Johannesburg - The SA Council of Churches (SACC) is trying to "privatise" Jesus and turn the Christian religion into a cult, the Friends of Jacob Zuma Trust claimed on Wednesday.
"As the friends of Jacob Zuma Trust in Gauteng province we are not happy or impressed by the attempt on the part of the SACC to want to private (sic) the Christian religion and Jesus Christ in particular," it said in a statement.
"We refuse like many other South African Christians to allow the SACC to conduct itself as if they own Jesus Christ. It has become clear that this religious body wants to turn the Christian religion into some sort of a cult belonging to a particular grouping."
The trust was responding to statements made by the SACC that President Jacob Zuma was "confusing matters of the secular world with matters that are considered to be sacred".
The SACC in turn was reacting to Zuma's telling a rally in Mpumalanga at the weekend that the ANC "will rule until Jesus comes". He has previously made the same remark.
Zuma’s rights as a Christian
The trust said: "We wish the SACC will in future consult with other Christian bodies before thinking that they are the only Christians in this country. It must further desist from embarrassing the Christian community by claiming to be the only body that should give us permission to pray."
The trust's Gauteng chairperson Gaya Mlangeni said Zuma, like SACC members, was a Christian and had "a right to invoke any element of that religion".
"Indeed we agree with the president that the ANC will rule this country until Jesus comes."
SACC secretary general Eddie Makue said the ANC leadership should be mindful that South Africa was a democratic country whose residents determined who should be in power.
"The ANC must be mindful of the mortality of human beings and the immortality of God... mindful that Jesus Christ is one in the tri-une God that we worship.
"We want to remind political leaders that we are living in democracy and in democracy choices of the people are determining factors, and therefore no leader can pre-empt what the decision of the electorate will be."
Also, he said Zuma should be aware that there were other religions in the country and guard against making divisive statements.
"Finally, we trust that the leadership within the ANC will be sensitive to how their messages are received. They must guard against alienating other religions by statements that they make.
"One must be mindful that although the Christian religion is a majority, there are other religions like Muslim and the Bahai in the country."
Understood in context
Reacting to the SACC's statements on Tuesday afternoon, the ANC said the party had no intention to undermine Christian teachings, values and principles, as the party was founded on those.
"During the 2009 elections campaign, the ANC president visited places of worship in all the nine provinces to seek blessings," the party said in a statement.
The Mpumalanga remark should be understood in the context of Zuma's confidence in South Africans who had, in the last four elections, voted overwhelmingly for the ANC, it added.