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Eating Snakes in the House of God: Here's Why Government SHOULDN'T Get Involved

If our government was not so clueless, it would decline to get involved in matters of consenting adults eating snakes during worship.

10/04/2017 01:55 SAST | Updated 10/04/2017 01:55 SAST
Tami Chappell / Reuters
Snake handler Reverend Junior McCormick, a visiting preacher at the "Church of the Lord Jesus Christ," holds a Timber rattlesnake in front of a cross during a service at the church in Kingston, Georgia on August 25, 2001. The church handles snakes as part of their belief from a quote from the book of Mark in the bible.

Ponder this for a while. In a free society, should the government have the power to restrain a pastor from feeding his consenting congregants with snakes and spraying them with doom? A pastor was restrained and banned by the Limpopo High Court from using doom on his consenting congregants in March 2017. With a long and tedious name, the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL) is investigating "harmful religious practices" and the "commercialisation of religion". In any true meaning of freedom, this is an instance of a government poking its nose into private affairs over which it has no business.

In De Lange v Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa for the Time Being and Another [2015] ZACC 35, a case about unfair discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, the Constitutional Court declined to get involved in the interpretation of church doctrine in deference for freedom of religion. If our government was not so clueless, it would similarly decline to get involved in matters of consenting adults eating snakes during worship. Any adult must have the freedom to choose and practise his faith, the only caveat being that he may not coerce others.

Why is it government's business to prevent consenting adults in sober senses from eating snakes and ingesting themselves with dangerous substances in the practice of their faith? There can be no freedom unless an individual is able to make right or wrong choices without the uninvited meddling of others. Every man must be free to make wrong decisions.

It is not government's role to police individuals in order to protect them against themselves and their wrong decisions.

It is not government's role to police individuals in order to protect them against themselves and their wrong decisions. In an amusing display of ineptitude, the CRL has gone as far as consulting religious leaders to assist it in regulating churches and outlawing some harmful religious practices. Naturally this involves the interpretation of the Bible and ultimately the CRL will have to decide which interpretation is correct in its clownish quest to regulate churches and ban harmful religious practices.

But is it the government's place to decide which interpretation of the Bible is correct? In a free society a man decides what is best for his life, but in a soft tyranny like ours the government decides for you and takes away your freedom of choice. The reason the ANC government fails in the basic things a government should be doing such as fighting crime and running efficient courts to settle disputes between individuals is because it is doing so many things it should not be doing such as preventing free consenting adults from eating snakes and ingesting themselves with dangerous substances.

Over his mind and over his body, a man is a king. No government should have the power to decide what is good for him. And laws must be judged by the simple standard of freedom. If they take away or limit freedom without just cause then they are bad. The ANC government obviously has no idea of individual freedom. To them, citizens are children and the government a parent who is entitled to rule over them for their own benefit by taking away or limiting their individual freedoms. To the ANC, good citizens are those who are willing to surrender their individual freedom and ability to think for themselves in return for a government pay cheque.

The impending regulation of churches is a misguided assault on freedom of religion. It is a fool's enterprise to protect individuals against their bad choices. Congregants eat snakes and ingest themselves with dangerous substances without coercion. Let them be answerable to their God for it.

Ahead of Easter 2017, The Huffington Post South Africa is delving into what faith and spirituality means to South Africans here and now. Against the backdrop of a renewed wave of thought around decolonisation, a new generation are rediscovering their traditional beliefs, while some are reconciling with Christianity. And on another note, we tell South Africa's real good news story: our remarkable and peaceful religious diversity. In a world fractured along religious extremism, we have a large Christian population with significant Muslim and Jewish communities, who often come together peacefully and with purpose, as has been evinced at the memorials for departed struggle stalwart, Ahmed Kathrada. Read the rest of the special report here, or choose from our selection below:

27 Quotes By Desmond Tutu On Faith, Justice And Love