The Dutch Reformed Church, also known as the NG Kerk, has been ordered by the High Court of Pretoria to stop its discriminatory policy against the queer clergy and the solemnising of same-sex unions.
In what’s been called a stunning ruling, the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC) has been ordered to end its November 2016 policy that reversed a landmark October 2015 decision to let individual church councils recognise and bless same-sex relationships and to allow non-celibate gay clergy.
According to News24, the court found that it was unfair to exclude members of the church, on the basis of their sexual orientation, from the full and equal enjoyment of all rights and freedoms that the church offered. Most significantly, asserting that the church’s discrimination against queer people is
“In this matter, the question to be answered is, did the LGBTIQA+ community suffer inequality in the pre-constitutional South Africa and still today? The answer is an overwhelming yes,” the court said.
The decision is said to have major consequences for churches that continue to exclude and reject sexual and gender minorities.
Judges Sulette Potterill, Joseph Raulinga and Daisy Molefe found that the DRC’s 2016 decision inherently diminished the applicants’ dignity “because same-sex relationships are tainted as being unworthy of mainstream church ceremonies and persons in same-sex relationships cannot be a minister of the church”.
Eleven members of the church, including the Rev Laurie Gaum, took the matter to court.
“We had a good day in court and justice has been done,” an elated Gaum told the online outlet, MambaOnline.
“Our request on constitutional grounds has also been granted which has implications for all other denominations and religions, so it’s quite amazing”.
The DRC had argued that as a religious institution it is protected by religious freedom and had admitted its policy was discriminatory, but claimed it was not unfairly so.
“It’s tragic,” said Gaum. “You know, the best of religion is supposed to not discriminate, especially in the Christian gospel. Non-discrimination is supposed to be one of the central tenets but, of course, it depends from what angle you’re looking at it”.