Pupils at De Kuilen High School in Cape Town have been offered counselling after there were complaints that a pastor, Pickard Henn, made offensive remarks when he addressed them, including an alleged comment that gay people would go to hell.
Western Cape education department spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said on Tuesday that the school had arranged for a speaker to engage with its Student Christian Association.
"On Wednesday evening, the pastor made some remarks that were offensive," she said.
She said a planned engagement was cancelled as a result of this but the church contacted the school to discuss the matter and the comments.
As a result, it was decided that the Friday Christian assembly would go ahead.
"The school claims that this attendance was voluntary. It was requested that the pastor deliver a message of hope and refrain from the comments made previously," said Hammond.
"It is then alleged that the pastor made other offensive comments that understandably upset learners."
Allegations and denials
Hammond said they had not heard any recordings or footage of the event, and therefore could not confirm what was said as there had been various allegations and denials.
"However, it is concerning that the pastor was allowed an opportunity to address learners for the second time, after the first engagement was seen as distressing."
On Henn's social media pages, he shared photos of himself addressing pupils at different schools during a speaking tour of Cape Town last week.
These received mixed responses, with some praising the gospel that he was sharing and others saying his ideologies were twisted and he should not think he was God.
A pupil at the school told Cape Talk that the pastor had told them that those who were part of the LGBTI+ community or who had thought about suicide would go to hell, and that sangomas were devils or witches.
Responding to News24, Henn said that he had spoken about different things on Wednesday evening than he had on Friday morning.
On Wednesday evening, he had addressed an open after-hours event for Christian students about different sins.
"There were people that openly confessed that they were gay," he said.
"Gay people were never personally addressed but I did address the whole category which we [are] all we born in - SIN! Now we need to be born again!"
He said that he had never told pupils at that evening event that those who thought of suicide would go to hell, but rather shared his own struggle with suicidal thoughts.
"I never said that people having sex before marriage are prostitutes. I did say that the only people sleeping with people outside of marriage are prostitutes. God made marriage to be a covenant."
He said that at the Friday event, he never spoke about any LGBTI related topics, which appeared to reflect a recording he provided.
"Addressing these topics as if they happened during school creates a complete misperception of the facts."
On the sangomas and witches comment, he said that the Bible spoke about Jesus casting out devils and the apostles talking about sorcerers.
"Any power in the supernatural that is performed outside of Christ Jesus is demonic," Henn argued.
He said that before finding Christianity, his life was a mess.
"In school and after school, drugs was a part of my life. It was all sex, drugs, rock and roll."
Asked what his intention had been with addressing pupils, he said his mission was to bring the gospel that set people free from sin.
"Although not many kids accepted the message, it's okay! The Bible says to some it's a fragrance of death and to some of life! Not everyone will accept it. But we did get some amazing feedback from kids who gladly received the gospel, who repented and started their relationship with the Lord."
Hammond added: "While schools cannot always manage everything that comes out of a guest's mouth, it is important that schools engage with anyone speaking to learners prior to the event and ensure that their values, thoughts and messages are in line with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Any other message is not welcome in our schools."
In terms of the Constitution and the Schools Act, no public school or school governing body was entitled to adopt the ethos of a single religion to the exclusion of others.
Hammond said that appropriately representative bodies had to make rules that provided for religious policies and for religious observances that were conducted on a free, voluntary and equitable basis.
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