Today I want to speak about 2 events that have made headlines in the past couple of days. Though the stories are hardly news-worthy, the media have really made a meal out of them. I would have just left them alone, but they allow me to open up a discussion on a principle that most people really haven't applied their minds to: the right to discriminate.
The first story is that of a b-list celebrity, Somizi Mhlongo, who was highly offended by the supposed homophobic preaching of Bishop Dag Heward-Mills. This is the less-significant event - just another left-wing celebrity being offended too easily and throwing a tantrum. To be fair, this a far less common occurrence here than in places like the US, where any right-wing opinion is deemed to be offensive. Somizi has nothing to complain about though. How could he be so shocked that the Grace BIBLE Church, would preach what is IN THE BIBLE! Whether you believe homosexuality is acceptable or not, the church, and Bishop Heward-Mills have the right to preach according to their beliefs. And the Bishop didn't preach hate against gays. He didn't incite violence. All he said was that homosexuality is unnatural, which is true, according to most religions and science. What is most concerning is that there is a large segment of society that wishes to silence any opinion it disagrees with. They don't use rational argument, but try to bully people into submitting to a particular opinion. I call this Control Freak Syndrome.
Now this Control Freak Syndrome is far more prevalent in the second story, which is far more controversial and more likely to divide opinion. You probably won't hear much more of the Somizi saga, but you will certainly hear about Lake Restaurant in Brakpan, where gay couples are refused access to date night. LGBTI groups have been all over this and the South African Human Rights Commission has even started an investigation, but the only only rights that are being infringed on are the rights of the owners of the restaurant. Yes, some of you are shocked, but that's the truth. If you own a restaurant, or a store, or a babershop, or any enterprise, you have the right to self-determine who you will or won't offer service to. It is YOUR store, and YOU have the right to decide who you trade with. You have the right to deny service to anyone for any reason. To argue otherwise is to put a gun to the head business owners and say 'you must trade with who we say you must trade with!' It is not right. If you disagree with the policy, don't eat at the restaurant! But don't try to force them to conform to your misguided opinion.
All these sorts of stories are accompanied by calls for lawmakers to bring new anti-discrimination laws and for investigations and prosecutions and just all-round government intervention. You see what I mean by Control Freak Syndrome? But this is both wrong and unnecessary. I'll give you a case to prove it. Not too long ago Andre Slade was exposed for blatant and unabashed racism with regards to his guesthouse. But he has the right to withhold his services from black people and we have the right to boycott him for such actions. He is now financially ruined as no one will give him business any more. No government action needed. You see, as society we have great power to do good and bad. We can hold people like this to account. We don't need the government for things like this.
So back to the homosexual issue. If you believe that there is nothing wrong with homosexuality, that is your right to believe that, and to voice that opinion and try to convince others of it. But don't be a control freak! Don't force your opinion on others.