By Patrick Soko
A non-governmental organization has opposed to the proposal by the government to regulate churches through the Ministry of National Guidance and Religious Affairs due to the perceived lack of or decrease in moral standards among the Clergy and the Church.
Zitukule Self Help Group Consortium executive director Nicolas Phiri view that the spirit behind article 8 (a) of the 2016 amended constitution which provides for morality and ethics as guiding values and principles for national and economic policy are meant to foster accountability and transparency among state actors as opposed to non state actors in the management of public affairs.
“While Zitukule Consortium appreciates the need for moral standards in any given context, our position is that morals cannot be legislated, because, by nature, morals are subjective for instance, Christian morals and Muslim morals are not entirely the same but are both good and right in the eyes of each grouping even though each grouping does not subscribe to the other’s teachings,” he said.
He says it is wise to leave issues of morality and ethics to self–regulation within the confines and structure of groups or societies concerned.
Mr Phiri explained that the role of the state would be to ensure that no one society or group infringes on the rights of the other in the name of exercising their right.
“Article 19 of the Zambian Bill of rights provides for protection of freedom of conscience which includes freedom of thought and religion, freedom to change religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others, and both in public and in private, to manifest and propagate one’s religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance,” he explained.
Mr Phiri added that when the State begins to prescribe what is acceptable and what is not, it takes away the freedom of conscience by imposing what should be seen as morally correct in the eyes of the state against the conscience of the right holder.
He says the Government has no moral right to prescribe morals for churches.
He charged that government has failed to enforce minimum moral and ethical standards among public and state officers where abuse of public resource, bribery, corruption and unexplained accumulation of wealth has become a norm at the expense of an impoverished citizenry.
“We wish to reiterate our stance that the Ministry of National Guidance and Religious Affairs is not relevant in our quest to build a strong country based on human rights promotion and democratic governance,” Phiri narrated.
He has therefore advised the government to consider dissolving the Ministry of National Guidance and Religious Affairs as part of austerity measures to mobilize and save resources for debt servicing and enhanced education support to the education sector in Zambia.