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Church U-turn after homophobia row

The Light of the Nations Church on Thursday replaced one of its controversial billboards inviting sinners, among them members of the homosexual community, to be prayed for and saved after it was labelled homophobic earlier this week.

Two weeks ago, the church erected billboards in Pretoria East promoting prayer services dubbed “Whom the Son sets free is free indeed”. On the boards homosexuality and other afflictions like drugs, lies, depression and alcohol abuse were listed as sins to be prayed for.

The controversial Lighthouse of the Nations Church banner in Solomon Mahlangu Drive which has had the word 'homosexuality' removed from the list of afflictions under the word 'affairs'. Photo: Etienne Creux. Credit: INLSA

The inclusion of homosexuality had angered members of the gay and lesbian community, and human rights activists. Others lodged complaints at the Advertising Standards Authority which launched an investigation into the allusion to homosexuality as a sin.

Homosexuality was removed from the billboards earlier this week and on Thursday one of the three posters – on the corner of Solomon Mahlangu and Stellenberg roads – was replaced by a new one titled “What the church can learn from homosexuals.”

Church spokeswoman Carina Ann Nunes said: “The billboard is to foster better relations between the church and homosexual community.”

The billboard was advertising a new series of sermons by church co-founder Dr Deric Linley on Sunday.

However, bloggers on social networks remained unimpressed by the new billboard and slated the church for initially lumping homosexuality with preventable sins.

Dawie Nel, of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender support group OUT, said they expected nothing different with the forthcoming services on homosexuality. “In light of the previous billboard we expect the new series to continue stigmatising homosexuality.”

The stigma attached to homosexuality contributed to the killing of homosexuals in SA and in Africa, Nel said. “We want to draw the church’s attention to the concept of hate crimes and how it can be illegal to stigmatise and promote hate based on an individual being from a specific societal group – such as gay and lesbian people.”

Some bloggers commended the church for its new series and attempts to foster closer relations with homosexual people. But others condemned the church, with André Kruis posting on Facebook: “Yet another church crumbles in the face of a satanic onslaught! You prefer to please the world rather than God? What is an abomination in the eyes of God is now too hot to handle for you.”

He offered to pray that the church be forgiven by God for its humiliating public retreat.

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