I am an instrument of God, says teacher

Cape Town, South Africa - A Western Cape primary school teacher who said he was fired because he refused to stop smacking his pupils claims corporal punishment is God-ordained and has launched a court battle that pits the Bible against the law.

He is bringing an Equality Court case against the Western Cape education department - heard in the Cape High Court by Mr Justice Siraj Desai - for religious discrimination.

But the department argues that former FJ Conradie Primary School teacher and father-of-two Paul Rainers was "bold and misguided" in his use of the Bible to justify his insistence on corporal punishment.

"It is clear that because of his faith in God and claim to the Christian faith, Rainers does not believe that the laws of the country apply to him.

'He had committed an unlawful act and violated ... the constitutional values of a learner'

"However, the question in this case is whether the corporal punishment is a right of a Christian teacher that must trump the right of the learners to dignity," counsel for the department Thabani Masuku argued on Monday.

Masuku pointed out that corporal punishment contravened provisions of the Schools Act and a Constitutional Court ruling.

"Rainers has taken the extreme view that he is not subject to the Schools Act and the constitution but the Bible and God's word.

"The dismissal of Rainers was not based on the religion, but on the basis that, by administering corporal punishment and refusing to accept responsibility for it, he had committed an unlawful act and violated... the constitutional values of a learner," Masuku stated.

By refusing to recognise the department's authority, Rainers had "authored" his dismissal.

But Grassy Park resident Rainers countered: "The education department's defence rests on the fact that the department is convinced that the constitution of the RSA (and) the SA Schools Act ... is higher than the Lord God."

"It follows that the education department... has given itself the right... to discriminate against the living-out of the Christian faith."

"It implies that the minister of education... is exalted above God and is herself God... is the Creator or at least the co-Creator of heaven and earth," Rainers said.

And he later asserted he was serving as "an instrument for God" in his application to the Equality Court.

His employment troubles started in March 2000, when the parents of a 10-year-old girl he had hit with a ruler laid assault charges.

He was found guilty of misconduct at a school disciplinary hearing.

# Less than two years later, Rainers was suspended for refusing to hand in learner marks for maths and failing to stick to the curriculum.

# The deputy director for provincial labour relations, Wernich Wandrag, alleged Rainers had refused to adhere to his suspension and "notwithstanding attended school despite being requested to leave".

The education department laid criminal charges for trespassing for which he was convicted and sentenced to R300 or three months jail.

Papers before the court revealed that Rainers had opted to go to jail.

He was fired from the De Doorns school in March 2002. - High Court Reporter