Church’s right to promote Biblical worldview under fire?
In a move that raises concerns about Government intolerance of the church’s right to promote a Biblical worldview, the Department of Justice has ordered an investigation into alleged discrimination against homosexuals at a Christian arts training centre in Bloemfontein.
Following media reports claiming that the Creare Training Centre states in its prospectus that it can cure its gay students and that if they refused treatment they could be expelled, Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, Mr Andries Nel has requested the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) to investigate whether the centre is unfairly discriminating against people on the basis of their sexual orientation. In a media statement released on Friday (January 18) Nel also implies that the training centre’s “homophobic attitudes” promote the crime of “corrective rape” — a euphemism for the punitive rape of lesbians. Gateway News has emailed a request to Nel to clarify his “corrective rape” remark.
The Bible-based centre, which provides training in Bible studies, arts and the mission field under the auspices of the Our Father’s Home Church in Bloemfontein, has responded by publishing a statement on its website refuting the media reports and referring to its online policy statement.
‘All precious to God’
“At Creare Training Centre we believe that all people are precious to God and that He has a fantastic dream for each one of us. There must, therefore, be no discrimination against anyone. No-one has the right to judge another person or to harm another person in any way,” says the statement.
The centre’s policy statement clarifies that it offers a wide range of part-time courses to students irrespective of race, religion or sexual orientation. However, students considering its fulltime Bible School course, which accounts for less than 0.5% of its student component, are required to commit to pursuing a Biblical lifestyle that includes a heterosexual view on human sexuality. This is explained in the prospectus.
“It is then up to each student to make a decision whether he/she wishes to follow this path together with us. We cannot change people, but God can.”
One of the 240 courses presented at the Bible School is a human sexuality course by motivational speaker and pastor, Sy Rogers, who lived for 18 months as a woman in preparation for a sex change before he had an encounter with Christ which changed his sexual orientation completely.
Support for those wanting to change
According to the policy statement the college is available to offer ministry support, in the form of Biblical teaching, prayer and encouragement to students who want to change their sexual orientation.
“We do not claim to have some methodology to cure those of homosexual orientation, as if homosexuality were a disease or illness,” says the document.
The college apologises to “those who has been hurt through the inaccurate interpretation of statements in our prospectus as well as through media interpretations”.
The head of Creare, Pastor Cornelis van Heyningen, has issued a human rights challenge too, stating:
“We respect the rights of people who believe they are born as homosexuals; but who is standing up for the rights of people of this orientation who want to change? Do they not have rights to live the changed life they desire? Where are their human rights facilitated?
“What we as a Church and Christian Arts Ministry claim, is that Jesus Christ is the only answer, the solution and the foundation of our lifestyle.
“Only He can renew, restore and heal. Only He is the hope of a generation that desires this specific Biblical definition of change.
“I plead with society and government, together with thousands of churches, that the human rights of thousands of people who desire to change their sexual orientation are not ignored, crushed or denied.
“May God’s wisdom protect our nation!”
‘Attempt to silence important social discourse’
Heyningen’s sentiments are expressed in an article, posted last week, by Gateway News columnist and pastor, Afrika Mhlophe, who writes: “Whether you say they [homosexuals] can be “cured” or rehabilitated, many South Africans believe that homosexuals can be changed from their orientation. This view does not equate to homophobia which is classified as strong dislike and fear of homosexuals. Accusing everyone who questions the homosexual lifestyle as being homophobic is an attempt to silence and shut down an important social discourse.
“It is also not true that people who speak against homosexuality are fuelling violence and rapes against gays and lesbians. This kind of an argument is way too simplistic and a vain attempt to create a connection where none exists.”
Writing in his weekly newsletter, Family Policy Institute president Errol Naidoo says the proposed HRC investigation of Creare Training Centre is an example of the way that the “Bible believing Church is increasingly being singled out for slander, ridicule and blatant discrimination – simply because it upholds the Scriptural truth that homosexuality is a sin”.
“Disturbingly, nowhere in the deputy minister’s statement does he mention or even acknowledge the constitutional rights of Christians to practice and express their religious beliefs and convictions, says Naidoo.
“The South African Government appear to be joining forces with homosexual activists to threaten, bully and intimidate Christians into compromising God’s Word on human sexuality.
“The Dept of Justice statement repeats the slanderous accusations from homosexual groups that the Church’s Biblical view on homosexuality is responsible for violence against homosexual citizens.”
Naidoo calls on the Church to oppose growing attempts to force it to comply with the sexual rights agenda, to intercede on behalf of Pastor Cornelis and the Creare Training Centre, and to email them at firstname.lastname@example.org with messages of encouragement from God’s Word.
Deputy Minister Nel’s brief to the HRC is to use its extensive powers in terms of the Constitution and Sections 7(1)(c) and 9 of SA Human Rights Commission Act, 1994 (Act 54 of 1994) to investigate whether the Creare Training Centre is acting in violation of Section 9 of the Constitution and the provisions of the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act, 2000 (Act 4 of 2000), by unfairly discriminating against people on the basis of their sexual orientation.