The South African Hindu Dharma Sabha has launched civil cases against evangelist, Simeon Bradley Chetty and reverend, Llewellyn Joseph in the Equality Court at the Chatsworth Magistrates Court, this week.
The sabha, represented by Attorney Shamin Rampersad and Associates, instituted legal proceedings in terms of section 20 of the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act, 2000 (Act Number 4 of 2000).
Earlier this year, both pastors were accused of slandering the Hindu religion following a video which went viral on social media.
Ram Maharaj, the president of the South African Hindu Dharma Sabha, said, “Chetty referred to Hindus as ‘people, who worship idols and other Gods’. He also stated that ‘the name of Jesus is above every other name’. Rev Joseph denigrated Hindu Dharma and insulted Hindus by associating ‘the fear, that curse or those spirits’ with the sacred festival of Kavady.”
A high-powered team of advocates, attorneys, professors, religious experts and youth leaders, all of whom are members of the sabha, contributed to two comprehensive legal documents totaling 116 pages. The South African Hindu Youth Movement rendered support as well.
Vedhan Singh, head of the movement, said, “The truth is that, at last, vulnerable minority communities are fighting for their rights. All attention will be fixed upon the courts to deliver justice. Then only will peace prevail. Our world is sustained by truth, justice and peace.”
In addition to Chetty and Joseph, the other respondents cited are the Revival Ministries Church, the South African Human Rights Commission, as well as the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities.
“Chetty’s and Joseph’s statements were deemed to be offensive, blasphemous, objectionable, hurtful, insulting, humiliating, discriminatory, incendiary, prejudicial, divisive, denigratory, derogatory, defamatory and inflammatory and amounted to hate speech. Their statements were devoid of truth, malicious, misleading and false and spins or perpetrates a fake narrative of Hindu culture, religion and community and brought the Hindu religion into contempt or ridicule.”
“Their comments were further deeply demeaning and invasive of the human dignity of members of the Hindu community. Moreover, their statements degraded the Hindu community’s belief system and practices and also advocated religious intolerance and superiority of one religion over others; thereby constituting a flagrant violation of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, Act Number 108 of 1996,” added Maharaj.
He stated that Hindus have suffered in silence from relentless religious maligning and marginalisation for far too long.
“It is now time for justice to be served in order that unfettered trampling upon Hindu sensitivities with relative impunity is deterred. Hindus respect all religions and we rightfully expect respect in return. In our new, all-inclusive, democratic dispensation, all religions are constitutionally guaranteed equal recognition, respect, status and treatment,” Maharaj continued.
According to Maharaj, millions of people have already been killed in the name of God under the guise of holy religious wars.
“Religious differences should not breed disrespect and hatred but be accommodated and celebrated,” he concluded. He pointed out that inter-religious respect, understanding, tolerance, goodwill and harmony are the cornerstones of social cohesion, unity in diversity, nation-building and human solidarity.
However, Siven Samuels, who is the Revival Ministries’ lawyer, claimed the Hindu body does not have a case as Chetty was merely testifying.
“We have freedom of religion. Scripturally he was referring to the Bible, that anyone can turn to Jesus. He has done nothing legally and religiously wrong,” Samuel was quoted as saying.
In May, a video made by a police officer had targeted Hindus – protests forced the officer to apologise.
(This article was first published on the risingsunchatsworth.co.za and is being reproduced with permission, after minor edits to conform to HinduPost style-guide)
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