Successful mediation for Christian guesthouse owners

Christian guesthouse owners Steph and Marina Neethling at the SA Human Rights Commission offices in Cape Town where a dispute between them and a homosexual couple was resolved through mediation on Wednesday (April 15, 2015).

Following a successful mediation on Wednesday, 15 April 2015, the unfair discrimination case instituted against the Christian owners of “House of Bread” guesthouse in Wolseley by a homosexual couple in the Bellville Equality Court last year, is now something of the past.

Against all odds, the parties managed to reach agreement in full and final settlement of this dispute. Even more surprising (miraculous really), is that this could be achieved without the Christian owners giving up, or compromising, their beliefs in any way — something that they in any event would never be able to do and that would have been a complete deal breaker.

Referral to mediation
In their original court papers, the homosexual couple asked the Bellville Equality Court to order:

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1. That the owners give them an unconditional and sincere apology;
2. That the owners donate a fine to a non-profit organisation of the homosexual couple’s choice, namely Pride Shelter Cape Town; and
3. That the owners be prevented from discriminating in future.

Early in the court proceedings, Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA) who acted as First Amicus Curiae in the matter, asked the Court to refer the case for mediation instead. The Court granted the request and postponed the case for purposes of mediation.

At the mediation this week, the parties concluded the following settlement agreement (which, by agreement between the parties, also serves as their joint public statement):

1. The guesthouse owners apologised for the hurt, pain and suffering experienced by the homosexual couple as a result of the former’s conduct on 25 November 2013 as is contained in the complaint [i.e. the telephone conversation in which the homosexual couple were advised that “House of Bread” guesthouse was unfortunately not ‘gay friendly’], and during any subsequent discussions between the parties;
2. The apology was accepted by the homosexual couple;
3. The parties agreed to respect each other’s beliefs within the context of the Constitution of the RSA and the guesthouse owners agreed to act consistently with the Bill of Rights, notably section 9*, of the Constitution of the RSA;
4. The parties re-confirmed the confidentiality of all the discussions that took place during the mediation on 15 April 2015;
5. The agreement was signed in full and final settlement of all disputes arising from and in connection with the above incident; and
6. The agreement may be made an order of the Bellville Equality Court

Following the successful mediation, Steph and Marina Neethling, owners of the guesthouse, expressed their heartfelt thanks for all the prayers, support and encouragement received from Christians around the country throughout the case. Most of all, their hearts are filled with gratitude towards Jesus, who carried them through this trying time and showed Himself ever faithful.

Andrew Selley, Founder and CEO of FOR SA, commented as follows: “FOR SA is pleased with the outcome of the mediation, and in particular the agreement that both parties’ beliefs (including therefore the beliefs of the Christian owners) are to be respected. It is a recognition of the constitutional promise that South Africa, with all its diversity and difference, belongs to all who live in it. FOR SA commends the Neethlings for standing by their beliefs, and trust that many Christians will draw courage from their example as the fight to keep our faith free continues. We also commend the homosexual couple for their willingness to engage with the Neethlings in a bid to find an amicable resolve, and their large-heartedness in acknowledging that people have a right to be different even when we disagree with them.”

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*Section 9 of the Constitution (pertaining to EQUALITY) reads as follows:
“1) Everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law.
2) Equality includes the full and equal enjoyment of all rights and freedoms. […]
3) The state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth.
4) No person may unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds in terms of subsection (3). […]
5) Discrimination on one or more of the grounds listed in subsection (3) is unfair unless it is established that the discrimination is fair.”


  1. I am happy for Steph and marina that their ordeal is over. However I do not view an apology to ungodly God hating sinners as a victory. This is a wake up call to the Church in South Africa to become more vigilant and ready to fight for righteousness to hate evil.

    Our country is being robbed of God’s blessing by gay friendly churches and people. We must hate sexual immorality in all its forms as much as we hate xenophobia.

  2. I do no see that saying, and meaning, “I am sorry your feelings were hurt” is a loss. We should always be sorry when people hurt, whether it is their fault or not. I quote a minister who reached out to the homosexual community and consequentially some attended his church, when the congregation said, “What must we do, the homosexuals are coming in two by two”, he replied, “Well, you had better shift up and let them sit down next to the fornicators and gossips and other sinners we have around here.” Their sin is no better or worse than ours and they also need a Saviour.

  3. Well done to the legal support team. We know the fight is not against flesh and blood, but necessity makes for skilled spiritual and legal representation to face the order of the day, the laws of the land. I believe just as laws have been created which are designed to disenfranchise the Christian, so represetitive bodies such as FORSA, can challenge and overcome such eroneous laws, giving back to the Church what is rightfully ours.

  4. I apologise if I’m missing something but the article reads different for me. I see a massive compromise here. Even the secular media reporting it as a victory for the gay couple.

  5. Glad to hear the issue is resolved at last because this kind of action/behavior from the church just pushes people further ad further away from the faith. Weather we agree or disagree or agree to disagree we need to learn to respect one another’s view point on various current issues in the church locally and internationally. Jesus is Lord

  6. I agree with Mikeabout the apology aspect. We canshow compassion to others for their hurt even though we do not agree wit them. I am also strongly of the view that Jesus died for all, we are not to judge the man …only the sin…and also…let he who has not sinned…throw the first stone. I am excited about this outcome. All glory to our Lord and Saviour and thanks to FOR SA…

  7. Bertus van Niekerk

    This article is misleading. The guesthouse owners had to apologise for discriminating against the couple. See the front page of today’s Cape Times.

    • Bertus, you’re going to believe the Cape Times? The paper that recently made up a story by plagiarising another? Just saying…

  8. Pingback: Successful Mediation for Christian Guesthouse Owners | FOR SA

  9. “unfair discrimination case instituted against the Christian” There was nothing unfair about it. If you want to run a business in this country you must abide by the constitution. You can not pick & choose your customers. Christians had very good biblical reasons in the past not to serve black people. We all know how that turned out, with some Afrikaans churches making a 180 degree turn after 1994. The Neethlings was also very selective in their religious discrimination. They did not refuse people of other religions or unmarried couples. Even though the bible is very explicitly against those sins as well. No they were selectively bigoted towards gay people and that is why they had to appologise. I don’t care what archaic beliefs you have but keep them to your narrow minded self. If you want to live in this country you will do so with respect towards everybody. Not just those people who are a carbon copy of yourself (white,christian,afrikaans) but also to those with different beliefs and appearances. Christians love to preach the bible on homosexuality but all the other rules are selectively ignored. Just look at the shopping malls on Sunday, the divorce courts, the drinking at the rugby and the lotto tickets on a Saturday. Just like in the case of the Neethlings Christans love to be very selective in their interpretation of the bible.

    • Archaic your foot! – Romans 1: 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
      26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
      28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

    • Andre whike there is no Biblical support for prejudice against people who are black, which is not a sin there is a lot to support prejudice against the sexually immoral.

  10. I agree with Bertus, something is amiss. If the owners have to ‘respect other’s beliefs'(which in the case of the gay couple is an abomination in God’s eyes) and apologise for standing up for their faith, how can that be a victory? I’m all for treating people with love and respect but followers of Christ are obligated to unapologetically show sin for what it is; even if it costs us our lives. Either this article is incomplete or christians have completely fallen off the bus.

  11. So the Christian couple said, “We’re sorry you were hurt by what we said.” That is very empathetic of them. Obviously they did not apologise for what they did – sticking by their convictions.

    The gay couple acknowledged that they respect the Christian couple’s beliefs.

    And the Christian couple confirmed their commitment to uphold and act in accordance with the Constitution, notably section 9 – the equality and non-discrimination clause.

    No court in South Africa has ever held that it Is a constitutional infringement for christians to refuse to facilitate gay sex, in order to protect their conscience from violation. What this means is that the Constitution does not require christians to do anything contrary to the Bible. The guesthouse owners were accordingly right to commit to act consistently with the Constitution, including section 9.

    PS This is just one constitutional lawyer’s humble interpretation.

  12. The secular media has not checked facts & has seriously misrepresented the mediation. The Christian couple only said, “We’re sorry you were hurt by what we said.” That is very empathetic of them. Obviously they did not apologise for what they did – sticking by their convictions.

    The gay couple acknowledged the Christian couple’s rights to their beliefs.

    And the Christian couple confirmed their commitment to uphold and act in accordance with the Constitution, notably section 9 – the equality and non-discrimination clause.

    No court in South Africa has ever held that it Is a constitutional infringement (of section 9 or any other provision) for christians to refuse to facilitate gay sex, in order to protect their conscience from violation. What this means is that the Constitution does not require christians to do anything contrary to the Bible. The guesthouse owners were accordingly right to commit to act consistently with the Constitution, including section 9. Hope this helps clarify any confusion.

    • Mr Selley you are being truly dishonest here, First please acknowledge you have copied verbatim Mr Ryan Smit’s comment. Plagiarism is theft.

      Secondly the Neethlings made an unconditional apology for what they did and subsequently said. Further they are prohibit for discriminating against people based on sexual orientation.

      A clear victory for human dignity and rspect.

  13. Not a problem for repeating what I said, Andrew. You are welcome to continue to use it as your own words as long as you are in agreement with it.

    David, do yourself a favour and read carefully the wording of the settlement agreement between the parties.

  14. David, Ryan has helped our FORSA legal team so I quoted him accordingly & fully agree with his perspective. Thanks Ryan. I also echo his reply to you- Read the wording carefully.

    • It is always good, polite and respectful to acknowledge the author of the words even if they allow you to use it.

      Good luck going to the ombudsman to essentially apply your fictitious spin on it. Notice how even you acknowledge Mr Smith’s words as a ‘perspective’.

      Reality is that if the Neethlngs again refuse to accommodate a couple and go and imply they are comparable with pedophiles and bestiality, they are going to be in a lot of trouble because of this settlement agreement..

      • Hi David,

        If the homosexual couple or either one of them broke the confidentiality agreement applicable to the mediation proceedings and shared any details with you, it would be wise to not express anything they shared with you on a public forum/platform like a website.

        • Hello Ryan – I agree hence my comment that FOR SA should not say anything since I assume they know. I only read what is in the paper (including Gatewaynews).

          My comment is only an assumption of the standard accusations and perceptions of homosexuals.

          The amount of times people in media (specially when the argument gets heated) group us with pedophiles or bestiality is without count. Or that allowing same sex marriage will force people to marry animals and a man…

          The fact that the Coulson’s stood their ground and this became front page news made me assume that some nasty things were said.

          I unreservedly apologize if that was not the case and if reading the comment mistakenly implied that it was said.

  15. That being the standard justification of why homosexual behavior is abhorrent.

    Can the Neethlings and yourselves not put the matter behind yourself and now rather focus on the apparent intent of the agreement which is respecting a human being within the context of the Bill of Rigts? This constant bickering over the spin you want to apply to this matter is not doing you, the Neethlings, or our constitution any favours.

  16. Mr Selley and FOR SA this is what only you (and not your followers) seem to miss: Yes the Neethlings did not compromise that they believe homosexuality is wrong. But that is because no one asked them to or forced them to change their beliefs! It is their right to believe the moon is made out of cheese, However they had to apologize for this belief when they used it as an excuse to discriminate (and hurt) another human being and that is because they violated the Bill of Rights not with their beliefs, but their actions.

    I suggest you go and reread the agreement again. Not sure how you can since it is confidential and not even the Neethlings want to expand?

    I wonder if you and FOR SA truly wanted to help the Neethlings or simply used them for your purposes, They are the biggest losers here while FOR SA is using them to heighten their profile and case for ‘Religious Freedom’.

    I suggest you rethink the impact of your drive for discrimination is having before you ‘advise’ Oakfield Farm more.

  17. Please note that the agreement itself was the parties’ joint public statement. So not confidential. The mediation proceedings, excluding the content of the agreement, was confidential.

  18. Thanks Ryan for clarity, but that does not really change anything.

  19. Malachi 2:17 You have wearied the Lord with your words. But you say, “How have we wearied him?” By saying, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delights in them.” Or by asking, “Where is the God of justice?” AND 1 Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

    19 For it is written,
    “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
    and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
    -David I’m not a member of FORSA or a follower of Andrew , but I’m a member of the body of Christ being a follower of Jesus Christ.I stand in agreement with those who follow Jesus Christ wholeheartedly. The Word of God already told us & still says , 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.(Ephesians 6:12-NIV).Chritians are not fighting aganist people who are practicing homosexuality, BUT aganist the spirit that empowers them to practice such.

  20. David- you misunderstand FORSA’s role & my intent. Our fight is not to cause discrimination against any part of society-including the homosexual part. In broad terms I stand for the fact that homosexuals should never be hated nor harmed. Surely Christians can have a moral stance which is distinct from the world, without harming those who’s actions they disagree with. Christians believe that lying, slander, envy, greed, premarital sex etc etc all are sinful- yet don’t harm anyone who does these things. Nor do we want to harm those who practice homosexuality. If a homosexual was hungry- we would lovingly feed him, if drowning- we would save him, if needing love & friendship-we would provide it. If sick- we would nurse him.
    Our quandary comes when we are required to do something which makes us ‘sin'(do something OURSELVES which we believe to be wrong). Christians will not be able to actively themselves sin against God. This is where we need to get rid of hyped emotions & inflammatory statements to wrestle with how we can best defend both groups rights within our constitutional democracy. These (Christian)wedding venues etc have a moral quandary- can they actively help someone to do something which is morally wrong for them? To illustrate with another analogy…Can I provide my car & time to drive my marijuana smoking neighbor to drive him to purchase his drugs? He may be a Rastafarian & believe that it is fine for him to smoke weed, but for the Christian with a different moral compass- While We are not to judge the world, we cannot sin along with it ourselves. If we helped him to do drugs- it would make us also guilty. I realize this analogy falls short, but in principle shows our difficulty. Today Christians are the most persecuted people on the planet & if we dont consider their quandary we will simply persecute them here too. Christians are having their heads lopped off with knives, their churches bombed & burned in various parts of the world today- yet they will not change their beliefs. Historically we have faced fines, banishment, torture & death- yet we have not changed. If someone doesn’t wake up to the fact before it’s too late that we are being asked to change our beliefs by activist groups & SAHRC/ GEC & that we cannot we will soon – we will simply see persecution of Christians begin in SA. You can’t change us. You must be prepared to persecute us off the planet to silence us. My question is- is this what you want to do? Will you feel you have won if christians are made destitute? Seperated from their families & put in jail? Hated by all because they cannot participate in what you want them too? This is the logical outcome of your mission. I ask- is this what you want?

    • Aandrew Selley, your arrogant drivel is an insult to those Christian fathers and mothers holding their behead children on their because of the intolerance I between religious people. That my friend is persecution.

      Asking people to treat other people with respect and dignity because of the inherent traits of who they are while still being able to exercise their faith, is not.

  21. David, thank you for your clear explanation. It is now obvious that the article is misleading and that some are trying to keep it that way. It must be said however that in spite of what each side claims, all parties here have lost. The Neetlings because they had to apologies for their actions (‘faith without actions is dead’). The gay couple and their followers because they think they have won.(all they have achieved is to singe their conscience further and bolster their ego making it increasingly difficult to find grace before they short life on this earth comes to an end). FOR SA and partners for deceiving the christian public to believe they are still OK in SA. The only winner here is the kingdom of God because this case will unlock a wave of persecution against Christians (which Jesus said was inevitable)forcing them to either side with this world or Himself. The latter is likely to result in lots of heartache but will guarantee revival. (Revival is always a net result of persecution) Separating the goats from the sheep is long overdue in SA so thank you all for getting this going. May God have mercy on us all.

    • Vernon- the neethlings did not Apologise for their actions. Read the agreement again…

      • I apologise for being so stupid but to me:
        “The guesthouse owners apologised for …as a result of the former’s conduct” reads just that. If this is not the case, please rewrite the article or direct me to a good school where I can redo my English classes; mine obviously did not do a good job.

        • Vernon, I must say I share your comprehension as well. I am simply not sure how FOR SA is coming to their conclusion based on their own article.

  22. Vernon-“The guesthouse owners apologised for the hurt, pain and suffering experienced by the homosexual couple”, not for their actions. David- persecution is persecution- be it to the death(which I believe the Neethlings would be prepared to endure for their beliefs) or jail- which they have said they will be prepared to suffer for their beliefs. Don’t triviliaze persecution- in any form.

    • Yes, Mr Selley, you keep yelling yourself that. I hope you never meet a person who suffered real persecution with that mentality. I have and let me tell you I have the humanity to never, ever belittle their suffering for their beliefs like you are doing.

      And you wonder why your type of Christianity is being dragged to courts all over the world.

  23. David- it is you who is trying to cause suffering. In the same way that christians are persecuted because what they believe does not fit with prevailing world views oversees- you are escalating persecution here in SA. We may only now be being harassed by you & your ilk, but because we will not bend to your world view or demands you will continue to attack us- until you finally win a court case against us. We will not be able to obey- so you will plead contempt of court. We will then be removed from our families & jailed- all because of what we believe. When that day comes to our nation it will be you who will be to blame. Remember that- & if you realize that things have gotten out of hand- turn to our saviour- He is kind & compassionate & offers mercy to all sinners( us included).

    • Andrew, I thought I should draw your attention to the fact that the Neethlings did not ‘die’ or ‘go to jail’. No sir. They mediated and compromised. If they were so sure of their position they would have wanted a vindication in court. Instead they apologised and gained some insight into the hurt they cause.

      • David, If you have their way they will go to jail. As will Matthew from Oakfield. The neethlings did not compromise 1 iota.

        • Andrew my friend, someone is deceiving the public and the Neetlings. Every action I have ever taken and ever will take, has a consequence. The two (action and consequence) are inseparable. If you do not believe me, ask someone in prison, they will explain. For me to apologise for the consequences of my actions, is to apologies for my actions.
          Jesus NEVER apologised for His actions nor its consequence. You don’t see Him paying any attention to the outrage of the Pharisees when He exposed their hypocrisy. He merely turned to His disciples and warned them of the consequences (that their hatred and pride will eventually kill Him and most of His followers). Jesus ignored their feelings in order to bring the truth.
          David, Jesus’ actions mentioned above was because the end of a matter is the most important. What the gay couple experienced is not suffering if you compare it to what is still to come. Being on fire for an eternity dwarfs having a door shut in your face. We pray that you and your friends (unlike the Pharisees) do not stay governed by your feelings but find the faith to allow the truth to set you free.

          • Vernon- I disagree. To tell someone that I am sorry that what I said hurt you is empathy. To say I am sorry I said something is compromise(in this case).

  24. Adv Nadene Badenhorst

    The facts of this case have been grossly misreported by various secular newspapers. FOR SA, who acted as First Amicus Curiae in the matter and was thus present in all the court and mediation proceedings, has today issued this Press Release in relation to the mediation proceedings and the further proceedings before the Equality Court yesterday. (The Press Release has also been distributed to secular newspapers who will hopefully correct any false and untruthful reporting with regard to the matter to date).