OPPOSITION TO THE ATTEMPT TO MUZZLE OUR CHIEF JUSTICE

OPPOSITION TO THE ATTEMPT TO MUZZLE OUR CHIEF JUSTICE

As the Concerned Clergy of the Western Cape we took note, with sadness and utter disappointment, of the outcome of the Judicial Conduct Committee, ordering Chief Justice Moegoeng to apologize for his prayer for Jerusalem and his expression of his love for Israel and the Jews during the Webinar of the Jerusalem Post on 23 June 2020, on the basis that he had involved himself in political controversy. With due respect for the judiciary, the bedrock of our democracy, we herewith wish to express our disagreement with the judgement as flawed, questioning the verdict on the following grounds:

a) What makes the prayer of the Chief Justice controversial? We maintain that it is the democratic and inalienable right of every South African, including the Chief Justice, to pray for any country in the world and to express his love for any people group and this cannot be considered controversial.

b) The outcome is a serious infringement of freedom of expression, which is a basic human right. Also judges should have the right to express their religious views in public with impunity if these are not inciting or blasphemous. We concur that any citizen is entitled to criticize the laws and the policies of SA or even suggest that changes are necessary.

c) As Christians we not only agree with the Chief Justice, but we also encourage our pastors and congregations to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and for the facilitating of the process towards reconciliation in the Middle East conflict.

For the same God who commands us to love Israel also extends His love to other non-Jewish Nations surrounding Israel...."who the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, "Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hand, and Israel Mine inheritance.” ” ~ Isaiah 19:25.

d) To prescribe the wording of an apology would be disrespectful to any person. To do this to our chief Justice, should actually require an apology from the Judicial Conduct Committee. We believe that we speak for all South Africans when we express our extreme sadness with this absolute low point of our democracy at this latest development and erosion of free speech.

We take liberty to briefly trace the sad development over the years regarding Israel and the Middle East conflict.

When our revered President Nelson Mandela expressed his support for freedom for the Palestinians at the beginning of his tenure, there was no outcry, although many South Africans might not have agreed with that expression. Everybody knew that this was part and parcel of his quest for peace in the Middle East.

Our country was known for facilitating reconciliation around the world. Many a South African subsequently served as mediators in areas of the world where there was war or conflict. In this regard we especially recall the exploits of our former President Thabo Mbeki in Burundi, Rwanda, Ivory Coast and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

All this changed when our official stance shifted at the United Nations towards a bias towards support for one group in the Middle East conflict. The relative low point in diplomatic relations transpired in 2015 when HAMAS, known as a terrorist organisation, was red-carpeted by our government.

The further downhill slide in our view was the down-scaling of our Embassy in Israel and the refusal of our government to use Israeli desalination expertise when we had a water crisis here in the Western Cape in 2018.

The latest move is possibly the nadir in this tragic development that would lead to divine wrath according to Genesis 12:3, which incur divine disapproval of those who oppose Israel with actions such as the above.

In these days we have been calling on churches and Christians in our city to repent of various 'wicked ways'. We included in the course of this call our repentance for the biased attitude of our nation towards Israel. We believe that we speak not only on behalf of Christians in the Western Cape when we call on the Judicial Conduct Committee to retract their request and reconsider the verdict in the matter.

On Behalf of the Concerned Clergy Western Cape, Dr Barry Isaacs (Chairperson) Bishop Mark Bloemstein (General Secretary)