The years-long Equality Court matter against gay hate pastor Oscar Bougardt has become a travesty and illustrates the deep deficiencies of the Equality Court system.
More than two and half months after being found in contempt of court, there is still no sign of Bougardt’s apology as mandated by the court and he has continued to attack the LGBTQ community on an almost daily basis.
The preacher has twice been taken to the courts for his anti-LGBTQ statements by the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC). Most recently, on 18 May, Bougardt was found guilty by Judge Lee Bozalek in the Western Cape High Court (sitting as the Equality Court) of hate speech and for flouting a 2014 court settlement in which he promised to stop his discriminatory statements on social media and on other platforms.
The judge found that Bougardt’s statements were indeed “discriminatory” and “[incited] hatred or harm on the grounds of sexual orientation”. He ordered Bougardt – who had called for the execution of gay people – to “draft an apology for his statements and submit this to the scrutiny of the complainants for appropriate publication.” He further sentenced the pastor to prison for a period of thirty days, suspended for five years on condition that he does not again violate the court order.
Bozalek said in the ruling that he was encouraged by Bougardt’s commitment “to steer clear of online platforms where in the past he has published his discriminatory and provocative statements.”
Since then, Bougardt has made a mockery of this commitment and the court itself by continuing to write and share a host of anti-LGBTQ comments, posts, images and articles. Mambaonline has emailed more than 30 screengrabs of these posts to the SAHRC.
In the posts he has obsessively attacked same-sex marriage, made comments like, “straight is normal”, said that homosexuals have a “sinful lifestyle”, stated that any sex other than man or woman is “borne out of man’s wicked desire” and insisted that “we are not born homosexual.”
In turn, every post attracts a plethora of comments in agreement with his bigoted views (and sometimes expressing even more extreme thoughts), ensuring that Bougardt inflames the hate and spreads it further.
The SAHRC said it is still consulting counsel as to whether his posts contravene “the contempt of court order or whether these comments fall within his right to freedom of speech.” The matter in the meantime drags on, month after month. (Another Equality Court gay hate speech case, concerning former journalist Jon Qwelane, has limped along for a decade, and still remains undecided.) A system that is meant to provide simple access to constitutional redress is not working as it should.
As for Bougardt’s apology, Mambaonline was told by the SAHRC on Tuesday “that a letter of apology has been received [from Bougardt] however the Commission is currently engaging on the contents thereof.” (In other words, it is negotiating with Bougardt to come to an acceptable wording.)
It may be debatable if Bougardt has strictly propagated hate speech in his recent statements and posts. While he might not have technically violated the terms of the court ruling (although this remains to be tested), there is no doubt that he has trampled on, spat at and urinated on its spirit and intent.
Bougardt is unrepentant. He’s made it clear that he believes that the court’s decision is not legitimate and any effort he makes to comply with it is being done so grudgingly and to avoid staying out of jail. The situation had turned the case, the court ruling and the pending apology into an absurd farce. He has made a mockery of the court and the Equality Act.
Frankly, Pastor Bougardt, at this point we don’t want your laughable apology. Whatever it may contain, whatever it may say, we will all know it will be insincere, hollow and contemptuous of our community and the court. Take your false apology and stuff it.