Turned away by Beloftebos: Sasha-Lee Heekes and Megan Watling on their engagement day
In a stunning development, the Christian lobby group defending Beloftebos has compared the same-sex couple turned away by the wedding venue to Hitler and Stalin.
The appalling accusation was made in an article written by Michael Swain, the Executive Director of FOR SA (Freedom of Religion South Africa), the conservative organisation that has represented Beloftebos since it was first accused of homophobia back in 2017.
In the post, Swain attempts to make the argument that the venue is the real victim in the matter and that by taking it to the Equality Court, Sasha-Lee Heekes and Megan Watling are trampling on the owner’s right to freedom and expression of religion.
“The sincerely held belief of the Beloftebos owners has been lambasted and ridiculed as outdated, bigoted and homophobic although all they are asking is that their rights and their human dignity be afforded equal respect and consideration,” writes Swain.
He goes on to warn that should the couple win their case against Beloftebos, “this will set a most dangerous precedent” and “will mean that anyone may be able to be forced to do or say anything which those who have the power want them to.”
Swain then asserts that “There is no greater abuse of human rights than this, whose end was horrifically demonstrated during the last century in Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Soviet Union and Mao’s China.”
Heekes and Watling expressed their disbelief and shock at Swain’s analogy in a statement to MambaOnline.
“We find it horrific that anyone could compare our fight against discrimination with the Holocaust which was as a result of discrimination,” the couple said. “Sasha-Lee had family who died in the Nazi death camps. No words can describe the opportunistic callousness of this unprovoked comparison.”
They added: “We will litigate this matter properly in court and not in public and these attacks just serve to highlight the need for the action that we are undertaking.”
Heekes and Watling approached Beloftebos in the Western Cape village of Stanford as a possible venue for their wedding after getting engaged in December. The owner, Coia de Villiers, told them that “based on our personal beliefs, we do not host weddings between couples of the same gender.”
The couple were referred to a media statement informing them that Beloftebos hosting their wedding could lead to “eternal consequences” for the owners. The venue previously rejected another same-sex couple in 2017.
Beloftebos’ Christian owners argue that their right to freedom of religion entitles them to refuse to offer services to same-sex couples. Legal and constitutional experts disagree and say that turning away members of groups protected by the Bill of Rights when providing a public service is both illegal and unconstitutional.
Heekes and Watling have launched a campaign called Same Love and have encouraged supporters to join them on their website and social media platforms on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.