I just want my gay union blessed by the church I grew up in
Groups on either side of NGK's homosexual marriage row wield their scriptural interpretation as a weapon
A case founded in religion but pitting two groups on opposite sides in its interpretation, will pray for Solomon’s wisdom when they square off in the Pretoria High Court on August 21.
Laurie Gaum, his father, well-known cleric Frits Gaum, Judith Kotze and Michelle Boonzaaier have launched a court challenge against the Dutch Reformed Church’s 2016 decision to rescind an earlier order that allowed church pastors to marry homosexuals in the church and the church’s gay and lesbian pastors to be in sexual relationships. The original order was made in 2015.
Laurie Gaum, an ordained minister in the Dutch Reformed Church and the main applicant in a court battle against the church, said the reversal of the 2015 decision was “procedurally flawed”.
Laurie has the support of his father, Frits, who served in the senior leadership of the church, as moderator of the Western and Southern Cape Synod, as the secretary of the General Synod of the Church, and as editor of publications such as Kerkbode and Lig.In the latest development, the Commission for Gender Equality and a newly formed organisation, the Alliance Defending the Autonomy of Churches in South Africa (ADACSA ), made an application to join the matter as Amicus Curiae (friend of the court).
ADACSA chairperson Reverend Moss Ntlha told Times Select the organisation consisted of various Christian groups, including the Evangelical Alliance of South Africa, and African independent churches.
ADACSA had been formed for one purpose – to defend the rights of the country’s Christian community and the Christian faith as they understood it.
“This legal challenge is about whether one constitutional right superseded another, with a particular group of people arguing for their own human rights, set against the church’s community rights.”
Ntlha said the Gender Equality Commission, which has also entered the fray as a friend of the court, along with the four church members, wanted the court to decide that no church or religious group had the right to not grant the lesbian and gay community recognition and that the community’s rights were enshrined in and settled by the constitution.“We contest this by saying a proper reading of the Constitution doesn’t lead to this conclusion, because the right to the freedom of religion allows for religious communities to decide what they do and do not recognise.”
He said that since the 1990s and the Constitution’s inauguration, the different ways in which the Constitution was interpreted had been contested, “but always in an ad hoc manner”.
Ntlha said their belief was that since the Constitution’s inauguration there was always going to be a contest between individual and community rights.
“We however believe the courts do not have the competency to make decisions on those contests, especially religious community rights, because presiding officers are not necessarily schooled in religious issues.
“We therefore say the state, whose task is to regulate society, is not the best adjudicator of the Christian belief or any other religious belief. The reason we have religious freedom is to guarantee that religions are not defined by the state.”Laurie said he would wait for the court to officially accept ADACSA’s application before weighing in on the merits and validity of their argument.
“I’ve just wondered where they are from because I’ve never heard of them. I don’t know if they’ve been quickly manufactured for the sake of this case,” Gaum said.
Refusing to back down or leave the church, Laurie said it was now a matter of principal which had to be pursued “for the sake of justice”.
They were “elated” by the 2015 decision, which Laurie said would have placed the church at the forefront of debates around homosexuality and the church. He was “disappointed” when the decision was reversed months later.Laurie added that the notion that homosexual members should just leave the church in search of another where they would be accepted would be like asking someone “to discriminate against yourself”.
Having grown up in the church, Gaum said he was only able to integrate his sexuality with his religion later on in life after “coming out”.
“You want your relationship to be blessed by the church. Now people must exclude themselves from a space they grew up in. Each member should have the same access to have their relationship blessed. With this case, the court will assist to hold the church to its own rules,” Gaum said.