While Sonke Gender Justice has welcomed the High Court ruling that makes it illegal to spank children in South Africa, Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA) -- a nonprofit Christian organisation -- has deplored the ruling.
Although the organisation insists that it strongly condemns any form of violence against children, FOR SA says the ruling sets "a dangerous precedent" in which an individual judge has ruled that: "it is permissible to require religious parents who believe in corporal punishment to be expected to obey secular laws, rather than permitting them to place their religious beliefs above the best interests of their children."
In an interview with Huffpost SA, FOR SA executive director Michael Swain argued that allowing parents to follow their consciences was in the child's best interest, rather than "above" it. He said the organisation did not support the ruling, as it would prefer parents to be able to decide for themselves how they want to discipline their children according to their own moral and religious convictions.
Arguing on the basis that faith groups believe that the Bible permits parents to correct their children by spanking, Swain says any discipline of a child by a parent should always be in the best interest of the child and should be done out of love and not anger.
"The organisation is primarily concerned for the wellbeing of the family as a whole -- both children and parents, but with particular emphasis on the freedom for parents to raise their children according to their conscience and faith before God and in obedience to the laws of the land," he said.
"The principle taught by the Bible is that 'the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and He chastises everyone He receives as a son.' (Hebrews 12:6) and that 'God disciplines us for our good' (Hebrews 12:10)." FOR SA executive director Michael Swain
Swain added that although the court has a duty to keep the law in line with the constitution, FOR SA believed that "social policy issues" such as these should be decided by Parliament.
"In this regard, we point out that when deliberating the Children's Act in 2005, Parliament, as the democratically elected representatives of the people of South Africa, made a deliberate and considered decision to retain the right of parents to reasonably and moderately chastise their children, as part of SA law."
That is why they believe that a judge has effectively overruled the legislature's decision and circumvented the legislative process.
FOR SA is also of the opinion that many parents believe that the notion of spanking their children, in "a moderate, loving way", gives children the fundamental education they will need before entering the less forgiving context of civil society.