The Rev. Oscar Peter Bougardt

The hate speech case against a homophobic Western Cape pastor – who said that Archbishop Desmond Tutu would burn in hell for supporting gay equality – won’t be heard it court, at least for now.

On 23 April, Pastor Oscar Bougardt appeared before the Equality Court to face hate speech charges brought by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC).

The court, however, decided not to pursue the case against the pastor and instead referred the matter back to the SAHRC for mediation.

On Thursday, SAHRC spokesperson Isaac Mangena told Mambaonline that “the court has directed that the parties attempt mediation whereupon the SAHRC will provide the Court with a report.”

He explained that based on this report, “the Court will then determine the way forward.”

Pierre LeRoux-DuPisani, one of those who filed complaints with the SAHRC about the pastor, said that he hopes that the mediation process “will convince Pastor Bougardt from refraining from making comments on social media and during his sermons that constitute hate speech against the LGBTQ community.”

He insisted that, “There is a massive difference between freedom of speech and hate speech. Either directly or indirectly inciting violence against the LGBTQ community is unacceptable in our democracy.”

It remains to be seen if the cleric will agree to tone down his comments. Writing on Facebook ahead of his court appearance, Bougardt said: “If God says that homosexuality is an abomination and immoral, no court on earth can make it moral.

“SA Human Rights Commission and homosexuals are taking me to court… to try and stop me from preaching against the lifestyle of homosexuals. The Bible says you shall hear the truth cause it will set you free. I don’t care what they do, but they can never make moral what’s been declared immoral by God,” he said.

Bougardt, a pastor in Mitchells Plain, Cape Town, first launched his crusade against homosexuality in October 2011 by stating that Archbishop Desmond Tutu will burn in hell for supporting the LGBT community and claimed that most gays and lesbians are drug addicts and child molesters.

Since then he’s sent a string of provocative e-mails to gay groups and media, including Mambaonline, and stated that he supports the execution of homosexuals.

In an e-mail in September 2012, he wrote that gay people are “to blame for all sex attacks on children, because people who kill and molest children have a homosexual background.”

In February last year, he proclaimed on Facebook that Oscar Pistorius’ fall from grace for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp was because Pistorius had been cursed by God for having “supported the filthy lifestyle of homosexuals.”

He has justified his continued hateful comments on the basis of his right to freedom of religion, stating that he is “Biblically mandated to preach against the homosexual lifestyle.”

LeRoux-DuPisani acknowledged that the majority of Bougardt’s work in his community “is charitable and becoming of a spiritual and moral leader” but that he hopes that through the mediation “we can find some middle ground.”

The SAHRC was previously successful in securing a hate speech conviction against anti-gay journalist Jon Qwelane in 2011, but the ruling was overturned on a technicality. The case has dragged on since 2008 and is yet to be resolved by the courts.

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