18 September 2019

For immediate distribution


The Constitutional Court this morning handed down a unanimous judgment in the “parental rights” case brought by Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA). In terms of the judgment, the common law defence of reasonable and moderate chastisement was declared unconstitutional. This effectively means that parents who physically correct their children – no matter how light or well-intentioned – will be committing the crime of assault and open themselves up to the full penal machinery of the State.

According to FOR SA attorney Daniela Ellerbeck, FOR SA has not yet had an opportunity to study the full judgment. She comments that “it is disturbing however, that the right of parents to raise their children according to their own convictions and what they believe to be in the best interest of their children, has not been upheld. It sets a very dangerous precedent in that the State can dictate to people of faith how to read and live out the Scriptures, thereby seriously eroding their right to religious freedom.”

She comments further that “the judgment by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng makes criminals of many people of faith who believe that the Scriptures permit (if not command) them to physically correct their children at times, where necessary, always in love. For many, they will have no choice but to obey God rather than the law. As a result, good parents of faith who only want what is best for their children, will potentially see their families torn apart as is happening in other countries where physical correction has been banned. This will destroy families as the bedrock of our society.”

The case, which was heard in November last year, came before the Constitutional Court as an appeal against an earlier judgment of the Johannesburg High Court, effectively declaring all forms of physical correction of children by their parents illegal. Although FOR SA is 100% against violence, it argued that there is a clear distinction between violence or abuse, and mild (non-injurious) physical correction, as shown by extensive social science research.


For more information, contact:

Daniela Ellerbeck
Legal Advisor, FOR SA
Tel:  021 556 5502
Cell: 072 373 5449

Michael Swain
Executive Director, FOR SA
Cell: 072 270 1217 (Currently overseas, available on WhatsApp call and message)