‘Religion the biggest driving force behind homophobia on the continent’
LGBTI organisations are not surprised by the Grace Bible Church hate speech incident‚ saying that other churches around the country are guilty of the same thing.
While the incident sparked outrage‚ some of them will not be taking any action against the church as they say the problem with hate speech towards the LBGTI community is common and needed a long‚ lasting solution.
Lerato Phalakatshela‚ hate crime manager at the OUT‚ a clinic for the LGBTI community‚ said the organisation has been in talks with the South African Council of Churches and the Department of Justice to find common ground on hate speech.
“Hate speech against the LGBTI and marginalised groups is happening in townships‚ rural areas and even cities‚ but no one has the guts to stand up and say something or report it‚” said Phalakatshela.
“This particular issue (Grace Bible Church) stands out because a famous person has spoken out‚ but for most of the LGBTI community this is a common reality‚” he added.
Gay SA Radio previously filed a complaint against the Western Cape’s Pastor Oscar Bougardt for claiming that research showed that 99% of paedophilia stemmed from homosexuality.
Bougardt was taken to the Equality Court by the South African Human Rights Commission‚ which investigated complaints against him. He also travelled to the US to meet with Pastor Steve Anderson who was banned from entering the country last year after his “kill gays” comments.
Ghanaian-born Bishop Dag Heward-Mills was invited to the Grace Bible Church as a guest pastor in Soweto‚ where he delivered a sermon on a variety of issues‚ including homosexuality.
Heward-Mills had described homosexuality as “sinful”‚ “unnatural” and “disgusting”.
His homophobic views angered choreographer and Idols judge Somizi Mhlongo‚ forcing to him to leave the service on Sunday while the preacher was still speaking.
Mhlongo took to Instagram to express his anger and lashed out at churches in the country as he felt “discriminated” against.
Gay SA Radio sation manager Hendrik Baird‚ who fought to have Anderson banned from entering the country‚ said churches get away‚ to some degree‚ with hate speech by hiding behind freedom of religion.
“Religion has been the biggest driving force behind homophobia on the continent. What concerns us most is the selective quoting from the bible‚” said Baird.
“Being gay is not a choice‚ and if it was a choice‚ I would challenge any of these pastors to be gay for a week and see what it’s like. How can who you are be a sin‚” he asked?
The Grace Bible Church defended the right of its guest preacher to express his views behind the pulpit‚ but argued that its congregation did not share the same sentiment.
Spokesman Pastor Ezekiel Mathole defended the sermon‚ saying it offended a lot of people and not just the gay community.
“For us‚ it is a good response‚ when people are actually saying they don’t like this particular view‚” he said. – TMG Digital