Friday 4 October 2013

The Place of Religion in Public Life

This media release from the Provincial Synod was issued on 4 October 2013

Anglicans Affirm the Place of Religion in Public Life

A leading educationist now serving the Anglican Church has criticised the South African government for neglecting religion in public life.

The Revd Prof Barney Pityana told the Provincial Synod of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa that the latest South African census statistics failed for the first time to give data on religious affiliation and activity in the country.

“It is evidence if any was needed of how much officialdom desires to neglect religion and religious practices in national life,” he said. “It cannot be true that there is so much indifference about statistics on religion that an inquiry on religion should be left out altogether from the statistics design.”

Dr Pityana, formerly Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of South Africa, is now the Rector of the College of the Transfiguration, the Anglican Church's principal residential training seminary for clergy.

Criticising the promotion of secularism in South African public life, he said the words “secular” and “secular state” did not appear anywhere in the Constitution or legislation.

“On the contrary, religious and cultural and linguistic practices are protected in the Bill of Rights, and so are freedom of expression, belief and opinion.”

He said secularism “has a tendency of confining religious discourse and practice to the private sphere.” As a result, “the secular world view... is one that is unable to be addressed or corrected or challenged. It forecloses any argument or engagement.

“For that reason secularism is unable to engage with the spiritual and intangible and as such will always have an inadequate grasp of the human condition. Secularism is about the material, hence it givers rise to the cultures of acquisitiveness, greed, an insatiable desire for things or for those things that derive personal benefit or prestige.

“Over and above secularism results in corruption and criminality because it covets that which does not belong to one. It is about power and control of others.”

Dr Pityana remarks, made during an address on theological education, were warmly received by the Synod.

Issued by the Office of the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town
Inquiries: Ms Wendy Kelderman, 021 763 1320 (office hours)
The Revd Canon Dr Sarah Rowland Jones, 082 856 2082 (during Synod)