When gay rights trump religious beliefs

David Bullard says that increasingly the boot of intolerance is on the other foot

When gay rights trump religious beliefs

Despite having been brought up in a churchgoing family I hold no strong religious convictions. To be honest I rather envy those who are believers because it must be rather comforting to have unquestioning faith. This doesn't mean that I'm a complete non believer.

I find trendy atheists, with their smug assurance that there can be no God, as unappealing as religious zealots. I have a feeling that they might be in for a nasty shock when they snuff it. So I'm just one of those confused souls who agree with Hamlet when he says that "there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy".

In a way I am rather pleased that I don't hold strong religious beliefs because it seems that gay rights now trump religious beliefs in South Africa. Has the world gone completely mad?

Last week newspapers reported the "plight" of a gay couple who had been snubbed by the wedding venue of their choice because of their sexuality. Forget the plight of families who can't put food on the table and forget the plight of the terminally sick who don't have access to medical care. Their problems are nothing compared with the plight of a gay couple who have been snubbed by a wedding venue. As far as human suffering is concerned hunger and sickness are mere inconveniences compared with the "plight" of such a snubbing. What a load of old cobblers.

So can we all agree that not being welcomed at a wedding venue is no more a plight than a barman refusing to serve David Bullard another large Lagavulin because he has become noisy and boisterous? Good. Moving on then.

Daan and Jeanette Morkel, the owners of the wedding venue in question (Diemerskraal estate near Wellington) explained that they "couldn't find it in their hearts" to allow a gay couple to get married on their property. That hardly sound like rampant homophobia to me. It sounds more like some genuine soul searching resulting in an expression of a religious belief all linked to that pesky Christianity thing. Well, we can't have that can we? How dare Christians search their hearts and come up with a view which contradicts the Equality Act?

So what happens now? Well the Morkels have been labelled homophobic by the usual bunch of appalling PC lefties and the aggrieved and opportunistic gays have laid a complaint with the Human Rights Commission and are considering civil action. Predictably, well known talking head Pierre De Vos has been trotted out to give his unbiased expert opinion and he has commented that the owner's right to reserve admission is not an absolute right. If there's a whiff of unfair discrimination then that right falls away.

Discrimination includes "race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth". It's easy to be wise after the event but perhaps the Morkels should have turned the gays away because they objected to the colour of their socks or because of the car they drove. That, at least, would escape the Equality Act trawl net and would have made for a much more interesting news story. "Gay couple snubbed by wedding venue because of Toyota Auris" would certainly persuade me to part with a few rand and buy a newspaper.

If the gay couple (and I refuse to give them the publicity they clearly crave by mentioning their names)win their case and the Human Rights Commission rule that Diemerskraal have to host their wedding I wonder whether they will go ahead with their plans.

I can't imagine why anybody would insist on getting married at a venue at which they were clearly not welcome. If I were gay I would simply look for another venue that welcomed gay weddings but I suspect that is just another example of deeply offensive heterosexual logic and probably in contravention of the Equality Act.

The fact that public money is wasted on a frivolous complaint like this is scandalous. The Human Rights Commission (HRC) is a popular first stop for people who can't afford lawyers and feel themselves slighted in some way. I am firmly of the belief that a R1000 fee should be paid by all complainants which would be refunded should the commission find in their favour. This would reduce the number of the cranky complaints and allow the HRC to get on with some real work. Snubbed gay men come way down my personal scale of Human Rights infringements. With any luck the HRC will tell the gays to get a life and spare the Morkels any further distress.

The most worrying thing about this farcical case though is the fact that the Equality Act, well meaning though it may be, tramples perfectly valid religious beliefs. I'm sure there are plenty of venues in the Western Cape that would be happy to host a gay wedding but if the owners of Diemerskraal cannot find it in their hearts to do so why should they be vilified and made to jump through legal hoops? The Equality Act invites us to see discrimination all around us. Most people are sensible enough not to bother and to get on with their daily lives but there will always be the few who seek their fifteen minutes of fame.


Business Day's "obergruppenführer", Peter Bruce, has announced that Business Day's digital offering is about to erect a paywall. It's something that should have been done long ago. There is bound to be resistance when you have been giving something away for free for years and then suddenly want to charge for it.

What is interesting though is Bruce's business model which, if it works, will send a message of hope to the rest or our ailing print media. Bruce proposes to charge exactly the same amount for the digital offering as he does for the print version of Business Day. He feels that those of us with iPads and Galaxies should subsidise those who haven't yet managed to make the transition from dead tree media to electronic. I Tweeted on Monday that this is not for me thanks.

If I can get the Daily Telegraph seven days a week for R130 per month why would I want to pay more than twice that for five days a week of Business Day? I also subscribe to Vanity Fair and The Spectator at a rate which comes in well below the print version and arrives on my iPad long before the print version would be available. But maybe I am alone in feeling that I am being ripped off if I am being charged the same for the digital BD as for the print version. Time will tell.

My other argument to Peter Bruce was that I, like many other readers, am only interested in a small percentage of the content of his publication. I have no interest in the minutiae of business reporting and I really don't see why I should pay for the anti white ramblings of the likes of Pallo Jordan. That means I may only want 10% of what BD has to offer on any given day.

Another misgiving is the fact that Business Day is on a perpetual cost cutting exercise. If I hand them a subscription now what guarantee do I have that the product won't shrink in the future? For example, I haven't seen Katy Chance's excellent weekly column for ages and, on enquiring, I was told that she had been the victim of the dreaded cost cutting scourge. Who's next I wonder?

Digital publishing is all about getting readers to visit your website. By putting up paywalls you take a gamble that previous visitors will become paying customers. That's a big gamble and if it fails the volume of traffic will fall precipitously and potentially your revenue from online advertising with it.

If the content is consistently excellent and has wide reader appeal then the chances of success are good. But if you are known to run a penny-pinching operation and make it obvious that you can't afford decent writers then the writing is on the wall.

Click here to sign up to receive our free daily headline email newsletter