Thursday, March 21, 2019

South African Court Invalidates Dutch Reformed Church's LGBT Policy

In South Africa, a 3-judge panel of the North Gauteng High Court set aside as unlawful and invalid a decision on same-sex relationships made by the General Synod of the Dutch Reformed Church during the Synod's November 2016 meeting. That decision reversed a 2015 policy that recognized same-sex civil unions and allowed the ordination of gays and lesbians.  In Gaum v. Van Rensburg, S.A. High Ct., March 8, 2019), the court said in part:

The Church denied that the 2016 decision prevents the participation of the LGBTQIA+ community in the church community, or that it impedes their private lives, or that the decision violates their constitutional rights.... On behalf of the Church it was submitted that the 2016 decision did not restrict Gaum’s right to freedom of association; Gaum is free to join another Church that interprets the Bible in the way that Gaum does....
The differentiation caused by the 2016 decision does inherently diminish the dignity of Gaum because same-sex relationships are tainted as being unworthy of mainstream church ceremonies and persons in a same-sex relationship cannot be a Minister in the Church....
There is an argument to be made that a Court cannot prescribe who must be appointed as a Minister in a Church. But, if a member of the Church is permitted to study to become a Minister in that Church, but disallowed to engage in his or her profession only due to the fact that he or she would be in same sex relationship there is an inherent contradiction in the conduct of the Church....
The threshold requirement in section 36 of the Constitution is that any limitation of a fundamental right must be “law of general application …” Where a church discriminates, it constitutes private discrimination, with the law of general application not likely to apply.
eNCA reports on the decision.


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