Evangelical church to appeal ruling saying it cannot advise parents to 'lovingly spank' children

An evangelical church in South Africa will appeal a human rights ruling that it cannot advise congregants to "lovingly spank their children", according to the Telegraph.

Mahlatse Mashua speaks to the 3,000 member congregation at Joshua Generation ChurchFacebook / Joshua Generation Church

Joshua Generation Church in Cape Town said the country's human rights commission's (SAHRC) prohibition of corporal punishment in the home was an example of the state "crossing the sacred line of family and parental duty". It would "damage children and destroy families," the church added.

The 3,000 member church published a parental manual online in 2013 which advised "lovingly spanking" children as a means of correcting, for which it was reported to the SAHRC. One complainant said the manual "devoted four of its 39 pages to describing the length and thickness of the rod that should be used to beat children as young as one year old".

"Spanking has become a controversial issue in this day and age," the manual read. "The rod is not just used for disciplining your children, but is also used as a training tool."

"Remember, a spanking must cause some pain otherwise it is useless and your child will remain unchanged. It is most effective to strike a light rod against bare skin. No bruising, no injury," it read, giving advice on how not to leave a mark.

The ruling announced last Friday agreed with the complainants, which included a rights group, two parents and a children's rights activist.

"Corporal punishment in any form is inconsistent with constitutional values and violates provisions of accepted international, regional human rights standards," SAHRC said in its ruling.

As well as instructing the church to provide written evidence that it would stop advocating corporal punishment and remove any references to it in its teaching manuals, the commission also said it would encourage government to fast-track an ammendment to the Children's Act making corporal punishment illegal in the home. If the motion was accepted, spanking would be punishable by jail sentences.

Joshua Generation Church said it would appeal the ruling, which it claims threatens religious freedom and represents a "paternalistic" state.

Nadene Badenhorst, lawyer and spokesperson for the church, said the right to "correct" children physically was "a deeply moral and religious issue".

"Millions of parents (Christian, Muslim, Jewish etc) believe, according to their interpretation of the holy texts, that it is their parental duty to provide appropriate guidance to their children (including, at times, to spank them within the bounds of the law) for their education and benefit. For them, it is a central tenet of their faith," she said.

"The State's duty is to respect and protect their religious beliefs, not criminalise it."