A controversial U.S. pastor, who gained notoriety through his far-right and gay-bashing sermons, has been banned from entering South Africa.
Steven Anderson, a conservative lead pastor of Faith World Baptist Church in Tempe, Arizona, and his 17 faithful, had been invited by a Johannesburg church to travel to South Africa to be a part of what he called a “soul-winning marathon” on September 18.
But his plans were thwarted when the government of South Africa announced that he would not be allowed into the country.
Anderson was catapulted into the spotlight in 2009 when he said President Barack Obama deserved to die from brain cancer because of his pro-choice stance. The father of nine is also a misogynist who preaches that women should not have the right to work, vote, think for themselves or divorce their husbands.
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When a gunman killed 49 people in June 2016 at Pulse, a popular Florida gay club, Anderson infamously said in a video uploaded to YouTube, “It’s good news. There are now 50 less pedophiles in the world." YouTube removed the video for hate speech.
He started making headlines in South Africa about two months ago when LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex) and human rights activists launched campaigns asking the government to ban Anderson, even though U.S. citizens do not require visas to enter South Africa. They collected more than 60,000 signatures on two petitions.
Malusi Gigaba, Minister of Home Affairs, the government department that oversees citizen identification, immigration, and visas, told media at a conference in Cape Town on Tuesday that he had “identified Steven Anderson and members and/or associates of his church as undesirable persons. Undesirable persons are barred from traveling to South Africa for periods determined by the department. Furthermore, I have withdrawn their visa exemption status enjoyed by all Americans.”
The ban was per a section of South Africa’s Immigration Act of 2002 which “prohibits admission of a foreigner who is a member of or adheres to an association or organization advocating the practice of racial hate or social violence.”
Anderson, who refers to himself as an ambassador of Jesus Christ, frequently calls homosexuality an ungodly sickness and perversion. The day before the ban he said on a South African radio station that former Cape Town Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who is also a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, does not understand the Bible because of his tolerance for LGBTI people.
He said, "The religious leaders are a bunch of perverts themselves like that Desmond Tutu who goes around in a pink dress."
Tutu's daughter, Mpho, a former priest, married a woman in December 2015.
South Africa has one of the most liberal and inclusive constitutions in the world which protects LGBTI rights. This year the country celebrates the 10th anniversary of the Civil Union Act of 2006, which legalized same-sex marriage and civil partnerships.
Even so, “There exists a great void between our progressive laws and how we treat each other as individuals. South Africa has its own mending to do. We do not need more hatred advocated to our people,” Gigaba said.
He cited Progressive Prudes, a recent survey conducted by the South African Human Sciences Research Council, found that 72% of South Africans think that sex between people of the same gender is morally wrong. But, it did also find that 51% of South Africans believe that the LGBTI community should have the same human rights as others.
When news of his ban broke, Anderson wrote on Facebook: "I have been banned from South Africa and the United Kingdom…I feel sorry for people who live in South Africa, but thank God we still have a wide open door in Botswana.”
He is due to preach in Botswana later this week.