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?
Karl Gostner from Primedia writes:
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Dear Professor De Vos
As discussed with you I was distressed, angered and insulted to read your article “What a load of dangerous nonsense”. In your article you argue that the Bill of Responsibilities (and Lead SA) “suggests that it is perfectly fine to discriminate against gay men, lesbians and other sexual minorities”. You base this on the fact that one document on the Lead SA site (www.leadsa.co.za) omitted to include sexual orientation under the right to equality. You state in your article that this was a ‘deliberate and quite glaring omission’ and go on to argue that ‘In effect these institutions and the Lead SA campaign are endorsing the widespread hatred and homophobia that are also prevalent amongst school children’.
The facts of the matter are dramatically different. Yes, one document on the website omitted to include sexual orientation under the right to equality (it has since been corrected and we’ve apologised unreservedly for the omission). However in two other documents on the site it was included. Surely one out of three should’ve been enough for you to pause and wonder whether a mistake had been made? Then there is the small fact of tens if not hundreds of thousands of copies of the Bill of Responsibilities that were distributed through the Independent Group of Newspapers that include sexual orientation under the right to equality. The sheer volume of Lead SA material in the public domain that include the point that one’s responsibility to ensuring the right to equality means a responsibility not to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation should be more than enough evidence that the one instance of omission was exactly that – an omission, no more no less. Despite this bulk of material you took the one instance, failed to contact anyone at any of our stations (people with whom you have a relationship) and ask for clarity on that one instance. Instead you chose to write an inflammatory piece stating that a well-intentioned campaign is endorsing ‘hatred’.
The basics of research and of journalism expect that you did more than you did before you wrote your piece. You failed to do this. You got it wrong. There was no deliberate omission. There was one mistake among thousands of instances that got it right. Lead SA and Primedia Broadcasting are proud supporters of our Bill of Rights and all the rights enshrined therein. We believe strongly that we all have a responsibility to support it and to make it more than a document, but to make it lived practice.
I hope that you find my response sufficient to withdraw your piece and to apologise for your conclusions.