Cape Town - Christian parents are required by God to use a rod on their children if they are defiant or rebellious, MPs heard on Tuesday.
"We do not have the option... this is a command of God," George Raath of Life Enrichment Ministries told members of Parliament's social development portfolio committee on Tuesday.
The committee is holding public hearings on the Children's Amendment Bill. The draft legislation aims, among other things, to outlaw corporal punishment of children.
'Teach him through the rod'
Raath told the committee his submission was endorsed by the Baptist Union of SA, the Church of England in South Africa, and 17 other smaller churches.
"Our objection is limited to section 139 of the bill, the amendments dealing with corporal punishment in the home."
He said the Christian Bible - specifically in four verses contained in the book of Proverbs - required parents to use a rod when disciplining their children.
"It's very clear it's a rod we're talking about. It's not talking to somebody; it's not trying to teach him because he doesn't know enough or anything like that. It is trying to teach him something through the rod."
He said the Christian faith commanded the use of "reasonable" corporal punishment, which should not "exasperate" a child.
"We believe in the supremacy of the scripture of the Bible in all matters referring to life and to moral issues... The Bible is obviously not a text book on science or anything, but as far as we are concerned we believe it is the ultimate word..."
He suggested should the bill be passed in its present form, then Christians would break the law.
"If this bill passes ... it places the Christians who share our ethos directly in contravention of the law. It would actually make criminals of us for daring to discipline our children in accordance with what we understand biblical norms to be.
"It will ... leave Christians with an absolute and strenuous choice between obeying the law of the land and following their conscience. We talk about alternatives, but I submit there are no alternatives.
"Ultimately, if there is a rebellious attitude and defiant attitude in the child, then the Bible ... states that you are to use the rod.
"If we are put in a position where we have to choose, we have to reply ... that we will obey God rather than man."
Raath said the bill was "a direct attack on the freedom of religion" in South Africa.
It was the first time the legislature was deliberately requiring people not to do something they regarded as a command of God.
"It is the first time that it is being said there is something you believe in, that you may not do.
"That is an affront to the citizens of this country. We have a constitutional right, and I think it is a very sad day that I have to sit here and come and argue our constitutional rights," he said.
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