No hell to pay for satanists in Ballito, as they plan to open church
The swanky seaside town of Ballito, near Durban, has long been the preferred holiday spot for those who enjoy sunny beaches, restaurants and glamorous nightlife.
Now it will become home to a group of satanists who are opening a new church at a hotel there.
The church is set to open in September and while Dolphin Coast Residents and Ratepayers Association chair Deon Viljoen said residents were "surprised, shocked and sceptical", they would not oppose the church because "religious freedom is one of the cornerstones of the country".
And the church's co-founders, former Christian pastor Riaan Swiegelaar and Adri Norton, who registered the South African Satanic Church as a religious organisation in February, moved to allay fears that it is a threat or a cult that worships the devil or performs blood-letting rituals.
They claim they receive at least 15 threats daily to burn down their church's first official venue and are aware of online petitions opposing the Ballito opening.
They say it is for this reason that they refuse to divulge the name of the hotel or the number of members of their church. They have also beefed up security ahead of the opening.
"I am not comfortable answering any question about our membership as I do not want to create a panic, but I can say it's more than 10,000 in SA," said Swiegelaar, who lives in Cape Town.
"There has been a large group of satanists practising in Ballito for the last four years. The only difference is that we are now officially registered and they have asked for a chapter to officially open in Ballito."
Registered as a nonprofit company under the category of a religious organisation, the satanic church is given the same status as other churches, mosques and synagogues. It is exempt from taxes and can host public events.
Co-founders of the church claim they receive at least 15 threats daily to burn down their church's first official venue and are aware of online petitions opposing the Ballito opening
"As practising satanists, we always heard all these terrible stories about how satanism was portrayed in the media so we decided it was time to form an official religious organisation to represent above-board satanism to educate the public," said Swiegelaar.
"Above-board satanism is the ultimate knowledge and enlightenment of one's self by being the best version of yourself to live the best possible life."
Reverse baptisms and personalised rituals are some of the services offered by the church, which likens its gatherings to "group therapy".
Swiegelaar, its presiding reverend, says he left Christianity due to "hypocrisy" in the church he was a member of in Cape Town.
However, there are at least three online petitions with about 1,000 signatures opposed to the organisation.
The ratepayers association's Viljoen said people should be allowed to "believe what they must believe".
"But we were surprised that the church is opening here. If I had to judge the opinion of the community, they are quite sceptical of it. But if it has been registered as a religious organisation then they must go forth and do what they have to do."