Right of reply to defamatory article headlined Abuses in Our Places of Worship
The Board of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God is outraged by the content of the article written by Devan Moonsamy, CEO of The ICHAF Training Institute, headlined: Abuses in Our Places of Worship, published in MyPR.co.za on 9 April 2018. It has also appeared under the headline: If you want to make money in Africa, start a religion, on http://www.sabreakingnews.co.za and https://www.webmail.co.za on 10 April 2018.
The article is defamatory and contains unsubstantiated content which has damaged the reputation of the Universal Church and its members. Had the author sought input or verification from the Universal Church as a responsible journalist, they would have responded to his questions and distanced themselves from the unsubstantiated content. The resulting article would then likely have been fair, balanced and accurate. It fails to uphold any of these requirements.
It should be noted that the Universal Church appeared before the CRL Commission in November 2015 and was complimented by the Commission on its stringent procedures and policies and the manner in which the organisation conducts itself.
In the article published on MyPR.co.za, Devan Moonsamy, CEO of the ICHAF Training Institute, wrote: The highly controversial Universal Church has been banned in some countries, but is still widely popular in South Africa.
This is an unprofessional and unfounded statement. There is no reference or source cited as to where this information was obtained and therefore no method to verify it. In any event, the Board of the Universal Church refutes the allegation of having been banned in the strongest possible terms. In countries where the Universal Church has been investigated, it has been found that the allegations levelled against it were unfounded and that the Universal Church had complied with all legal and Governmental requirements. It is interesting that this is not mentioned in the article, again supporting the reality that the article is biased, presenting an uninformed view, based possibly on hearsay.
Devan Moonsamy then refers to Ilana van Wyk’s book stating: Researcher Dr Ilana van Wyk risked her life to expose this church’s Durban branch in her 2015 book.
The claim that there was any threat to her life is unsubstantiated and in any event disputed by the Universal Church. It is outrageous to suggest that the Universal Church may have in any way put anyone’s life at risk. This statement needs to be withdrawn unreservedly.
It also needs to be noted that the “researcher” based the content of her book on one Church only. There are more than 350 Churches that make up the Universal Church in South Africa and thus “research” allegedly conducted on a single Church cannot be extrapolated to make unsubstantiated findings and/or allegations against an entire organisation when the “research” is based on what cannot be considered a representative sample of the Universal Church. Moreover, the “research” cannot be considered credible when by the “researcher’s” own admission its reflects her biased and hostile attitude to the organisation. In any event, the “research” was supposedly done in 2004, yet the book was only published in 2015 – eleven years later. It is unlikely that the content remains relevant a decade later.
Following the launch of the book, the Universal Church issued a press release on 21 October 2015. This is in the public domain. The contents state:
The Board of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God and its leadership wishes to state in the strongest terms, that it was not involved in the research project, did not give permission for the researcher to study the organisation and/or its members, and distances itself completely from the content of this book. It does not condone the seemingly one-sided, biased report, and cannot condone factually incorrect statements and sweeping generalisations which are contained both in the book and in Van Wyk’s interviews.
The study was based on the writer’s experience in only one branch of the church, the Smith Street cathedral in Durban, but this limited sample is then extrapolated to reflect the entire organisation. The ethics and reliability of basing such a study on only one sample is dubious. The initial fieldwork was done in 2004 yet the information presented in the book and shared by the author in subsequent interviews has not been updated to reflect more recent developments.
The research report resorts to loaded language to describe what is clearly the researcher’s personal opinion and by her own admission, her dislike for people mentioned by name, which in itself could be construed as defamatory. It is questionable whether a research report should reflect such clear hostility, open bias and judgmental deductions. The Board of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God objects to the tone of the research and interviews, a position the author herself admits was also expressed/shared by her team during the publication process.
However, the “researcher” continues to position herself as a self-proclaimed expert on the Universal Church and her book is referred to as the alleged definitive authority on the organisation. It is worth noting that van Wyk has not made contact with the organisation subsequently, nor updated her knowledge through content available on the Church’s website as well as on other social media platforms.
Devan Moonsamy, CEO of The ICHAF Training Institute continues in his article:
Rather than emphasising spiritual growth and community good, Van Wyk (2015) shows how the Universal Church encourages obsession over materialism; operates through sensationalism, gossip, bullying and cajoling; makes use of business strategies for profit; and diverts attention to a frightening ‘spiritual warfare’ of demons and witchcraft. It further impoverishes the poor by promoting the idea that God’s favour can be bought, and it makes no charitable or philanthropic efforts. Sermons are mere fundraising events.
The Board of the Universal Church states categorically that this paragraph does not reflect the mandate nor ethos of the Universal Church in any shape or form. It is Ilana van Wyk’s opinion which should not have formed the subject of a “research” document.
The Universal Church is a Pentecostal Christian Church whose teachings and activities are based on Biblical truths. It is a faith-based organisation which exists to spread the Gospel to all nations in an effort to save souls for eternity. The Universal Church does not promote the ludicrous suggestion that God’s favour can be bought. Indeed it cannot! God’s blessings are freely given.
The Universal Church is, in fact, involved in numerous charitable and philanthropic efforts, many of which are the subject of extensive media releases and easily available for any interested person to access. Of course, if your opinion is already made up, sourcing facts is irrelevant.
The statement that Sermons are mere fundraising events is absurd, devoid of truth and offensive in the strongest possible terms. Sermons are based on the Word of God and are preached to deepen people’s relationship with the Lord Jesus and grow their faith.
The Leadership of the Universal Church and all those associated with the organisation, stand against any form of violence and abuse. To include the Universal Church in an article about abuse in places of worship is not only offensive but also defamatory.This incorrect and unfounded association needs to be withdrawn unreservedly.
In conclusion, the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God distances itself completely and unequivocally from Ilana van Wyk’s book and the content contained in Devan Moonsamy’s article.