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Charlene Somduth | IOL Online | Durban | Feb 25, 2022:: The Equality Court has ordered a Chatsworth evangelist to apologise to the Hindu community for hate speech.
Simeon Bradley Chetty appeared in court on Friday with Ram Maharaj, the President of the South African Hindu Dharma Sabha.
In June 2020, Chetty posted a video on Facebook of him testifying about his conversion from Hinduism to Christianity at an open-air church service.
In one of his statements, Chetty said: “My father was a Telugu, my mother was a Tamil and while they were growing up they said, you know what?
“They have no meaning. They worship idols. They worship other gods, but I am here to tell you that the name of Jesus is above every other name.
“Let me ask you this question: Why would a Telugu man worship Jesus? Why would a Muslim man worship Jesus? Why would every religion give their life to Jesus?”
After the clips emerged, Maharaj opened a case of crimen injuria against Chetty and the church he belonged to, Christian Revival Ministries, at the Chatsworth SAPS.
In September 2020, Maharaj took the matter to the Equality Court.
In his affidavit, Maharaj asked the court to ensure Chetty and the church did not engage in similar conduct towards any other person or persons based on their race or religion.
He asked the court to restrain Chetty from insulting, harassing, propagating hate and degrading the Hindu community.
The court ordered Chetty to publish the following apology in a newspaper and social media within 30 days.
“I Simeon Bradley Chetty, sincerely and unreservedly apologise to the South African Hindu Dharma Sabha, the Acharyaji Shyam Ramanuj Foundation, The Hindu Dharma Trust, South Africa, and any one of their members who may have been offended by certain statements made during an open-air church service in Chatsworth on May 31, 2020, which I attended as a guest and was asked to close in prayer.”
In the apology, Chetty needs to state that no malice or offence was intended and he must confirm that he did not intend to cause anyone hurt or harm.
In addition, Chetty must agree to respect the fundamental rights and dignity of organisations or faiths and people who hold different convictions and beliefs.
He must also not make statements that go outside the limits of free, and legally permissible speech as per Section 16 (2)(c) of the Constitution.
Chetty has been ordered to attend a one-ness workshop with the sabha on a date that both parties agree on.
The court also ordered that the application against the church be withdrawn because Chetty attended the open-air church service in his personal capacity and not as a member of the church.
Maharaj said: “A strong signal has been sent out by the Equality Court that demeaning statements against differing faith groups will not be tolerated. Hindu pride, dignity and strength will be revitalised.
“Chetty showed remorse.
“His willingness to attend a One-ness workshop will substantially enhance inter-religious respect, understanding and harmony leading to unity in diversity, social cohesion and nation-building.”
Rob Thornhill, Chetty’s attorney, said his client declined to comment.