JOHANNESBURG - Religious practices that may be harmful and exploit the vulnerable should be stopped, two rights organisations said on Thursday.
"We cannot allow religious institutions practising unsavoury harmful religious practices and continue to make pronouncements that are dangerous to the health and well-being of people, especially pregnant women, in the name of religion," the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities and the Commission for Gender Equality said in a joint statement.
They were reacting to reports that pregnant women, and women in general, were lured by Pastor Lesego Daniel of Rabboni centre ministries in Ga-Rankuwa to eat grass and reportedly drink petrol that he claimed had been turned into pineapple juice through prayer.
"Both our institutions respect the freedom of religion, belief and opinion as enshrined in section 15 of the Constitution..." the organisations said.
"Religious practices that contravene the founding provisions of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and international law should be discontinued."
The two commissions called on religious organisations, government, community members, civil society organisations and private organisations to condemn churches who continued to exploit the vulnerable and the destitute in the name of religion.
"People's living conditions and vulnerabilities should not be used as reasons to subject them to inhumane practices under the disguise of religion."
On Sunday Gauteng infrastructure development MEC Nandi Mayathula-Khoza spoke at a church in Soshanguve, Pretoria, warning people off harmful religious practices.
"If you go about feeding people grass and petrol, you must know that you are not a good shepherd. You are misleading the folk," she said.
She warned of the health dangers of eating grass and swallowing petrol.