By Adv Nadene Badenhorst, FOR SA Legal Counsel
The unfair discrimination case instituted against Beloftebos wedding venue by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has intensified after another same-sex couple filed legal papers against Beloftebos, seeking R2 million in damages for the impairment of their dignity and pain and suffering.
In their application, Sasha-Lee Heekes and Megan Watling are asking the Court for permission to join the case against Beloftebos and to find that the venue unfairly discriminated against them when it indicated that it does not host same-sex weddings at the venue. Importantly, they are also asking the Court for a broad order, declaring that “the expression of religious beliefs as a basis on which to refuse to associate with or conduct business with a same-sex couple, constitutes hate speech and/or discrimination” in terms of the Equality Act. If the Court were to make such an order, it would clearly have broad implications – not only for Beloftebos, but for any business, organisation or even a private individual!
In the meanwhile, Beloftebos is still waiting on the SAHRC, the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) and the Minister of Justice, to deliver their response to Beloftebos’ papers which they received May 18th. According to the SAHRC, the reason for their delay is the Commission’s “need to meet with the Minister’s legal team to strategise on our approach”.
Beloftebos’ attorneys have written to the SAHRC to express their “astonishment” at the SAHRC’s express admission in this regard – not only because the SAHRC and the Minister are (supposed to be) independent parties to the dispute, but also because the SAHRC is an independent Chapter 9 institution mandated to protect all citizens against abuse, including abuse by other organs / persons of State. However, it is clear from the SAHRC’s response that it is in fact “strategising” with the Minister against the very citizens the Commission is supposed to protect! This caucusing only serves as confirmation of the unfairness with which the SAHRC has been treating Beloftebos to date.
Beloftebos is currently preparing its response to the ‘new case’ opened up against them, which is over 250+ pages long. The negative impact – should the Court decide against the venue and grant the massive damages claim against Beloftebos – has increased exponentially. Not only would they be forced to act against their conscience and religious beliefs (or effectively close their wedding business), but they would be penalised R2 million for acting on their sincerely held convictions! This would have a devastating financial impact not only on their business – but on them personally, their families, their staff and the many people in the local Stanford community who benefit from the business generated by the Beloftebos wedding venue. It would also set an equally devastating financial precedent for other businesses owners or service providers who – because of their religious convictions and beliefs – do not believe they should be compelled to take on certain work.
For this reason, your financial contribution to Beloftebos’ case is more critical than ever! While the legal team is working at reduced rates, the anticipated time (and therefore, costs) to be expended on this matter has – as a result of the ‘new case’ – effectively doubled. Any contribution – big, or small – will make a difference!
To hear Beloftebos’ position from Andries and Coia de Villiers (the owners) as well as the details of how to make a financial contribution, watch, like and share this video – https://forsa.org.za/beloftebos-its-about-freedom/
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