In what may be another setback for “kill the gays” pastor Steve Anderson’s scheduled visit to South Africa, Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Njongonkulu Ndungane has made a call for all South Africans to support the drive to stop the controversial preacher from entering the country.
Anderson is known for being virulently homophobic – his comment about the Orlando Massacre (“The good news is that there’s 50 less paedophiles in this world”) caused particular outcry from LGBTI and human rights activists.
Ndungane made the call after Anderson posted a video online in which he referred to Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba as a “sodomite” and a “wicked sinner”.
On Monday September 5, the minister had met with representatives of LGBTI organisations who collected 60 000 signatures in support of blocking Anderson’s upcoming scheduled visit to South Africa.
In lending his support to this drive, Ndungane said: “South Africa is a society facing many challenges‚ including that of poverty. We don’t need to have a man such as Pastor Anderson stirring up conflict and division through hate speech. I therefore call on Minister Gigaba to deny him entry to the country.”
With Ndungane and Anderson representing opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to how religious communities view LGBTI people, the report Progressive Prudes, produced by The Other Foundation and the Human Sciences Research Council, found that “‘moderately religious’ South Africans are the most tolerant of gay and lesbian people – even when compared with the least religious”.
Unprecedented in depth and scale, the report, which looks into South Africans’ attitudes towards homosexuality and gender-nonconformity, saw more than 3 000 South Africans interviewed in their choice of eight of South Africa’s most widely spoken languages.
The reported noted: “Highly religious people most strongly agree that homosexuality is ‘wrong’ and ‘disgusting’ when compared with the general South African population. Moderately and highly religious people are also less likely than the general population to keep well away from gay and lesbian people, but report roughly the same levels of violence and abuse against non-conforming men and women.”
Commenting on these findings, the Other Foundation’s Neville Gabriel, said: “These findings are significant for two reasons. Firstly, LGBTI activists have historically viewed religious groups as the opposition. What we see with these findings is that there is a need to reframe how we engage with the religious community, especially because there are many religious people whose faith provides them with a strong sense of social justice.
“Secondly, fundamentalist positions of all sorts are what tend to get the most airtime. What these findings show is that the middle ground needs to become more articulate and engaged around issues, so that extremism does not dominate the dialogue.”
Carl Collison is the Other Foundation’s Rainbow fellow at the Mail & Guardian.