This is what it said:
ATTENTION ALL CHRISTIANS! It was announced in this mornings Beeld that Government wants to change all Christian holidays e.g. Christmas and Easter, as Christianity has too many public holidays and it is therefore discrimination against other religions.
They no longer want Christian names for these holidays. So if you are prepared to stand up for your faith, please sign the form to say that you are against this proposal.
We WILL stand up for our Lord!
As this had all the marks of an urban legend, I thought I'd check up a bit.
What actually happened was that Mathole Motshekga appealed to the Commission on Culture, Religion and Language to make some changes. He did this back in April, and it was reported in Beeld back then. It wasn't in today's Beeld, nor in the issue on the date of the forwarded e-mail message I received.
So the petition is based on a lie: it is not something that "the government" wants. It is something that Mathole Motshekga wants.
So who is Mathole Motshekga?
He is a lawyer and a politician.
He replaced Tokyo Sexwale as Premier of Gauteng, but didn't last very long in that post, and his tenure was somewhat controversial. He is now director of the Kara Heritage Institute, which appears to promote a new religion of Dr Motshekga's own devising, a rather eclectic religion based on a mixture of gnosticism and African traditional religion.
I heard him a few times on the morning talk show on SAFM radio, hosted by Xolani (or Cwelani, I've heard it pronounced both ways) Gwala giving his views on that subject and others.
To judge from what he said on the radio Dr Motshekga's knowledge of history seemed to be even more wildly inaccurate than that of The de Vinci code. Xolani/Cwelani Gwala appeared to be a fan of his, and Dr Motshekga was on SAFM nearly every day, so that his religion was getting more exposure on the SABC than any other. Eventually I switched to Classic FM, and no longer listen to SAFM.
I have no objection to Dr Motshekga having his own religion, or even speaking about it on the radio. What annoyed me was the lies and distortions about other religions that he was propagating, and the fact that he seemed to be being given a monopoly to do it by the SABC.
But that is no excuse for some Christians to spread lies and distortions about Dr Motshekga's views on public holidays, or to spread urban legends that have no foundation.
A good comment on this is Christian holidays and press responsibility by Amelia Mulder, in which she concludes that:
- people no longer pay attention when they are reading
- they believe what they want to believe
- especially when it has to do with the government's conspiracy against Afrikaners
- the press exploits this shamelessly
- it makes a person wonder how much you can believe of what you read