File picture: Pixabay
Pretoria - It was the battle of the pastors in court this week, when a Seventh Day Adventist Church pastor blamed another of defaming him on social media.

The parties were not named because sensitive accusations of rape were made in papers before the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria.

The offending pastor, only identified as A, accused another pastor, H, as well as a congregant.

A stated in court papers that H kept referring to a member of the parish in social media, who claimed she was raped by A.

A said although his name was not directly mentioned in the posts, everyone in the parish knew it referred to him as the alleged culprit.

He said while he was charged with the rape, he was acquitted and his name was cleared.

He denied he had raped the woman, whom he gave a lift to a convention. He said he did not even look at her inappropriately.

But H, on the other hand, denied that he had defamed his fellow pastor. He said the fact that there were allegations of rape against A did not preclude anyone who knew about this to in general write about sexual abuse.

H stated that as a pastor he, as well as his church, felt strongly about gender-based violence and it was thus his duty to comment on these issues on social media.

A meanwhile said in his affidavit that he and H knew each other for about 14 years. They always had a good relationship, but it soured when he received a promotion in 2016 and H lost out.

He said H at the time made “wild allegations” that he mismanaged church money, although this was never proven.

He said he did not hear much from H until in January this year when H mentioned the alleged rape victim on social media.

He said H referred to a letter in which the woman claimed A forced himself on her. He said this was done, while everyone knew he was innocent.

A said while the posts were made under the pretext of the pastor and another member of his flock who also posted similar messages, being merely “concerned citizens” he knew this was a vexatious witch-hunt against him.

The text messages, among others, stated that H “would always stand by the victims of sexual abuse.”

A said any reasonable person in the community and church would have realised that these statements referred to him.

He asked the court to urgently order the pastor and the churchgoer to remove these messages from Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram.

H said over the past 15 years he had spoken out against issues of gender-based discrimination and violence, and even more so in recent years.

“As a pastor, I am frequently called upon to counsel and assist victims in vulnerable situations. I have over a number of years publicly stated my views on this subject.”

He said, in this case, he had reached out to the alleged victim in his capacity as pastor and had offered her moral support. H said just because the posts were close to home, he was not about to abandon his fellow member of the flock by not speaking out about these issues.

Judge Colleen Collis struck the matter from the roll because she found it not to be urgent.

Pretoria News