A same-sex married couple have expressed their anger at the apparent reluctance of a Durban-based Christian school to accept their children.
Two weeks ago, Karin Prinsloo and Grazjyna Engelbrecht-Prinsloo, who were looking for a school for their two-year-olds, sent an email to Kainon School in Westville inquiring about its views on same-sex marriages.
"We are in the process of investigating schools and, even though we are Christians, I don't want my children to be discriminated against due to our different family," wrote Prinsloo.
In an emailed response sent to the couple this week, Justina Wasserman, the school's public relations officer, stated that the school felt that "it would not be good to have a child in an environment where his or her beliefs do not accord with the beliefs of the school and church".
"A fundamental principle of our school and Church is the importance of marriage, which we recognise as being between one man and one woman. We wish your children every success and hope you find a school best suited to your situation."
Prinsloo-Engelbrecht (31) said she felt the comments were discriminatory. "When they say that it is not in our children's best interests to attend the school, it makes me wonder what they are teaching at the school. Do they tell the kids being gay or being different is wrong?
"We are not in a 'situation', we are a loving, happy family."
Prinsloo (41) said she felt equally upset. "The school doesn't allow for our Constitution and for acceptance of the fact that there are many different interpretations of the word of God, especially if you start studying the phrases in the Bible regarding homosexuality in the original Hebrew. Does it also discriminate against single-parent families or divorced families?" she asked.
No formal application
However, the headmistress of the school's primary section, Jane Edmunds, said that although it belonged to the New Church, its student population was diverse, "40% black and includes children from families of other faiths, such as Hindus, as well as non-Christians.
"These families accept that the ethos and teachings of the school will be based on the Christian principles of the New Church," she stated in an email interview with the Mail & Guardian.
Edmunds pointed out that the school had not received a formal application from the couple and was responding to a query about the suitability of Kainon for the children as well as the school's views on same-sex marriages. "The school explained that [its] fundamental principle was the importance of marriage as a holy union between one man and one woman and that this principle permeated the daily Christian teaching in the school," she said. "Approaching it from the view that it would not be in any child's best interests to receive conflicting and confusing views between home and school, we suggested that Kainon would not be a good fit for their children."
Dr Jane Hofmeyr, the executive director of the Independent Schools Association of South Africa (Isasa), a membership-based association of independent schools of which Kainon is a member, said that cases like this were "complex".
"Isasa supports the values and principles of the South African Constitution and Bill of Rights and enjoins its member schools to do so. However, cases like this are complex because they involve competing rights," she said. "Whilst the Constitution recognises the freedom of sexual orientation, it also upholds the rights of freedom of religion and association, which allow Kainon Primary School and its mother church to follow their own faith and for the school to align its admission policy with this."
Hofmeyr said that, according to the Bill of Rights, in "every matter affecting a child, the best interests of the child are paramount".
"This is the overriding consideration on which the school based its reply. Isasa believes that the interests of the child are best served when there is a close fit between school, child and home. At no stage did Kainon receive an application for admission from the couple and turn it down. Enrolment reflects diversity of race, religion and culture."
Meanwhile, Hope Mokgatlhe, the spokesperson for Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, said that it would be unacceptable for any school not to grant children admission on the basis that their parents were a same-sex couple.