‘Our freedom of choice should be respected too,’ says venue that turned down same-sex wedding

The Christian owners of a Cape wedding venue that has been in the news since last week for refusing  — on grounds of their deeply-held biblical convictions — to host a same-sex wedding, continues to suffer attacks on social media and threats of legal action.

In addition, the Stanford Tourism Association last week suspended the membership of the Beloftebos wedding venue near the town, saying that “Stanford is a village that focuses on community building, upliftment and inclusivity”,

Responding to the media outcry over their decision, the owners of Beloftebos on Monday released a media statement explaining the venue’s policy. The owners say that while they respect South Africans’ right of freedom of choice – including the right to conclude same-sex “marriages” — they ask for the freedom of choice to believe and live their lives accordingly. Our constitution does not require everyone to believe the same, and does not punish people for holding divergent beliefs and opinions, they say. Their full statement is published on their website.

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On Monday, the ANC Provincial Secretary Faiez Jacobs told Times Live that he would be lodging a complaint against the venue owners with the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC). He also reiterated the call for a boycott of Beloftebos and other businesses that “continue to discriminate against others”.

In response, Michael Swain of Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA) who has been appointed as Beloftebos’ media representative with regard to the issue, commented that “while it is of course the ANC Provincial Secretary’s right to refer a complaint to the SAHRC for investigation, we believe that such course of action would contradict and disregard the convictions and religious beliefs of the vast majority of South Africans (including members of the ANC) who hold to a similar conviction and belief.

“It would also go against the constitution of South Africa, which specifically protects freedom of conscience, religion and belief as a fundamental human right (s 15) and prohibits unfair discrimination on grounds of conscience, religion and belief (s 9) – as does the Equality Act itself.”

He said that it is was not correct, as has been reported in the media, that the Equality Court has already ruled on the issue.

Commenting further on the effect that the allegations have had on the venue, Swain said that “it is unfortunate that in the name of ‘tolerance’, a vitriolic smear campaign is being waged, including pressurising suppliers to boycott the venue and even targeting couples who were previously married at the venue.

“However, it is interesting that, amongst the LGBT community themselves, there appears to be disagreement on whether people should be forced to act against their conscience, especially as the media has reported that other venues have ‘jumped’ at the opportunity to host and celebrate Ms Thorne and Ms Lu’s [the couple whose request was turned down by Beloftebos] day with them. Time will tell what economic effect this will have on the venue, although support for the venue’s stance has streamed in.”

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