Cape Town - A pastor who was invited to address the Student Christian Association (SCA) at a Cape Town high school sparked outrage when he allegedly told pupils that there was "no place in heaven for gay" people. He allegedly also claimed that young people who engage in sex before marriage are "prostitutes".
Shocked Kuils River pupils listened as the man likened the LGBTI+ community to paedophiles who were destined to go to hell.
The pastor first made some of these remarks at a SCA gathering last Wednesday evening, outside of normal school hours . A number of pupils were traumatised by the offensive remarks and a planned follow-up visit to the school was subsequently cancelled.
According to Bronagh Hammond from the Western Cape Education Department (WCED), the school then engaged with the pastor and it was agreed that he would return to the school to offer a "message of hope" to the pupils.
"The church contacted the school and after discussing the matter and comments made on the Wednesday, it was decided that the Friday SCA assembly would go ahead. The school claims that this attendance was voluntary," said Hammond.
At the SCA assembly on Friday, the pastor again made a number of offensive comments. Amongst other things, he reportedly described sangomas as "devils and witches".
Hammond says her department engaged with the school when the matter was brought to their attention and confirmed that counselling has been made available for pupils.
"We have not heard of any specific recordings or footage of the event, and therefore, cannot confirm what was said, as there has been various allegations and denials.
"However, it is concerning that the pastor was allowed an opportunity to address learners for the second time, after the first engagement was seen as distressing. We are currently investigating the matter to find out the facts.
"While schools cannot always manage everything that comes out of a guest’s mouth, it is important that schools engage with anyone speaking to learners prior to the event and ensure that their values, thoughts and messages are in line with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Any other message is not welcome in our schools," Hammond said.
Attempts to reach the principal of the school were unsuccessful. According to his secretary, he is in the process of formulating a report on the incident for the education department.
What the Schools Act says:
Section 7: Freedom of conscience and religion at public schools
Subject to the Constitution and any applicable provincial law, religious observances may be conducted at a public school under rules issued by the governing body if such observances are conducted on an equitable basis and attendance at them by learners and members of staff is free and voluntary."
The Western Cape Act:
Section 44: Subject to the provisions of sections 6 and 7 of the South African Schools Act, 1996 (Act 84 of 1996), the language policy and the religious observances at a public school shall be determined by its governing body: ...".
* So, in the Western Cape "religious observances" must also be determined by the SGBs as part of their "governance" function as founded in section 16 of the Schools Act; or they may take the form of a mission statement developed under section 20(1)(c) of that Act; or the code of conduct adopted under section 20(1)(d) of that Act.
"Neither the Constitution nor the Schools Act confers on a public school or SGB the right to adopt the ethos of one single religion to the exclusion of others. Rather, appropriately representative bodies are required to make rules that provide for religious policies and for religious observances that are to be conducted on a "free and voluntary" and on an "equitable" basis," Hammond concluded.