Christian student reinstated after gay marriage row

A Christian student in South Africa who was expelled from her university’s student council for disagreeing with gay marriage on Facebook has been reinstated as vice-president.

Zizipho Pae was voted off the University of Cape Town’s Student Representative Council (SRC) for her reaction to the US Supreme Court’s decision to redefine marriage in every state.

On her personal Facebook page, she had posted: “We are institutionalising and normalising sin! Sin. May God have mercy on us.”

Threats

Her office was vandalised, homosexual pornography was posted on her Facebook page and she received threats to her safety.

Vice-Chancellor Max Price has now written to Pae to say that the decision to expel her was invalid, following an investigation and after he received legal advice.

As a consequence, the SRC has now reinstated her to the position of vice-president.

Hostile

The University also rejected formal complaints about what she had written, saying that the statement “was not considered a basis for a charge of a breach of the Student Code of Conduct”.

In an interview with Freedom of Religion South Africa recorded ahead of her reinstatement, Pae said that there is something “fundamentally problematic” with preventing people from sharing their views in public.

She said: “It would create a very hostile environment not just for Christians, but for anybody who disagrees with anyone”.

Great victory

Pae’s lawyer, Nadene Badenhorst, said that her reinstatement to the SRC is a “great victory” for free speech and religious freedom.

She said it recognises that “people should be tolerant and accommodating of difference, and engage with one another in a lawful and fair manner in spite of difference”.

Badenhorst said that Pae “continues to suffer insult and abuse, including screaming, shouting and swearing at her, as well as bullying, intimidation and harassment by fellow SRC members”.

Distance

UCT SRC President Ramabina Mahapa said last week that they have “no confidence in her”.

“We are condemning her utterance and distancing ourselves from her remarks. Student leaders should act with caution when making public utterances”, he said.

“We said members can speak of their religious convictions but they should be aware that they represent different youth. When you hold public office you are held accountable for what you say.”

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