Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Religious Right Around the Globe: South Africa's Errol Naidoo

A recent article in Pink News focused on a South African Religious Right figure named Errol Naidoo, former pastor of His People Church in Tokai and the head of a right-wing think tank called Family Policy Institute. In an August 22nd essay at the FPI website, Naidoo ranted against abortion, LGBTQs, and "radical feminist activists," whom he blamed for a "culture of death" in South Africa. He hinted that this so-called culture of death was at the root of "callousness" toward human life in the "national psyche" that gave rise to the Marikana tragedy. Naidoo's bombastic column reminds us that American Religious Right voices are not the only ones who blame catastrophes on groups they dislike (see here, here, and here).

I did a little research on Naidoo and FPI, and I found that not only do his positions bear a remarkable resemblance to those of his American counterparts, but that he also networks with global Religious Right leaders.

First, Naidoo uses rhetoric that bears a remarkable resemblance to American Religious Right language. According to its website, FPI "promotes the Judeo-Christian worldview as the basis for a just, free, and stable society." It claims to represent the allegedly shared valies of South African Christians in government and media. Like its Religious Right counterparts in the U.S., FPI sees heterosexual marriage and the family as the "foundation of civilization" and the cornerstone of moral virtue. Its rhetoric about "upholding marriage" between a man and a woman, defending the "sanctity of human life", safeguarding "religious liberty," and battling "judicial activism" sound very similar to the rhetoric of the American Religious Right.

FPI makes no attempt to hide its homophobia. In the "Issues" section of its website, FPI condemns homosexuality as a sin and a "depraved agenda." It quotes Ephesians 6:12 -- “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers ..." -- arguing that homosexuality is a spiritual pathology. Despite FPI's insistence that Christians must "love the homosexual but hate the sin," Pink News quotes Naidoo as telling a Nigeria newspaper, "I hate gays. It runs against God’s wishes." To boot, Naidoo and FPI have a history of anti-LGBTQ activism. Mamba Online reports that in 2010, Naidoo initiated a campaign against Cape Town's support of gay tourism.

Naidoo is also a staunch anti-abortion activist. The FPI website laments the "abortion holocaust," condemning South Africa's Choice of Termination of Pregnancy Act. FPI bluntly denies that women have a choice whether or not to terminate pregnancies.
"Before a life is conceived in a woman’s womb she has a choice – whether to have a baby or not. But once the baby is conceived, she no longer has a choice – she has a baby."
His disdain for women's self-determination was apparent in a Joy Magazine commentary entitled "Shattering the Mould: The Misconceptions of Women's Liberation." Naidoo's column calls the women's movement a "failed social experiment", claiming that it has done nothing to decrease women's sexual exploitation. (One wonders if Naidoo actually bothered to research the many feminist activists and organizations combating prostitution and sex trafficking.) The column conflates 1960s feminism and the sexual revolution, blaming them for everything from family disintegration to unwed mothers on welfare to rising STD rates. Sound familiar?

Like other right-wing voices on the African continent, FPI attributes at least some "immorality" to foreign influences. In a 2011 essay entitled "Stop the Flood of Filth from Foreign Sewers!", Errol Naidoo lambasted "foreign based immorality" such as a Beechies ad campaign, which he condemned as celebrating drinking and casual sex. He also condemned other foreign products such  Playboy and GQ magazines.

Naidoo still speaks at his old church, His People Church in Tokai, where he promotes messages about godly government. In a January 15th talk* on governance, Naidoo told listeners that they must respect the government and obey laws that do not conflict with God's laws. For instance, believers must pay taxes and respect traffic laws. However, Naidoo asserted that "when the authorities tell you to sin against God, you can disobey."

Naidoo celebrated the Christian church as the pillar of truth in society, claiming that the church is responsible for bringing governments under Christ's authority. At the 11:30 mark, he claimed that nations lacking a Christian foundation are doomed to weaken.
"The church teaches mankind the law of God. Its role is to uphold God's word and bring all institutions of earthly government under Christ's sovereign rule ... The church is the pillar of a nation and it's also the ground. It lays the foundation of truth on which these godly institutions can stand, like family and marriage and civil government. You need a strong foundation of God's law for any nation to have a strong and firm foundation. If they don't have a strong and firm foundation of God's truth and God's word, that nation is in trouble. That nation begins to weaken. That nation begins to break down."
At the 16:20 mark, he rejected the idea that South Africa is a secular country, insisting that Christians strive toward godly government.
"Any thought, any policy, any idea, any suggestion in this nation that is not in line with God's word and his sovereign will for his nation--any one that speaks that, our responsibility is to pull it down, is to abolish it. Every lie that goes out there, the church of Jesus Christ is responsible because we are the trustees of the truth of God. So when somebody goes out there and says, 'Well, you know, we don't have to have laws that obey God's word. We're not a Christian country. We're a secular country, and we can decide what laws are right for us and what's not right for us. And we can say that when women get pregnant or young girls get pregnant, they can kill the baby whenever they want to. They can just walk into a clinic and the taxpayer must pay for that abortion, that's our law, and that works for us.' You see, That's a lie from the devil, and that lie and that idea is there to destroy humanity ... There's only two kinds of government. It's either of God or it's of the devil."
As I've noted before, Religious Right groups around the globe do network, and Naidoo is no exception. In a 2007 interview with Joy Magazine, Naidoo says that he was inspired to create FPI while attending the 2006 Values Voters Summit. The Values Voters Summit is an annual conference in Washington D.C. hosted by Family Research Council. Naidoo claims that God spoke to him about creating a South African organization that would give the Christian community there a voice in the public square.

Naidoo's global networking did not end with the Values Voters Summit. In a June 7th commentary, Naidoo describes his visit to the Sixth World Congress of Families, a conference that draws prominent Religious Right figures from around the globe (see here and here). Naidoo writes of his conversations with Sharon Slater of Family Watch International and Benjamin Bull of the Alliance Defense Fund. He even states that he spoke with Bull about the possibility of creating a South African chapter of Alliance Defense Fund.

Naidoo's homophobia, anti-abortion stance, and theocratic rhetoric are not only troubling for South Africans, but all too familiar for Americans. Errol Naidoo and the Family Policy Institute promote many of the same messages endorsed by the American Religious Right. And, they network with their American cousins, thereby helping Religious Right ideas circulate to global audiences. Religious Right watchdogs, take note.

For additional commentary, visit the following links.

Sour Grapes: So Who Is Erroll Naidoo?

Synapses: Errol Naidoo: High priest of hysteria

O-blog-dee-o-blog-da: South African pastor blames mine massacre on gays

* To download Naidoo's sermon on governance, click here.  


  1. Apparently it takes an appalling lack of empathy and compassion to be a Christian on the far religious right.

    Nice reporting Ahab.

    1. Cognitive Dissenter -- Thanks. Fundies are fundies, all over the world.

  2. "Fundies are fundies all over the world"....great point. It is comments like Naidoos that are so dangerous to true religious liberty. From statements like those, only tyranny can emerge.

    1. Reason Being -- That's why it's so important to keep an eye on people like him and speak out.


All comments are subject to moderation. Threatening, violent, or bigoted comments will not be published.