/ 23 September 2016

‘Kill the gays’ pastor Steven Anderson faces backlash from LGBTI activists

Steven Anderson responded to the ban in a Facebook post
Muscle memory: Raisibe Ntozakhe has spent the past few months training on her own to earn back her place in the Proteas Women. (Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images)

LGBTI (lesbian, bay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex) and human rights activists have vowed to continue putting pressure on “kill the gays” pastor Steven Anderson and his United States-based church.

A New York-based organisation, All Out, says it will “apply pressure on Anderson and others like him”. “The truth is that his odious views are rejected by the vast majority of Americans,” said Matt Beard, the organisation’s executive director.

This follows Tuesday’s announcement that the Botswana government had deported Anderson after he had made inflammatory comments during a radio debate in that country, referring to an LGBTI activist as “a paedophile and a liar”. The pastor was in Botswana to establish a branch of his Faithful Word Baptist Church.

A week before that, South Africa’s home affairs minister, Malusi Gigaba, made it clear that Anderson and his followers were not welcome in the country and barred them.

Reverend Thabo Mampane, who participated in the debate on Botswana radio station Gabz FM, described it as “very, very tense”.

“It was like being in a physical fight,” said Mampane, a member of the Botswana Council of Churches. “At one point, Anderson pushed his finger against my forehead and called me a fake pastor.”

Things escalated quickly, with Anderson attacking fellow debater Caine Youngman, the advocacy officer of Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana.

“He has sex with little boys and strangers — and, if you have not done it yet, you will do it in future,” Anderson told Youngman.

He also reiterated his belief that the Botswana government should kill all homosexuals, declared his support for slavery and referred to Botswana’s pastors as “a bunch of sissies” for not preaching against the country’s ills — the biggest of which, he felt, was alcoholism.

In an interview with Reuters, Botswana President Ian Khama confirmed that he had ordered Anderson’s deportation. “I said they should pick him up and show him out of the country,” Khama said.

Ironically, homosexuality is criminalised in the country.

Beard said that, following South Africa and Botswana’s clear stance “that they will not tolerate the abuse and intimidation of their LGBT citizens”, the hope is that other African governments will “take a stand against the import of hatred and violence from the United States or anywhere else”.

He added that he hoped other countries would convey the same message — “that someone who openly calls for and celebrates the deaths of LGBT people is not welcome.”

Mampane described the incident where he was poked on the forehead by Anderson in the studio as “an insult to God”. “We do not need these kinds of churches in our country,” he said, adding that he intended approaching the country’s ministry of labour and home affairs and other church bodies to try to avoid a similar situation in future.

Commenting on Khama’s decision, Hendrik Baird, who spearheaded the South African lobby against Anderson, said: “Africa has now stood up for what’s right.”

Anderson’s deportation follows allegations that he had assaulted a 59-year-old Botswana national, Tony Benn. In a report on Mamba–Online, Anderson “became angry and demanded to know if Benn is a homosexual or a Christian” after Benn attended Anderson’s church and questioned him about his controversial views.

“I made the big mistake of saying I’m not a heterosexual and I’m not a homosexual, which made him really wild. In the end I told him I am asexual and felt that it was quite rude of him to ask an old man in public about his sexual preference,” Benn said.

“I was pushed across the car park forcefully [by two men]. After being pushed outside, I argued with [Anderson], saying that probably [the disciple] Paul and Jesus were asexual, so what’s the big deal and why does he consider it to be a perversion? He accused me of having Aids and said I had an Aids-filled mouth.”

In a video posted on his YouTube account, Anderson referred to Benn as an “old homo”. Benn said he would lay a charge of assault against Anderson.

South Africa and Botswana aren’t the only countries that have red-flagged Anderson.

He had to fly back to the US on his way to South Africa after he was banned from entering the United Kingdom. Both the Metro and the Mirror last week quoted a British home office spokesperson as saying that visiting the United Kingdom was a “privilege that we refuse to extend to those who seek to subvert our shared values”.

“The home secretary has the power to exclude an individual if she considers that his or her presence in the UK is not conducive to the public good or if their exclusion is justified on public policy grounds,” he added.

Jide Maccauley, the founder of the London-based interfaith LGBTI organisation House of Rainbow Fellowship, said the organisation would continue “mapping any further intention of Anderson to visit other countries and, where we have the opportunity, we will stand in solidarity with LGBTIQ communities to have him banned”.

Carl Collison is the Other Foundation’s Rainbow Fellow at the Mail & Guardian.