Image source: Creare Training Centre prospectus

LGBT rights groups are outraged that a Christian-based arts and drama academy in Bloemfontein will not allow gay students to enrol unless they let themselves be “cured”.

The Creare Training Centre’s 2013 prospectus states that gay students who refuse to “change” will not be allowed to continue to study.

Under “Practical Rules for Fulltime Students,” in a section titled “Relational Etiquette,” the prospectus states that the institution believes in the principle of sexual orientation being founded “on that of heterosexuality”.

It goes on to say: “Therefore any person wanting to pursue a lifestyle contrary and is not willing to be disciplined in this regard, will not be permitted to continue further studies or lectures. We offer ministry to help people that want to change their sexual orientation A.E Homosexuality & Lesbianism to heterosexuality.”

The training centre’s founder, Pastor Cornelis van Heyningen, told the Sunday Times, however, that the centre, which is administrated by Our Father’s Home Church, would not bar gay students from enrolling.

“We are catering to those who say ‘I want to change as a homosexual’. That’s not saying no homosexuals are allowed,” he insisted.

Heyningen did not clarify the contradictions between his statement and the prospectus but explained that because Creare is an arts institution it attracts “a lot of homosexuals”.

He added that “if you want to change, then this place is for you where you can change. It’s like rehabilitation for drugs”.

A somewhat confusing disclaimer on the Creare Training Centre’s website states that while it is Christian based, “people of all races, sexes, nationalities and cultures are encouraged to attend courses, training conferences and other programs run by the center.

“Although Creare Training Centre requires students who are part of the Full-Time Discipleship program to be Christian, Creare Training Centre does not discourage, discriminate against or segregate anyone who believes otherwise from attending classes at Creare Training Centre but respects them as people.”

LGBT rights activists and the spokesperson for the SA Human Rights Commission, Isaac Mangena, pointed out that barring gay and lesbian students from the academy is illegal and unconstitutional.

Internationally acclaimed human rights defender Zackie Achmat told the newspaper that “institutions that provide a public service cannot exclude people on the basis of sexual orientation… it’s unlawful under the constitution”.

Constitutional rights expert Pierre de Vos concurred, noting that the academy’s policy also violated the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act.

He added that it was also “hurtful,” attacked the human dignity of gays and lesbians and was “ethically obnoxious”.

Speaking to Mambaonline, the SAHRC’s Mangena confirmed that “there is a complaint that has been lodged with us [about the training centre]. And we will be looking into it”.

While the centre’s barring of gay students is illegal under South African law, offering so-called “cures” for homosexuality is not.

The idea that homosexuality can be “cured” has been rejected by most mainstream scientific and medical organisations around the world, including the Psychological Society of South Africa, the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association.

These organisations have also warned that attempts to alter people’s sexual orientation may actually cause them harm.

In October, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law that made the state the first in the US to ban ‘therapy’ aimed at changing the sexuality of gays and lesbians under the age of 18.

The law, which was set to go into effect on 1 January, has since been put on hold while the courts decide if it infringes the constitutional rights of Californians.

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