Commission to probe church practices and finances

2015-08-20 16:47
A congregant is fed a snake at the church in Soshanguve. (Facebook)

A congregant is fed a snake at the church in Soshanguve. (Facebook)

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Johannesburg - South African churches and traditional healing practices will be the subject of intense scrutiny by Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights Commission).

The commission on Thursday announced that it was launching an investigation into the way the groups conducted their practices and the reasons behind it.

"We are launching an investigative study on the commercialisation of religion and the abuse of people's belief systems in terms of when these institutions are being run, how are they being run, where is their funding going into, who collects how much and what do they do with the money, where does the money eventually go to, what are the governing principles that are there," said chairperson Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xalavu.

She said in recent years, scores of churches and traditional healing practices had mushroomed throughout the country, some of which placed advertisements in the media with a promise of miracles. 

Mkhwanazi-Xalavu said among the things they wanted to investigate was whether there were regulations that went into starting and running a church.

She told News24 that when certain companies placed advertisements claiming their products could deliver certain results, they were accountable to the Advertising Standards Authority of SA, which made sure that advertising was truthful.

"Why is it not the same for churches and traditional healers? If they claim they can do certain things and miracles, who holds them accountable to ensure that they actually deliver?" she said.

Practices of some religious leaders were in recent weeks were exposed when a Soshanguve pastor made headlines after he fed a rat, snake and hair to his congregants.

The CRL said their study would also hopefully give them an understanding of why certain pastors believed in these practices and what caused people to believe in them.

Academics, pastors, sociologists and psychologists would be among some of the professionals brought in to assist in the investigation.

"Government will also be roped in to see what it is they know," said Mkhwanazi-Xalavu.

"We will be talking to the people of intelligence, the police, SARS, social development and the DTI," she said.

She highlighted that the study would not only focus on Christian churches, but would be extended to other religious groups.

"This is not a witch-hunt for any particular church," she said.

"We are not necessarily looking to find the negative, but we want to understand why certain things are happening," she said.

With thousands of churches placed all over South Africa, the CRL said it would use a sampling method to get the information they needed.

Their investigation was expected to be concluded by April 2016 and would be accompanied by regulations.

Read more on:    religion

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