Sunday, April 08, 2007

Zuma, the Constitution and religious intollerance

City Press reports today (no internet link) that Jacob Zuma has told worshippers of the Ethiopian Holy Baptist Church to challenge government laws that clash with the teachings of the Bible. He continued:

Church leaders should be able to tell government leaders if they are straying and their laws clash with the teachings of the Lord.

Mr Zuma did not mention which laws he thought clashed with the Bible, but obvious candidates are the Civil Union Act legalising same-sex marriage and the Termination of Pregnancy Act.

This is not the first time in the past few weeks Zuma has spoken to Church leaders and it is obviously part of Zuma’s charm offensive in his bid for the ANC Presidency. He seems to be scraping the bottom of the barrel though. First he met with Leon Schuster and Blou Bul Singer, Steve Hofmeyer, now with the Ethiopian Baptists. Who’s next – Doctors For Life?

Of course, we do not live in a Christian state, so Mr Zuma’s exhortations to the worshippers seem perplexing to say the least. In our constitutional state public morality and ethics are based not on the values found in the Bible or the Koran, but on the values enshrined in the Constitution – the values of freedom, equality and human dignity.

In a constitutional democracy, laws must be based on the notion that we all have an inherent moral worth and that we all deserve equal concern and respect. When individuals act in a way that is demonstrably harmful to others (steal, rape, assault, kill, or coerce) then the state has a duty to act in order to protect innocent people.

But Mr Zuma really should know that in a constitutional democracy, the state cannot enforce some peoples highly contested, sometimes hateful and obviously harmful morality on all of us. This means the state is constitutionally prohibited from enforcing a specific Christian-inspired morality on us all. This is so, most notably because this kind of morality (not supported by all Christians of course) does not seem to respect the human dignity of all and seems all too eager to condemn those who do not fit in: the sex workers, atheists, gay men and lesbians, doctors who perform abortions, and any kind non-conformists.

Readers of this Blog only need to read some of the comments recently posted here in response to my post on sex workers, to be exposed to examples of the intolerance of some religious purists. (I do not delete such posts, first, because I believe in free expression and find the post mildly amusing and, second, because I believe such posts eloquently expose their authors as intolerant and less than respectful of fellow human beings.)

Now Mr Zuma seems to make common cause with such groups who do not seem to adhere to the values enshrined on our Constitution. It is not surprising, seeing that he has never shown much wisdom in choosing his associates - just think of his association with convicted fraudster, Schabir Shaik.

What is sad is that groups who should know better - like Cosatu and the SACP - still seem to support him. Are they that desperate to get rid of President Mbeki that they will continue to support a man who invites worshippers to undermine the Constitution? Time for a rethink Mr Vavi, Nzimande?


RatX said...

You're right; we don't live in a theocracy, but a democracy - the majority rules. And a majority of South Africans are Christian (the last poll noted up to 80%).

I am by no means a "religious purist" but a cynic of the left-wing. Strange that the moment you face some disagreement, you lay out your prejudices by endlessly and repeatedly noting that Christians are "intolerant and less than respectful of fellow human beings..."

Don't take a moral high ground, because it has no foundation - on what do you base your assumptions of the values of freedom, equality and human dignity? The magical constitution, endlessly changing like the rugby rule-book? Cinderella? One flew over the cuckoo’s nest?

Zuma, his shower and the whole ANC is a laugh. And so are you, kissing the shrine of the constitution, changing at the whim of men like Zuma.

"Tolerance is the virtue of a man without convictions" - Voltaire

RatX said...

I'm sorry, just gotta give you a little more (being one who doesn't "respect the human dignity of all" and am "all too eager to condemn those who do not fit in").

You're upholding the constitution (Oh, I'm sorry, it's your holy writing -- the Constitution) as the highest authority here. How utterly and dismally obtuse. A document thrown together by the sway of the times. As you so lavishly preached "...public morality and ethics are based not on the values found in the Bible or the Koran, but on the values enshrined in the Constitution..." Where did the constitution find these morals and ethics? Did they assimilate them from the "feelings" of the day (after a little necklacing or mall-bombing?) or by vote, or from some manifesto written before? Is it "turtles all the way down?"

When Nazi Germany slaughtered Jews, it was perfectly within their constitution. Was it wrong? Why? Because the winner's constitution said so?

Spew your disdain on the church, but I'll have to give them a one-up on you; at least their morality has a leg to stand on. Yours is prosthetic, patched up and missing the manual.

Anonymous said...

I am more grateful than ever for our constitution in SA - it's there to protect us from bigoted people like ratx.

I would rather have open minded people like Pierre open our eyes a bit more than be locked into a religious based (Christian/Islamic/Whatever) moralistic Guantanamo torture chamber.

So, I agree - May "de vos" be with us!

RatX said...

While you're kissing Pierre's feet, consider his "open-mindedness" and non-"bigoted" views:

- His religious intolerance in mocking Christianity by posting monty python's blasphemy on a blog to discuss the constitution (what the hell is that doing there?)
- Confusing ambiguity and duality: considers sex to be "amoral" (like "having dinner") but still thinks we should condemn sexual harassment.

You're obviously very tolerant, open-minded and non-bigoted by equating relgion or a moral society to a "torture chamber" - I guess that's the conclusion at the 'cum'baya my lord session at the gay bar, discussing philosophy and lubricants.

Didn't realise that having a strong opinion makes me a threat to your ilk. I'm happy your bigotry, intolerance and prejeduce cums through so loud and clear. Perhaps the only difference after all is that I'm right and you're wrong/left.