SA's banned him, but gay-bashing US pastor still plans to open church here
Despite a drugs-and-hookers scandal at his home church, he's found a like-minded SA cleric to spread his message
US Pastor Steven Anderson may have been barred from entering SA for advocating the murder of homosexuals, but plans to open a branch of his controversial church locally seem to be well underway.
“We preach a gospel of love, but if we are disobedient we shall face the wrath of God. Homosexuals interpret this as hate speech because we don’t agree with their lifestyle, they want us to solemnise their marriages ... I don’t associate myself with any homosexuals; we don’t bother them but they bother me,” said Oscar Bougardt, a local pastor with links to Anderson.
He told Times Select on Monday he “was busy” with opening a branch of Anderson's church in SA but declined to expand, saying only he wished to “keep his cards close to his chest”. But, he added, an announcement would be made in the next few months. In October 2018, an image surfaced on social media of Bougardt – an equally contentious SA pastor – and Anderson at the Marching to Zion religious conference in Atlanta.
Bougardt said even though Anderson had been banned from entering SA, it was not necessary for him to be here in person for his teachings to be disseminated.
He also criticised a ruling by the High Court in the Western Cape in 2018 that he should end his association with Anderson.
“The court can’t tell me who I can and who I cannot associate with. They have judged him before he was even allowed to preach here,” said Bougardt.
He insisted he had been targeted with threats and abuse by the gay community – whom he said the Bible labelled as “abominations” – and regardless of high court and Equality Court rulings against him, he would continue to “preach the truth of the Bible”.
Anderson has himself had to deal with problems in his home country recently, where he had to accept the resignation of one of his top associates, Donnie Romero, after Romero admitted to having association with marijuana, gambling and prostitutes.
Romero – who also publicly stated his joy after the Pulse nightclub tragedy – made a YouTube video on January 2 in which he announced he was stepping down as the pastor of the Stedfast Baptist Church. In a quivering voice, he said: “I haven’t been ruling my house well. I’ve been a terrible husband and father. I’m the one at fault in this situation. My wife and my kids, they are not to blame. I love Stedfast Baptist Church, love my family. This is the best decision for my family and this church to make.
“I went to Jacksonville, and I went to a casino, and I was drinking, and there were girls there that were prostitutes, and I committed adultery on my wife multiple times. I drank and gambled multiple times. And I even smoked weed.
“I did sins that – I went back to sins that I have committed before in the past, and it even caused me to commit sins that I had never done before. You know, I really shattered our life, my wife’s life, my kids.”
Bougardt was quick to defend Romero: “The Bible teaches us that we are all sinners ... we all make mistakes. Brother Romero has resigned ... He has resigned and he didn’t hide it from anyone.”
Anderson became infamous online in 2016, when, less than a day after the Pulse nightclub massacre in Florida in which dozens of LGBTQI people were gunned down, he posted on social media: “The good news is that there’s 50 less paedophiles in this world, because, you know, these homosexuals are a bunch of disgusting perverts and paedophiles.” It was just one of his posts on Facebook, alongside videos of his sermons, where he actively called for homosexuals to be “executed”.
In same year, Anderson made it known he wanted to visit SA to grow the congregation of his Baptist church. This sparked a backlash from gay rights groups, which asked the department of home affairs to bar Anderson’s entry into the country.
A petition against Anderson by GaySA Radio garnered tens of thousands of signatures, with the department eventually agreeing to deny the pastor access to the country and then home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba admitting he would have been unaware of the pastor’s campaign without the help of activists. The department said it could not grant access to anyone or any organisation that promoted hate speech.
In 2018, Bougardt was found in contempt of court after ignoring an order barring him from making anti-gay slurs. The Equality Court in Cape Town ruled that he had made comments that advocated hatred and were clearly discriminatory. According to the South African Human Rights Commission, Bougardt had insisted that the drought in the province be blamed on “wickedness and homosexuality and church leaders who fail to preach the Bible and sodomite abomination”.
“Why should we be tolerant of their criminal lifestyle? Ninety-nine percent of paedophiles stem from homosexuality.
“I'm saying so because it is proven that 99% of the paedophiles have a homosexual background. They are blaming their previous lifestyle on what happened. Go and read up on it,” he said.
The Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Cultural and Religious rights drafted a code of conduct in 2018 for religious leaders and said a national summit would be held the following year to find ways to hold SA pastors accountable.