After attracting headlines over trying to persuade Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong not to repeal a law on gay sex, Pastor Lawrence Khong of the Faith Community Baptist Church went to Facebook to quote from evidence proven to be fake to back up his demands. As of press time, his Facebook status has gotten hundreds of comments ranging from supporters to detractors.
In Khong’s statement to ESM Goh, he pleaded for a Singapore ‘we all are proud off’ by building ‘strong families’ and providing ‘morAl leadership’. He asserted the building block of a family was a man-woman relationship and calls it ‘a premise fundamental to nation-building’.
He calls the ruling repeal case a ‘looming threat… by increasingly aggressive homosexual activists’ and warns of ‘negative social changes’ if the ruling goes through. These changes include parental right removal over sex education, decreased religious freedom and restricted free speech by staunch religious persons.
Khong has continued to make demands over Facebook to stop the repeal of the law, with other pastors such as Pastor Yang Tuck Yoong of the Cornerstone Community Church joining him in similar calls.
The Online Citizen published a screen capture of Yang’s initial statement which was then edited two says later to exclude a paragraph calling for the Christian community to be “battle-ready”. In the original statement, Yang wrote, “When it happens, you better make sure you know which side you are on.”
Several high-profile pastors and celebrities have come forward to condemn Khong’s statements. Pastor Miak Siew of the Free Community Church said that while he respected Khong’s right of speech, Miak believes Khong is ‘misrepresenting the truth’.
Besides arguing that the concept of heterosexual families only dated back to the 1950s, Miak mentioned how Khong’s ‘cookie cutter’ view of the family unit threatens understanding of ‘children who are different’. Miak even referred to gospel on Jesus identifying with a new family unit: “He said, “Whosoever does the will of God, that one is my brother and sister and mother.””
In a Facebook note, thespian Lim Yu Beng felt that “the whole tone of this discussion is unnecessarily coloured by fear and bogey-ism”. In the letter, he called out Khong for launching a ‘pre-emptive strike’ on those whom he sees as trying to curtail religious freedom.
“The law in question demands that the practice of homosexuality is not tolerated in Singapore. I don’t see anybody trying to vote into law a statute that criminalizes Pastor Khong’s brand of thinking. Nobody is making it compulsory for him to be gay. Why should he make it compulsory for others to be straight?” said Yu Beng.
377A TO BE REPEALED?
This comes as a case is set to be heard on February 14 — Valentine’s Day — over the repeal of Section 377A of Singapore’s Penal Code law which prohibits acts of ‘gross indecency’ between two consenting males.
The case was instituted by a gay couple who felt that the ruling placed “stigma and discrimination against lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual people in society”. Gary Lim and Kenneth Chee announced their bid to contest the ruling last November, saying that they wanted to strike out the future possibility of ‘passive enforcement’ at the rarely-enforced ruling.
The couple have been together for some 15 years. Gary and Kenneth will be represented in court by Peter Low, assisted by Choo Zheng Xi and Indulekshmi Rajeswari.
Section 377A of the Penal Code was instituted when British forces colonised Singapore during its early days. Since then, the United Kingdom repealed the rule in 1967. Recently, former colony India did away with the ruling — a big step for a largely conservative populace.
THE MOVE TOWARDS LIBERALISM
The latest developments come amidst a changing global perspective on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. More personalities are coming out, such as CNN anchors Anderson Cooper and Don Lemon. Recently, actress Jodie Foster cleared up her sexuality while accepting a lifetime achievement award at the 2013 Golden Globes. She publicly thanked her ex-partner, Cydney Bernard and her two kids.
Yesterday, US president Barack Obama delivered a groundbreaking address as part of his inauguration as second-term president where he vowed to fight for LGBT rights. Last year, LGBT mass gathering Pink Dot hit 10,000 visitors, up from 4,000 in its inaugural event three years before.
It remains to be seen if the separation between church and state will prevail in this series of events. On sites such as Yahoo! Singapore and TR Emeritus, pro-opposition sentiment prevails in its notorious comments section but posts on Pink Dot last year revealed rife anti-LGBT comment sentiment as well.
All eyes are set on February 14 when the tone of the case’s first hearing will determine the veracity of the church-state tussle. If a mandate is given on the ability of the church to question state law, it will signify a change from recent talk to maintain state matters secular. If proceedings on repealing 377A are to be taken seriously in court, the effectiveness of pro-LGBT initiatives such as Pink Dot and Indignation will be at stake.
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Pink Dot photo: Shah Salimat