S.Africa top justice under fire for ‘evangilising’ email
South Africa's chief justice has sparked controversy over mixing religion and the courts by asking senior judges to attend a leadership conference with an evangelist, local media reported Friday.
Judges received an email from the office of Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng requesting they be available for the one day conference this week, but none accepted the invitation.
“By the direction of the Chief Justice, Heads of Court/Judges President and their Deputies or the most senior judge… are hereby requested to be available for the above-mentioned leadership conference,” urged the email sent by an aide.
Mogoeng is also an ordained pastor and raised eyebrows for saying he had accepted his nomination to the top post after God gave him a sign and was controversially appointed by President Jacob Zuma last September.
The event on Monday was headlined by American evangelist and motivational speaker John Maxwell with a 650 rand ($85, 65 euros) registration fee and a package of material and refreshments costing 2,745 rands.
“The courts are meant to be secular and to uphold the constitution, not a religious line, so this is very troubling,” an unnamed judge told the Mail&Guardian.
In its editorial headlined, “Bizarre attempt to evangelise South Africa’s judiciary”, The Times said Mogoeng had said he would be guided by the constitution and not his religious beliefs when interviewed for the post.
His “invitation to senior members of the judiciary to attend an evangelical leadership conference is nothing short of bizarre”, it said.
A pastor at the church where the venue was hired told the Mail&Guardian there had been no prayer on the day and that it was not a church event.
The Cape Times quoted Mogoeng’s spokeswoman Lulama Luti as saying the judges had not been compelled to attend and the invitation sent last week aimed at “augmenting (their) leadership training”.
Mogoeng’s nomination was criticised by legal experts, labour, women and gay rights groups, who singled out reduced penalties for convicted rapists, and his role in a church that condemns homosexuality.