George mayor says gay US choristers against his religion, but pride shows and march will go on
They may sing "Hallelujah" and "When the Saints go Marching In" at George's Gay Pride march next week, but George Mayor Melvin Naik has panned the Boston Gay Men's Choir as being against his Christian principles.
"I simply wanted to bring the point across that just because the municipality supports an event, people must not take it for granted that that support reflects my own personal beliefs," Naik said in a statement to News24 after his comments caused fireworks.
"As mayor, in my official capacity and personally, I support the Constitution and its values completely, but personally, as a Christian, I hold certain beliefs regarding LGBT people.
"This does not mean that I discriminate against them, in fact, I take great care not to as those same Christian beliefs also teach me that we are all God's children and are all equally loved by him."
He did not specify which branch of Christianity he adheres to and was not available for a verbal interview.
He wanted to make it clear that the George Municipality and his party, the DA, do not hold the same views as he does, and promised that the show would go on in spite of his personal feelings.
The controversy comes just after Naik's return to work after he took a month's voluntary leave following a tender probe by the Hawks in the DA-led municipality.
But when asked by local Christian radio station Heartbeat FM on Tuesday what he thought of the 200-voice ensemble due to sing during George's Gay Pride event on Tuesday, he said that as the mayor of George it was against his Christian principles.
In an unverified audio clip, he says that he cannot approve, as mayor, of the Boston Gay Men's Choir, but does this with "no judgment" against anyone. He also plans to bless and pray for the choir.
However, the DA's provincial leader Bonginkosi Madikizela swiftly condemned his statement.
"His utterances do not represent the views of the party. Therefore, the federal executive chairperson, James Selfe, will be referring this matter to the party's federal legal commission (FLC) for further investigation," said Madikizela.
"You can't use your position in public office and make the kind of comments Melvin did," he told News24.
However, while the controversy was playing out, the planning and advertising for the Gay Pride march, which starts on Victoria Street at noon in George next Tuesday, continued.
Deputy Mayor Charlotte Clarke is expected to give the welcoming address to visitors and participants at Unity Park after the march, and the visiting choristers will treat revellers to an evening show from 18:00 at the Conville Community Hall.
The choir is performing for free as part of its decades-long history of setting out to unite communities and promote an affirming image of the gay and lesbian community.
The municipality said the events would be "themed around a message of acceptance and freedom for people to be who they are" and are expected to be attended by international gay ambassadors and local activists.
Meanwhile, the choristers said they were looking forward to their tour to South Africa, despite Naik's view.