Venue no longer hosting weddings
The owners of Beloftebos, the wedding venue which was taken to court by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) after they declined to host and organise the celebration of a same-sex marriage, have written to the SAHRC in an attempt to amicably resolve this matter, which has been ongoing for more than two years.
This follows a face-to-face meeting between the owners and representatives from the SAHRC last year to try and understand one another’s position, says Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA) in a press release.
In their letter to the SAHRC, the owners of the Western Cape venue, Andries and Coia de Villiers, say that they are no longer available as a wedding venue and that the link on their website to weddings has been removed. They say their decision to close down their wedding venue service flows from a number of years of ongoing prayer and reflection, combined with Covid-19 lockdown measures which have made weddings rare and difficult to host.
Beloftebos was first reported to the SAHRC in 2017 after they refused, because of their religious convictions, to host the wedding of a same-sex couple, Alexandra Thorne and Alex Lu who have since left SA. They were reported again after they turned down the request of same-sex couple Sasha-Lee Heekes and Megan Watling to host their wedding in January 2020. In September 2020 Heekes and Watling filed legal papers seeking R2 million in damages from Beloftebos and a ruling that the venue’s refusal to host their wedding on religious grounds constituted hate speech or discrimination.
In their proposal to the SAHRC, the owners of Beloftebos:
- state that any agreement reached between them would be fact specific to the present matter and could not be used as a precedent in any other matter;
- ask that the SAHRC accept (without having to agree with them) that their bona fide and intensely-held world view is that marriage is a sacrament between a man and a woman. Further, that their views and beliefs regarding marriage are for considered and nuanced reasons which in turn are fundamental to their relationship with God, which relationship is central to all their activities;
- recognise that the SAHRC has a responsibility, when anyone abuses their beliefs about marriage to undermine the dignity of people and to promote hatred, bigotry and prejudice against those who may have very different but equally intensely-held beliefs about marriage, to take action;
- undertake to scrutinise carefully their website and other means of communication to ensure that none of their content can be used cynically to abuse or to undermine the dignity and value of those whose belief systems regarding marriage may be strongly opposed to those which they hold themselves.
Michael Swain executive director of FOR SA said: “We live in a society where our Constitution encourages us to be united in our diversity. The owners of Beloftebos have stated clearly and consistently that the issue has always been about their sincere and deeply-held convictions on the sacrament of marriage. It has never been about the sexual orientation of any person and they have at every opportunity made it crystal clear that they fully respect and recognise the constitutional rights of the LGBTIQ+ community.”
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