Vol 12 Edition 1, 2002: Hands Off Our Children!


The Message South African Parents Urgently Need to Send to the State

May the state dictate to parents not to discipline their children?  May the state give children contraception and terminate their pregnancies without parents’ knowledge or permission? Must the state provide for every child and “promote his or her well-being” (at taxpayers’ expense)?  Is our state - South Africa - planning ALL of this?  Who owns the Family?  To whom do Children belong  - parents or the state?

Daring to Discipline

Like everything else in the world, children firstly belong to God.

“…the world is Mine, and all that is in it.” Psalm 50:12

The care of children has been entrusted to the parents.  Parents are responsible to feed and clothe (1 Timothy 5:8, Matthew 7:9-11), educate (Deuteronomy 6:6-7) and protect their own children (Exodus 22:2, Luke 22:36).  A vital part of education is training the child to do what is right and not to do wrong, and that implies discipline.

The rod is the family’s symbol of authority (“Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die.  Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death.” Proverbs 23:13-14).  Of course, the rod is not the only instrument of discipline available to parents (others are verbal, denial, withdrawal and disinheritance).  As the parents discipline their children by using suitable methods, including the rod, they are performing an important role within society in building character and thus preventing delinquency and immorality.

In the first instance, the fear of God ought to restrain parents from abusing their position.

”See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of My Father in heaven.” Matthew 18:10

Biblically, the state’s legitimate interference in the family is limited to when parents commit crimes against children, or children commit crimes, including against their parents (Deuteronomy 21:18-21). 

Who Do They Think They Are?

The South African Law Commission (SALC), which draws up most of South Africa’s bills before they are discussed in Parliament, is in the process of reworking the Child Care Act, and the public (that is, us) is being invited to make comment by 15 March 2002.  Some of the suggestions for the new act, especially in the area of adoption law, are excellent and should be commended. 

However, the suggestions include “… upon any criminal charge of assault … it shall not be a defence that the accused was a parent, or person designated by a parent to guide the child’s behaviour, who was exercising a right to impose reasonable chastisement upon his or her child.” The implication of this legalese is that all corporal (body) punishment, including spanking, hidings and smacking, will be outlawed.  If a father reasonably disciplines his own child and then is charged with assault, he will have no defence available in law. 

Currently, “unreasonable chastisement” is outlawed and this protects children from abuse. However, to specifically outlaw “reasonable chastisement” is to force parents to neglect their Biblical duty to discipline their children.

“He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.” Proverbs 13:24

“Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.” Proverbs 22:15

The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother.” Proverbs 29:15

Who Has Sexual Privacy? 

Biblically, married people have both a right and a duty to give themselves sexually to their spouse. (1 Corinthians 7:3-5).  Outside of marriage, no-one has a right to sex in any form - in fact, everyone has a duty to be sexually restrained.

“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-10

“… Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.” 1 Timothy 5:1-2

In 1980, the New York Court of Appeals extended the “constitutional right of privacy” to guard the right of unmarried adults to seek “sexual gratification”1.

This ruling left the world with the warped idea that sex outside of marriage was private and legally protected.

“Sexual privacy” is not a Biblical concept (except within marriage).  In contrast, 
families have a responsibility to train children according to God’s Law and require Godly behaviour from their children.

“Marriage should be honoured by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” Hebrews 13:4

The State Promotes Sexual Immorality?

South African government institutions have already been offering children confidential access to contraception and abortion-on-demand for some time now.  However, the SALC is now proposing that a child’s so-called “right to confidential contraception and abortion” be written into the new Child Care Act!  This will undoubtedly reduce parental authority, increase sexual immorality and add to the climate of moral anarchy in our country. 

“Do not degrade your daughter by making her a prostitute, or the land will turn to prostitution and be filled with wickedness.” Leviticus 19:29

Welfare, The Family and The Church

God will not be impressed with Christians who fail to help the poor (Exodus 22:22-27, Matthew 25:41-46).  Those who are deserving within the Church must be helped (1 Timothy 5:3-16), although the same passage makes it clear that welfare is firstly a family, and then a church responsibility.  James 2:15-17 makes it clear that it’s not good enough for Christians just to have words - we need actions to match them.

The State - the New Parent

In South Africa, we face a situation of failure by Christians and the Church.  Although there are sterling exceptions, most Christians and churches contribute little to provide for the poor and needy.  By neglecting our duty, we have opened the way for state intervention.

The SALC proposes that the state spends more of our money to “promote every child’s well-being and the realisation of his or her full potential” 2.  While this may sound nice, do we really think that a bunch of bureaucrats can use our own money to promote our children’s well being better than we can?

Secondly, the SALC proposed that the state also spends more money creating institutions like shelters for street children.  However, privately run institutions (especially faith based initiatives) can cost significantly less and do a lot more than state institutions.  Rather than employ more state bureaucrats, tax cuts for donors to charities will go a long way.  In the SALC recommendations, some tiny concessions are thrown to NGO’s (e.g. no land tax - however a land tax is unBiblical anyway), but the overall tone of the proposed Child Care Act suggests more state institutions.  Creating state shelters also creates an artificial demand for “street children”

- which bureaucrat is going to solve the problem when that would eliminate their job?

Thirdly, the SALC proposes more government regulations.  This is a concern.  Generally, government regulations increase costs but add little or no value.  The laws that already exist are generally quite sufficient to deal with any abuses.

The SALC also strongly recommends a universal childcare grant.  While this may help to alleviate some cases of extreme poverty, suffering will probably be increased as some poor parents may have large families just to live off the child care grant - exploiting children in the same way as many old people are currently exploited for their pensions.

The Free For All Family

The strongest protection for children is a strong and stable marriage.  The state should seek to strengthen the family - not undermine it through irresponsible legislation.

Children whose parents are married are protected by their parents’ life-long commitment to one another - and if this is not the case, part of the function of a divorce is to allocate rights and responsibilities with regard to the children.

“Why then,” they asked, ”did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” Jesus replied, ”Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.” Matthew 19:7-8

South Africa is without a doubt facing a serious breakdown in the family as a result of the AIDS pandemic.  In response, the SALC is suggesting that anyone can acquire parental responsibilities.  Streamlining the process for acquiring parental responsibilities through adoption is good in that this can reduce the trauma to a child who has lost his/her parents.

The SALC is also suggesting that anyone may co-parent.  According to their suggestion, a child’s co-parents need not be married to one another, related to one another and may be of the same sex.  We need to be very concerned about this suggestion, since such co-parents have no legal bond to one another, and children are not protected by divorce if the relationship ceases.  It is not clear from the SALC suggestions how co-parents would terminate their responsibilities. 

Building Character Through Work

Should children be forbidden to work until they are 15?  Of course children need to be protected from exploitative labour practises, but the Biblical understanding is that work is essential as it builds character and discipline.  Children should be allowed to work in their school holidays, deliver newspapers, to make and sell goods, etc.  According to Jewish tradition, if a man did not teach his son a trade he was training him to be a thief. 

In contrast, the SALC even wants “the Department of Education (to) be required to identify schools where excessive use is being made of children as a source of labour for the purpose of cleaning and maintenance tasks, and to ensure that sufficient adults are employed to carry out these tasks.”  Imagine a school where children may have no accountability for the cleanliness and maintenance of the property!  As suggestions, what the SALC is saying may not be that bad, but as law it is dangerous.

“He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.” Ephesians 4:28

Law Is Force

Law is not a suggestion, it is force.  Bad laws are often used for evil, even if that was not their original intention.  Once a law is passed, it’s very difficult to get it changed.  As Christians it is our right and duty to do all we can to ensure that the laws formulated in our country are as close as possible to the Biblical model.  These SALC suggestions are very far from the Biblical model - so we need to take action. 

We also need to urge the SALC to break up the new Child Care Act into manageable sections (their recommendations run to 1200 pages) - otherwise we will no doubt find further nasty proposals snuck into a huge bill too late to change them.

Internationally …

Unfortunately, South Africa is following an international trend.  The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child effectively removes parental authority and gives it to the state as the guardian of the child’s interests.

Parental spanking is under severe restrictions in many European countries.  Many European governments also encourage sexual immorality.  We need to choose whether we want to follow “the world” or follow God.

“See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the LORD my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it.  Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, ’Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’” Deuteronomy 4:5-6

Take Your Stand!

By making a submission at this stage, we have an excellent opportunity to influence this Act - once it is drafted and gets to Parliament it is far more difficult to make changes. So, get out your pen and paper, and write a letter (or several letters - one per aspect) to the SALC today.  We need to defend parental rights to do what God has commanded.

“If you falter in times of trouble, how small is your strength!  Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter.  If you say, ’But we knew nothing about this,’ does not He who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not He who guards your life know it? Will He not repay each person according to what he has done?” Proverbs 24:10-12

Get your church involved too.  Get your church leaders’ support, then take the required stationery to the service - and get people to write a letter to the SALC over tea … Inform your friends - get them to take a stand too.

Write to your local and national newspapers - let your view be known.  Call into radio shows - get your local radio to discuss these issues, and make sure that well-informed Christians are ready to call in. 

In their summary document, the SALC says “consultation with and participation by children in the law reform process will play a crucial role”.  We thus have an excellent opportunity - get your Sunday Schools, youth groups and school groups to write letters to the SALC.

The addresses for submissions are given at the end of this document.  Send a copy of your submission to us too - that way we have leverage if they don’t acknowledge Christians’ concerns.  If you send your submission by e-mail, please use the BCC function, or send us a separate copy - we don’t want your submission dismissed simply because it looks like part of an orchestrated campaign.

Jeanine McGill

1.   Ray Sutton, “Who Owns the Family?  God or the State?”, Dominion Press, (Ft. Worth, Texas), 1986, p 73.
2.   South African Law Commission, Project 110, Review of the Child Care Act, Executive Summary, Chapter 9 (b).

Recommended Resources:
For more information on corporal punishment, read “Dare to Discipline” by Dr. James Dobson. You can also visit Focus on the Family at www.family.org
For more general issues affecting the family, “Who owns the family?  God or the State?” by Ray Sutton is reviewed in the Action Items.

To make a submission defending the family:
You can get more information by visiting the SALC at: www.law.wits.ac.za.  Alternatively, contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we can send our detailed analysis of the SALC documents. 
Send your submission to:  The Secretary (attention Mr GO Hollamby / Ms Louisa Stuurman), S A Law Commission, Private Bag X 668, PRETORIA, 0001; tel: (012) 322-6440; fax: (012) 320-0936 or e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .  

Please note that the deadline for public comment is 15 March 2002 - so respond TODAY!

Robbie’s Story

After being given several warnings, Robbie’s 10-year-old stepdaughter received a hiding for stealing from her parents.  Shortly after that she went on holiday to her father, who sued for assault and to get custody of the child.  All the parties were summoned to the Family Advocate for evaluation.  The evaluation board consisted of a lesbian social worker and a Hindu lawyer.  Their recommendation was that the father be given custody of his daughter due to “the assault”.  At great expense to Robbie, the matter went to court, where the judge ruled that the place for a 10-year-old girl was with her mother.

Robbie comments “the State is effectively already saying that we cannot punish children with the rod, although this is needed in the Biblical spectrum of discipline … I was made to feel like a common criminal, like a child batterer, just for obeying God … The instruments used to look at the family are perverted in themselves.  A Hindu has many gods, and does not know the discipline of submitting to only one God.  A lesbian sis perverted.  The Constitution is not submitted to God and this is unto bondage, not freedom.”

Divorcees are especially in danger of persecution for following Biblical discipline.  Once laws outlawing corporal punishment are established, there is also nothing to stop the State from pro-actively prosecuting any parents.

Christian Action P.O.Box 23632 Claremont 7735 Cape Town South Africa info@christianaction.org.za - 021-689-4481 - www.christianaction.org.za
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