My colleagues and I often care for patients suffering from hallucinations, prophesying, and claiming to speak with God, among other symptoms—in mental health care, it’s sometimes very difficult to tell apart religious belief from mental illness…. Our conclusions frequently stem from the behaviors we see before us. Take an example of a man who walks into an emergency department, mumbling incoherently. He says he’s hearing voices in his head, but insists there’s nothing wrong with him. He hasn’t used any drugs or alcohol. If he were to be evaluated by mental health professionals, there’s a good chance he might be diagnosed with a psychotic disorder like schizophrenia. But what if that same man were deeply religious? What if his incomprehensible language was speaking in tongues?
Human rights lawyer Geoff Budlender SC says courts should be seen as institutions that strengthen rather than undermine democracy, notes a Business Day report. Budlender said that in a participatory democracy, the courts played a crucial role as a ‘critical mechanism of accountability’ to the people. The Constitution gave the executive the function of developing and implementing policy, but this did not mean that every policy could claim a genuine democratic mandate, he said. According to the report, Budlender said his four years’ experience as a civil servant had shown him ‘it was unelected officials like me who made many of the most significant decisions’ on policy. The theory that the executive had ‘a monopoly of wisdom on policy questions, based on a democratic mandate, strikes me as somewhat remote from reality’, he said. Budlender added if courts were to live up to their role in democratising society, they needed to make judgments that did not undermine the other constitutional imperative – that the government should be able to govern. – Business DayBACK TO TOP