Gay minister free to marry partner, SCA hears

Bloemfontein - A Methodist Church minister was free to exercise her constitutional right to marry her same-sex partner, given the absence of a clear doctrine on the matter, the Supreme Court of Appeal heard on Tuesday.

"She was entitled to do that," argued Anna-Marie de Vos, for former Methodist minister Ecclesia de Lange.

De Lange was appealing against a high court ruling that she had to take her case against being fired by the church to arbitration, before approaching the high court.

De Lange was charged by the church for proceeding with a same-sex civil union, against its rules and policies.

She submitted that she had not breached the church's policies.

The church contended that such a rule was in place.

The church's disciplinary committee found she was guilty of failing to observe the rules and policies and recommended she be suspended. An internal appeal was unsuccessful and it was decided that she be sacked from the Methodist ministry.

De Lange launched an arbitration process, in terms of the church's disciplinary procedure. Before this process began she filed an application for a review in the high court of the church's decision to fire her.

The high court concluded the application was premature and that De Lange should first seek arbitration.

The appeal in the SCA was against these conclusions.

De Vos argued De Lange turned to the high court because she lost confidence in the arbitration process.

‘Grossly unfair’

De Lange, in papers, submitted it would be grossly unfair to take part in an arbitration process that would be unfair and serve no purpose. She argued there was a "reasonable apprehension" the appointed arbitrator would be biased towards her.

De Lange wanted the SCA to set aside the decision to fire her as minister, because it constituted discrimination based on her sexual orientation.

Wim Trengove, for the Methodist Church, argued the sole question was whether she acted contrary to church policy.

He argued that De Lange's founding affidavit in the high court did not set out facts for a discrimination case.

Trengove argued only an arbitrator could decide on the merits of De Lange's case. This would prevent the court becoming involved in a religious dispute.

In papers before the court the church indicated it only recognised heterosexual marriages. Further, the church indicated the recognition of same-sex marriages had given rise to much debate, and that no decision had yet been taken on the matter.

The SCA reserved judgment.

MeThinks 2014/08/26 07:02:40 PM
Politics and church..... I don't think so
Ntobane Setabola 2014/08/26 07:09:26 PM
So they rewrite the Bible...?
mlindos 2014/08/26 07:10:24 PM
Leave her alone
BlackWoman 2014/08/26 07:27:16 PM
OMG my mothers church...I should definetly call her and tell her this
Martin Tredoux 2014/08/26 07:50:59 PM
Be careful what you comment here because if it is against the constitution I will report you.
Arp Liebenberg 2014/08/26 07:58:03 PM
Peter you are a sad case son! Seek the Lord and you will understand.
Eckhart Piprek 2014/08/26 08:05:23 PM
Religion sucks, the world would be a far better place without any of it.
Arp Liebenberg 2014/08/26 08:33:56 PM
Atheitis, The bible says you need to be like a child to understand the might and the greatness of a living God! I am more than willing to stay a child and believe than to be an adult without any fear for God! May the Lord have mercy on your soul! What can you give as payment for your soul? The bible also answer someone like you when it says "Only a fool says in his heart there is no God!"