Ecclesia de Lange
The Cape Town minister who was fired from the Methodist Church for being lesbian has been allowed to take her discrimination case further in the courts.
On Thursday, Ecclesia de Lange was given permission to appeal a previous ruling by Judge Veldhuizen in the Western Cape High Court which dismissed her case, ordered her to pay costs and told her to resume arbitration with the church.
De Lange had asked the court to order the church to reinstate her on the basis that she was discriminated against because of her sexual orientation, but the judge said in June that the application was premature and he chose not to address the merits of her complaint.
De Lange had argued that the court should rule on the matter as previous arbitration had failed. She has insisted that church’s arbitration mechanism was biased against her.
In his decision to grant the leave to appeal in her case, Judge Veldhuizen explained that he did so because of the nature of the matter and the fact that the case is an arguable one.
“The judge remarked that another court might come to a different decision and therefore the leave is granted,” commented De Lange’s spokesperson, Mike Luppnow.
He also noted that the judge further granted leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal.
The case could break new ground as it deals with complex issues of constitutional equality, labour law and freedom of religion. Some believe that the matter might ultimately only be resolved by the Constitutional Court.
“It has been more than three years since this journey started. It has been difficult, frustrating and financially and emotionally draining,” wrote De Lange on her Facebook page.
“I am delighted and encouraged by the leave of appeal granted in court yesterday and although we still have a long way to go, I am now filled with new hope and vigour to continue the journey,” she said.
De Lange was fired by the Methodist Church of South Africa (MCSA) in 2010 when she told her Brackenfell and Windsor Park congregation that she intended to marry her partner at the time.
In January 2010, a disciplinary hearing found De Lange guilty of “failing to observe the provisions of the Laws and Disciplines and all other policies, decisions, practices and usages of the Church…”
A month later, the MCSA’s Connexional Disciplinary Committee upheld the guilty verdict and sentenced De Lange to be “discontinued” from the ministry of the MCSA.