Good parents would end up in prison if legislative amendments go ahead prohibiting children from being spanked at home.
This was the response from the Joshua Generation Church yesterday following a finding by the Human Rights Commission that corporal punishment should be banned at home.
Nadene Badenhorst, lawyer and spokesperson for Freedom of Religion South Africa representing the church, said they would appeal the commission’s findings.
The SAHRC on Friday released the findings of its investigation following a complaint against the Joshua Generation Church that the church encouraged corporal punishment at home.
The church denies this.
“The Church is 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. One can only imagine the damage that this will do to children and to families.”
The SAHRC findings included that, among other things, parents who hit their children were not acting in the best interests of the child.
The commission also recommended that the Department of Social Development considers amending the Children’s Act. Corporal punishment is already prohibited in schools.
Lindokuhle Nkomonde, spokesperson in the department of social development, said yesterday that the department was already working on the Child Protection Policy which will cover the disciplining of children, including corporal punishment at home.
“Once the policy is approved, it will form part of the third amendment to the Children’s Act.”
But the Joshua Generation Church insists that neither the church nor the government may prescribe to parents how to raise their children.
“Although the church respects the authority of the state, the church cannot give the SAHRC what it is asking even if it wanted to. 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.”
One of the recommendations is for the church to stop advocating corporal punishment as a means of disciplining children.
Badenhorst also said if the SAHRC and the government did so, it would be a “gross violation of human rights and unconstitutional”.
According to Badenhorst, parents should be able to raise their children according to their own moral and religious considerations.
Badenhorst said there are enough laws that protect children against domestic violence and abuse.
“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. Surely, government should direct their energy and our money towards those families and communities that have already been identified as truly vulnerable and in need of intervention, instead.”
Badenhorst reiterated the church’s view that the government should not interfere with religious freedom of those who believe it is their parental duty to give proper guidance to children within the limits of the law.