South African court says that religion is not a defence for homophobic hate speech

(Photo by RODGER BOSCH/AFP/GettyImages)

A South African court has ruled against a pastor who tried to justify anti-gay hate speech with his religious beliefs.

Prominent pastor Oscar Bougardt was recently found in contempt of court for making anti-gay comments on social media by South Africa’s Equality Court.

The South African Human Rights Commission began a complaint against the pastor in 2013 following a series of allegedly anti-gay comments he had made against lesbian and gay people on social media and via email.

South Africa Pride parade (Getty)

South Africa Pride parade (Getty)

Bougardt had originally reached a settlement with the Commission in 2014 and stated that he would stop making hateful comments about LGBT people.

However, according to News 24, the pastor continued, even at one point advocating for the criminalisation of homosexuality in South Africa, saying that the country should “deal with them like they do in Nigeria.”

The commission then brought the case to the Equality Court, claiming that the pastor’s comments were violating the South African Equality Act.

As well as making comments comparing LGBT people to paedophiles, Bougardt was also recorded as blaming recent droughts in Cape Town on “wickedness and homosexuality and church leaders who fail to preach the Bible and sodomite abomination.”

Couples march together as members of the South African Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) community take part in the annual Gay Pride Parade, as part of the three-day Durban Pride Festival, on June 24, 2017 in Durban. / AFP PHOTO / RAJESH JANTILAL (Photo credit should read RAJESH JANTILAL/AFP/Getty Images)

South Africa was one of the first countries to add LGBT rights to the constitution (RAJESH JANTILAL/AFP/Getty Images)

Writing on Twitter shortly before his appearance in court, Bougardt said that his “only crime was preaching the bible.”

However, Judge Lee Bozalek later ruled that even if his comments had a religious basis, they were clearly discriminatory and a violation of the earlier settlement.

The South African Human Rights Commission had requested that Bougardt spend a month in prison, and be fined half a million South African Rand, the equivalent of £26,000.

Oscar Bougardt, a pastor with the Cavalry Hope Ministries, had previously claimed on his Facebook page that disgraced Paralympian Oscar Pistorius was “cursed for openly supporting homosexuals.”

Oscar Pistorius enters court (Charlie Shoemaker/Getty Images)

Bougardt posted on Facebook in 2013: “I believe that Oscar Pistorius is cursed for openly supporting homosexuals. According to the Holy Word of God, homosexuality is an abomination to God, and any person who supports homosexuals are doomed for hell.”

He later removed the comments, but told the Cape Times: “I will continue to make statements until I die. Someone needs to speak out about their filthy lifestyles.”

“One of the reasons I removed it was because homosexuals have been harassing me, screaming at me and verbally abusing me,” he added. “It’s not because I’ve changed my stance on what I said. I feel it’s a truthful comment.”

A group of people from the gay, lesbian and transgender community in South Africa demonstrate outside the Parliament in Cape Town, on May 19, 2012. The protesters gathered to oppose the proposal by the House of Traditional Leaders to remove the term "sexual orientation" from section 9 (3) of the South African Constitution, which prohibits unfair discrimination. AFP PHOTO / RODGER BOSCH (Photo credit should read RODGER BOSCH/AFP/GettyImages)

LGBT rights protestors in Cape Town (RODGER BOSCH/AFP/GETTY)

While South Africa may have been one of the first countries in the world to introduce LGBT rights into its constitution, the nation holds a complicated relationship with its LGBT community.

In 2017, a surge of anti-LGBT violence shook the nation, with multiple brutal crimes being reported within a space of a few months.

While one couple were ‘abused and told to stay naked by police’ in a horrific viral video, a South African church has been accused of beating gay men half to death and forcing them to pay for ‘damages’ after they realised his sexuality.

And one of the most horrific hate crimes of all time saw married lesbian couple Joey and Anisha van Niekerk beaten, tortured, raped and then set alight, resulting in the loss of their lives in a devastating case that has shaken the country.