if it was, another pertinent question that needs to be answered is: Do Christian consumers have the right to respond to anti-Christian discrimination?

Once again, the answer to that is yes, absolutely! Woolworths reserves the right to reject any product it wishes for whatever reason it deems acceptable.
But equally important are the rights of Christian consumers to freely choose not to shop at Woolworths stores.

No Christian is compelled to support a business that displays hostility to its faith.

Woolworths is free to make a policy decision on what it chooses to stock on its shelves and Christian consumers are free to make decisions on where to shop.

Consequently, it is all a matter of choice.

I recently returned from a trip to the US and Europe.

I was deeply disturbed by the growing intolerance against ­Christianity there, including the alarming increase in anti-Christian bigotry in nations once considered to be Christian.

Everyone appears to be ultra-cautious about offending certain religious and people groups – except Christians.

Christians are expected to be gracious and forgiving, so discriminating against them should not elicit a negative ­response.

But what if Christian citizens meekly accepted Woolworths’ ban on Christian literature and failed to respond to their discriminatory policies, where would it end?

It logically follows that Christian programming could also be removed from the radio and television airwaves for whatever reason.

In fact, anything remotely Christian can be banned from South African public life because somebody is always going to be offended by Christian messages.

There are people who would love nothing more than to strictly confine ­Christianity to within the walls of churches.

However, Christian citizens and their faith are as much a part of South Africa’s rich cultural heritage as any other group.

Christians must always speak out against discrimination because it is vital.

History has taught us that if we fail to oppose injustice and prejudice, we will eventually lose our freedoms.

»  Naidoo is director of the Family Policy Institute

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