Opinion: Confronting Queerphobia and Religious Intolerance at North West University


Christian law student Shaun Christie claims he’s being victimised for expressing his anti-LGBTQIA+ religious intolerance

A recent incident on the Potchefstroom campus of North West University (NWU) highlighted the tension between free expression and respect for diversity. The interruption of a session on inclusivity, led by final-year law student Shaun Christie, has sparked a debate about the limits of free speech and the prevalence of queerphobia and religious intolerance in society. Tiaan Kleinhans, an NWU alumnus and an LGBTQI+ Christian, addresses Christie’s misinformation and claims.

On Tuesday 6 February 2024, final-year law student, Shaun Christie, decided to target an orientation session for first-year students in the NWU Potchefstroom campus amphitheatre that was focused on inclusivity. The session tackled sensitive issues like racism, homophobia, and inclusivity of disabled people on campus – even addressing important environmental issues.

Christie, who had no place being at the session as he is not a first-year or student leader, rudely interrupted the LGBTQI+ speaker at the session. He claimed that while he was not allowed to speak about Jesus on Campus, “this nonsense” was allowed. He also asserted that students were being forced to attend the information session. Some applauded but the majority sat in disbelief while he uttered words like: “We do not have to listen to this shit.”

The NWU took swift action and decided to temporarily suspend Christie from campus pending an official investigation. He then took to social media to inform the NWU community (“and South Africa”) that he had joined hands with Afrikaner rights NGO AfriForum to fight for his return to campus, claiming that his rights are being suppressed.

The Right to Religious Expression as an Excuse to Discriminate

Christie’s actions reveal a troubling mindset that undermines mutual respect and understanding. His disruption saw him take away the time and platform intended for minority groups while perpetuating harmful stereotypes and misinformation. Christie’s disruption is rooted in a deeper issue: the intersection of religious freedom and LGBTQI+ rights, and how the right to religious expression is abused as an excuse to discriminate and dehumanise.

Christie’s assertion of his right to freedom of speech and expression must be viewed in light of his actions. While free speech is a fundamental right, it is not absolute and must not violate the rights and dignity of others. Christie failed to recognise the importance of creating a safe and respectful environment for all students, regardless of their identities.

Christie’s actions, including his social media statements and affiliation with organisations such as AfriForum, highlight the broader societal challenges of combating queerphobia and religious intolerance. As the dust settles on the disruptive incident, the aftermath reveals disturbing truths about the prevalence of extremism, hatred, and discrimination in certain sectors of society. The online commentary on the incident reveals a stark contrast of perspectives.

Endangering the Safety and Well-being of LGBTQI+ Students

Individuals who disagree with Christie’s actions point out his factual inaccuracies and misguided assertions. They highlight mutual respect and understanding, refuting Christie’s claims about religious restrictions and mandatory orientation sessions on campus. Their words echo those of many students who believe in the fundamental principles of equality and inclusion.

On the other end of the spectrum, a disturbingly vocal minority emerges, pushing extreme and hateful ideologies in support of Christie. These individuals, fuelled by their homophobia and religious devotion, launch ferocious and dehumanising rhetoric against the LGBTQI+ community. Their toxic and antagonistic remarks not only expose their own bigotry, but also endanger the safety and well-being of LGBTQI+ students on campus.

Amidst this tense landscape, a third group emerges; those individuals who support Christie’s defence of his Christian beliefs and belong to a particular church community known as CRC (Christian Revival Church), which appears to be Christie’s own church.

This raises concerns about the role of organised religion in perpetuating discrimination and intolerance, particularly against marginalised groups such as the LGBTQI+ community. In addition, the revelation of CRC’s widespread presence on campus, combined with their inflammatory rhetoric and calls to “violently take territory for the Kingdom of God,” paints a troubling picture of dangerous religious extremism masquerading as righteous activism.

Given all of this, it seems obvious that information sessions for students on inclusivity and mutual understanding are not only vital but also beneficial. They provide an important platform for developing empathy, challenging prejudice, and promoting acceptance within the university community. Additionally, they emphasise the critical need for increased awareness and support for LGBTQI+ people, who continue to face discrimination and marginalisation in both religious and non-religious settings.

Christie’s False Claims Debunked 

From the evidence I have gathered, it is clear that Christie is spreading malicious lies to support and motivate his attack on the LGBTQI+ community. He stated that his actions were warranted because 1) religion and talking about God are not allowed on the NWU Potchefstroom Campus, 2) the first-year students were forced to sit through the session, and 3) it is his fundamental right to freedom of speech.

In a video that I created, I debunked these rumours – with evidence of course.

1) I gathered footage from various religious activities over the past three years that were all held on campus. Revival concerts in the amphitheatre, praise and worship sessions, prayer meetings in hostels, in front of the main building, in lecture halls, and even baptisms in the fountain in front of the main building. Just last year, Christie and his church actively participated in the NWU Open Day – spreading the gospel and inviting attendees to join their church. How is talking to God then not allowed on campus?

2) No one was forced to be at any of the sessions – except those of an academic nature. In the 2024 Orientation booklet, it states that ONLY THE ACADEMIC SESSIONS ARE COMPULSORY. The NWU administration also addressed this issue in their replies to the media.

3) Unfortunately, his right to freedom of speech ends where the rights of others are infringed upon. His beliefs do not carry more weight than the rights of a community.

Forgiveness But Consequences

The NWU administration must continue its thorough investigation into the incident and take appropriate disciplinary action based on the outcome. This will show that disruptive and discriminatory behaviour will not be tolerated in the university environment.

Furthermore, the administration must reaffirm its commitment to creating an inclusive and respectful campus environment in which all students feel safe and supported.

While Christie’s actions are unacceptable, it is also critical to recognise everyone’s humanity and attempt to address the underlying causes of this behaviour. By encouraging empathy and forgiveness, we can begin to heal the wounds left by this incident and move forward as a stronger, more inclusive community.

Looking ahead, the NWU has the potential to emerge from this incident as a leader in promoting diversity, equality, and social justice. But while we should forgive, there should also be consequences.

  • A petition has been set up calling for Christie’s expulsion.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by The Truth Network SA (@truthnetworksa)

Get the Mamba Newsletter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Send this to a friend