You know things have changed when an audience member asks after a Karoofees debate whether a dominee preaching against homosexuality has been sent by the CIA.

In Oudtshoorn tensions between orthodox churchgoers and the KKNK have been simmering since a truce was reached between supporters of the band Fokofpolisiekar and Cape Christians over the hot Afrikaans band telling God to get lost, but in more colourful language. A little of that burst out in a debate on "sondaars of sondebokke" (sinners or scapegoats) yesterday led by radio personality Elna Boesak.

To the bemusement of the audience the Reverend Peet Bothma produced a slide show depicting scenes of sex, including bestiality, sodomy and fellatio, from ancient art works.

He meant to show the writers of the Bible knew about such things, and that their rejection of homosexuality could therefore be trusted to have been knowledgeable.

Soft music accompanied the slide show, introduced by a shot of Table Mountain. But poet Deborah Steinmair had the audience tittering when the debate was opened to the floor and she complained about the dots Bothma had added to censor certain details.

"This led me to sinful thoughts about the size of the ancient men's manhood," she said. "Couldn't you have made them a little smaller?"

Others took him to task for far stronger versions, with an historian saying there were far more appropriate illustrations of sex in ancient times. It was pointed out that dildos and sodomy shown were not confined to gay people.

Indeed, Bothma, who is highly regarded in church circles, had a rough time. He was attacked from all sides, in all tongues and by white and coloured participants - if there is one debate that has been uniting the races behind a certain viewpoint, it is the gay issue in the Western Cape.

One of the participants was the Rev Laurie Gaum, who dedicated his appearance to Douw Wessels, his lover who committed suicide almost exactly a year ago due to the harassment Gaum suffered from church leaders.

Dr Alan Boesak said he couldn't believe his ears when Bothma made his representation. He also said an oft-quoted verse from St Paul was actuallyagainst all perverts, including "skinderbekke" (gossipers) and not specifically "homosex", as Bothma insisted it be called.

When Bothma produced scientific quotes to show there was no gay gene, and homosexuality was therefore sinfully acquired, several speakers rose with pieces of paper to show he had quoted selectively.

Boesak said certain forms of science weren't reliable, as they had been used for 200 years to show that blacks were inferior to whites.

He recounted how he had been told by a lecturer he shouldn't study Greek or Hebrew for his theology degree because coloureds didn't have the intellectual capacity for it and would "fail like flies".

Bothma's presentation and manner reminded one of conservative American preachers. He also produced his slide show to bring home the point that SA was one of only five countries whose constitution condoned homosexuality. We were therefore living in similar times to that of the Roman emperor Nero, who got married to a man in a veil.

But it would be hard to determine on which side Bothma would be in the War on Terror. He sometimes sounded like a Bush supporter, at other times his strident delivery, strict Sunday clothes (wearing a tie and shirt unlike the shorts and takkies of the audience) and loud voice reminded one more of a fanatic interpreter of the Koran.

Several pro-gay speakers said Biblical verses and science were irrelevant. The fact that there were so many worshippers who were gay was evidence enough that it should be accepted.

Two audience members rose to give tearful admissions of their fall from grace through their sexuality, claiming that since they had been able to change sexually the gay people in the audience could too.

One woman said she used to be an adulterous woman, who could not leave a beautiful man alone. "But God told me this had to end." She turned out to be Bothma's wife.

All eyes are now on a debate on Friday, at which the issue of freedom of speech will be discussed in a public debate arranged by KKNK founder Pieter Fourie, one of the most popular playwrights in the country and a veteran fighter against censorship.