SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE IN ZAMBIA?

What’s the big deal?

Earlier this year, before the Corona Virus pandemic was on the lips of every Zambian, there was a video of a prominent prophet who alleged that the current Zambian government had used his ‘Juju’ to win the elections.  He said that he regretted helping them win because they had become arrogant and were using his ‘powers’ to oppress the people. Then, he went on to give a 20-day ultimatum to every person in the government who had used his ‘stuff’ to give it back or else suffer the penalty of death. I actually watched the warning video myself and I could tell you that it was as funny as it was shocking; Newspapers around the country picked up on the story and went crazy. It was as if one man had held an entire country ransom and its government at the mercy of his self-proclaimed ‘supernatural powers’.

Prophet Andrew, commonly known as Seer 1. This is the dude that held the government ransom.

Now, for all of you who didn’t know, Zambia has a legally instituted Ministry of Religious Affairs… (yep, you heard me right, that wasn’t a typo). And its task is to…well, regulate religious affairs in the country. At this point, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist for you to know that Zambia is probably the most religiously- conservative country in sub-Saharan Africa. Whether that’s a good thing or not depends on what the color of your toothbrush is. So, anyway, the guy’s allegations, obviously, could not go unanswered. The minister of Religious Affairs addressed and condemned his ‘impassioned’ rhetoric and what was his response? He threatened her that if he wanted, he could visit her at night (and not physically by the way) and make her life very difficult. Now, let’s pause right there, what are we talking about here? This is our government addressing a religious issue while millions upon millions of our countrymen suffer from starvation! Do we even need a Ministry of Religious Affairs? Don’t get me wrong, I am a Christian and I believe that God should have a say in the leadership of a country but this? No way this can help us …

The way forward?

A question that has strongly been running through my mind is: should the country have a separation of church and state? (This is where I start to sound like homework). It is vital to mention that before the Constitutional Amendment of 1996, Zambia subscribed to Humanism and didn’t particularly adopt any particular religion for the entire country. In fact, the Mwanakatwe commission didn’t like the idea of Zambia being declared a Christian nation. Politically speaking, this is starting to look bad for me. I bet some high-spirited Christians would view me as nothing short of another heathen drinking the Western world’s Bootleg. But that’s not the case at all.

Anyway, by separation of Church and State, what do we mean by that you might ask? What we mean is that should the country make a law that puts up a wall between government business and religious business just like France or the United States of America for example.

I was surprised to find that this thought is actually very old. The disagreements between Pope Gregory and Emperor Henry IV in the 12th century marked the very beginning of the idea. Over the centuries, as democracies evolved alongside secularism, governments incorporated the idea into their laws. One such government was the United States of America, which we will now use as a case example.

I am not a fan of some American ideologies but I think they were unto something on this one. After the American Revolution, which spanned from 1775 to 1783, most of the states’ constitutions provided for freedom of conscience and separation of church and state. But the Federal Constitution which was drawn up in 1787, had no such provisions, which caused many states to go against its ratification. So, to fix this problem, the first congress of the United States came up with amendments, which later on became the American Bill of Rights. You see, the framers of that constitution wanted a secular state which wasn’t based on any particular religion. So, contrary to popular belief in Zambia, the United States of America has never been a Christian nation.

The first amendment of the U.S. Constitution reads:

“Congress shall make no law, respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”

1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution

The first part of this sentence is known as the Establishment Clause while the second is known as the Free Exercise Clause. The Establishment Clause prohibits Congress from making any law that legally establishes any religion. While the Free Exercise Clause prohibits Congress from making a law that legally stops the practice or exercise of any religion. These provisions sometimes conflict with each other and that was the whole plot or issue in the movie God’s Not Dead 2 (please see it, it’s a nice movie).

To get more clarity, you should watch

An example of an issue that may arise is: should the American government tax Churches? If they do, doesn’t that mean that they violate a Church’s right to free exercise? And if they don’t, does that mean that they are respecting an establishment of religion? Views have been diverse and I think it would be out of topic to consider this any further.

Final thoughts

So, coming back to my country, I think that Zambia should institutionalize a separation of church and state. If such a separation was made, I highly doubt we would have drama like the one I alluded to earlier. To add a little bit more, it is no secret that politicians in our country use Christianity to get political leverage and votes. Its almost like, ‘since I believe in God and I am a God-fearing person, I have every right to do as I please.’ What surprises me is how we can say we are a Christian nation with so much rampant corruption? I think it’s deceptive. We have two options, either we institutionalize separation of church and state or we make strict laws that hold the leaders directly responsible and answerable to the people. At the current pace we are moving, I think it’s easier to make the former than the latter. However, the consequences of the separation of church and state in Zambia would be grave. It means that a law like section 158 of the Penal Code Act of Zambia, which prohibits homosexuality would lose its saltiness and come close to amendment or even complete repeal. Such a result, I agree, would be unintended and would meet with strong opposition from various people in the country. Anyway, I had explained my position on Homosexuality in a previous post, so I won’t delve into the gory details. Article 5 of Constitutional Bill No.10 of 2019 clearly shows an intention to institutionalize Christianity throughout the state. It reads,

“Article 8 of the Constitution is amended by the deletion of paragraph (a) and the substitution therefor of the following paragraph:

(a) Christian morality and ethics;”

Article 5 of Zambian Constitutional Bill No.10 of 2019

As a Christian, I believe this is a good thing but I also lament the abuse that would follow by politicians. If we are to follow this way, we must ensure that all of the Christian values are adhered to. This means that there should be no tolerance for corruption, impunity and, injustice. For these are not only democratic principles but they are also Christian values as well. If we cannot do that, then a separation of church and state would be the way to go about it.

To conclude, I believe the separation of church and state can help clean the political process in our country and keep politics from the church as well as the church from politics. As Jesus Christ himself once said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s.”

CRIMINALIZATION OF HOMOSEXUALITY IN ZAMBIA

Whats the problem?

The criminalization of homosexuality in Zambia engenders ambivalent feelings in leftist organizations in the western world. Quite recently, the United States ambassador to Zambia, Daniel L. Foote, criticized the Zambian government for allowing anti-homosexual laws to reign in the country while rampant government corruption went unattended to. You can follow the story up on https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2019/12/26/us-ambassador-zambia-defended-jailed-gay-couple-that-was-just-beginning/  or

The criticism was brought forth because of a High Court ruling which imprisoned a gay couple to 15 years. While, I agree with ambassador Foote and the American people that there’s something inherently wrong with funding the Zambian government with millions of dollars each year only to be wasted through corruption, my position, however, differs on the Laws of the Country relating to gay rights. I always say that the Laws of a country are subject to the people it governs. If a law is oppressive, chances are that it will ultimately meet a timely end. But if not, it will continue to serve the purpose to which it was made. For example, slavery laws were known to be oppressive and eventually died out in the 19th century. Therefore, what makes a good law is not only the support it receives from the state, but more so, from the people it governs as well. Coming to anti-homosexual laws in Zambia, we observe that the mass of Zambian society finds the act of homosexuality to be utterly unnatural. Out of all the 72 tribes present in the Country, there’s not one that endorses or supports homosexuality as a matter of public policy. To put icing on the cake, Zambia is a Christian nation which upholds Christian values. So, you can see this combination strongly at work in its laws. What is hard for the average Zambian to grasp is how a country could claim to be Christian and at the same time support unchristian practices. It looks to be a paradox in his mind. To top it off, the bible’s stance on homosexuality is quite clear. In Romans 1:26-27 it says

26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error

New International Version (N.I.V) Bible

So, therefore, it’s easy for us to see how the legislature could come up with section 158 of the Penal Code Act of Zambia which reads,

158. (1) Any male who, whether in public or private, commits any act of gross indecency with a male child or person, or procures a male child or person to commit any act of gross indecency with him, or attempts to procure the commission of any such act by any male person with himself or with another male child or person, whether in public or private, commits a felony and is liable, upon conviction, to imprisonment for a term of not less than seven years and not exceeding fourteen years.

(2) Any female who, whether in public or private, commits any act of gross indecency with a female child or person, or procures a female child or person to commit any act of gross indecency with her, or attempts to procure the commission of any such act by any female person with himself or with another female child or person, whether in public or private, commits a felony and is liable, upon conviction, to imprisonment for a term of not less than seven years and not exceeding fourteen years.

(3) A child who, whether in public or private, commits any act of gross indecency with another child  of the same sex or attempts to procure the commission of any such act by any person with the child’s self or with another child or person of the same sex, whether in public or private, commits an offence and is liable, to such community service or counseling as the court may determine in the best interests of the child.

The preamble of the Zambian constitution also states that,

“WE, THE PEOPLE OF ZAMBIA:

ACKNOWLEDGE the supremacy of God Almighty;

DECLARE the Republic a Christian Nation while upholding a

person’s right to freedom of conscience, belief or religion”

Preamble of the Zambian Constitution

So, just as I explained previously, the Laws of a Country are always subject to its people. If the people of Zambia’s Christian beliefs are against homosexuality, I think its best to respect them as they stand.

The situation in Zambia is very much similar to that in the Bahamas. The Bahamian Constitution declares in its preamble that the country should have “an abiding respect for Christian values and the rule of law.” However, in recent years, the Bahamas has given in into western pressure and has set itself on a lengthy campaign for support of gay rights in its laws. Some Christian citizens in the small island, like the late prominent preacher, Dr. Myles Munroe, were in strong opposition with the move…as the video below shows.

Dr. Myles Munroe Speaking on Homosexuality in the Bahamas.

In my recent research on the subject, I have heard some advocates for gay rights compare their struggle to that of slavery; somehow comparing their plight with that of the horrors of slavery. My opinion is that I think that notion is quite deceptive. Slavery was discriminatory because it judged a person based on what he was born with, that is, the color of his skin. Which he really had no choice over. Homosexuality on the other hand, is not something someone is born with, but rather, something that they choose to be voluntarily. If we could say that people are born homosexual, then it would make sense to assert that anti-homosexual laws in Zambia are oppressive. But as the state of things are, no one can prove that they were born homosexual.

So, in conclusion, anti- homosexual laws in Zambia exist to protect national identity through the enforcement of Christian values. I hope this little ‘treatise’ makes some viable sense to some foreigners who might’ve been wondering as to why the arm of the Law in Zambia is so heavy against homosexuals. As Vigilante Scholars, our views are dependent on the culture we were raised in. I understand that very well. But, however, when it comes to law making and procedure, I don’t think there’s a universal solution for us all. We must all stick to what our cultures teach to properly make a law that will serve a particular society in question. There’s no doubt in Zambia that anti-homosexual laws serve their purpose to validate national identity and to some degree, national unity. Therefore, it should suffice to say that such laws will continue to be a part of the nation’s cultural fabric and values.