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God’s will and State law: A dangerous mix

Last week, Pastor Lawrence Khong and LoveSingapore jointly expressed to Emeritus Senior Minister (ESM) Goh Chok Tong their wish to see the movement to repeal Section 377A, which criminalises homosexual acts, stopped.

A view of the Supreme Court along Hight Street in Singapore.

A view of the Supreme Court along Hight Street in Singapore.

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Last week, Pastor Lawrence Khong and LoveSingapore jointly expressed to Emeritus Senior Minister (ESM) Goh Chok Tong their wish to see the movement to repeal Section 377A, which criminalises homosexual acts, stopped.

On the LoveSingapore Facebook page, Pastor Khong states that the law’s repeal would lead to the establishment of anti-discrimination laws which would “reverse-discriminate against anyone who does not believe in the homosexual agenda. We will be prohibited to voice our moral and religious views on the issue”. He fears this would lead to a situation where “freedom of speech and religion have been denied those who hold different views from that of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community”.

He goes on to say, the repeal would “open the door of our nation to unbridled destruction. Our core values will be systematically eroded until homosexuality is elevated as king in our land”. I find the whole tone of this discussion unnecessarily coloured by fear and bogeyism. We need to consider these points with a calm and clear mind, and nothing else.

I am not here to debate Pastor Kong’s interpretation of his religious beliefs, nor should anybody. They are his beliefs, and those of millions of others, and the right to these convictions is and must be protected by law.

I do, however, question his right to impose those interpretations on others through legislation. Nobody is trying to vote into law a statute that criminalises Pastor Khong’s brand of thinking. Nobody is making it compulsory for him to be gay. Why should he want it compulsory for others to be straight?

Perhaps Pastor Khong’s basis for the desire to stamp out homosexuality via legislation is the Biblical verses which list homosexuality as precluding entry into the Kingdom of God.

If that is so, my response is that he is absolutely within his rights to impose that point of view upon those who subscribe to his church or his collective.

But it does not preclude the right of our homosexual citizens to exist in Singapore. It is not the same thing, and not applicable in the same manner.

I am also slightly cautious about Pastor Khong’s use of LoveSingapore in order to further his views. This is because it can easily be misconstrued that (a) everybody in LoveSingapore shares this point of view; (b) LoveSingapore represents the point of view of the larger Christian community in Singapore, or possibly all Christians; and (c) Religious groups have the right to impose their will upon state legislature, at the expense of other groups.

Let me be very clear as to why point (c) is an area of concern. Any number of lobby groups with similar or opposing agendas should be able to operate. However, once the stamp of a larger collective, particularly a religious collective, is invoked, it becomes potentially troubling.

The scripture teachings which are often interpreted as prohibiting homosexuality were written to exhort the Judaic and later the Christian community. To apply them to national legislature is not an automatic cross reference.

May one religious group exert its influence on legislature to make society more like the vision of its own community? To criminalise one sector of society seen as “deviant” from the perceived will of one’s God assumes the right to criminalise others who are not following that group’s way. This is very dangerous territory.

In a sense, what Pastor Khong fears is the underlying “homosexual agenda” is closer to what he is doing: The attempt, if you see this thread to its logical end, to criminalise opposing points of view. This is what I disagree with.

As a firm believer in multireligious, multicultural Singapore, my hope is for peaceful and happy coexistence. As ESM Goh says, people are free to stand by their own beliefs. Nobody has to believe the same thing in order to get along. We can celebrate our differences and cheer on one another’s growth along our own paths.

In other words, I am all for Pastor Khong and his well-meaning associates to continue the wonderful work that they do, in their own convictions. Pastor Khong writes in the same Facebook post a very heartwarming passage, which is far more understanding and moderate than many similar views expressed on the subject.

He says: “I say to fellow Singaporeans who are part of the homosexual community: I repent of rejecting, alienating and condemning you because of my own fears or ignorance of or indifference to your struggle. On behalf of the Christian community, I ask you to forgive us for where we have consciously or unconsciously rejected you or condemned you. I commit myself and my church to do our best to come alongside you in your sexual struggle — while not condoning sexual sin, be it yours or mine.”

“Having said all the above with genuine sincerity, please understand that, as concerned citizens of Singapore and as Christians, we are NOT against the homosexual person, but we are unapologetically against the homosexual agenda. And that makes a world of difference.”

Although I cannot agree with many things said here, I strongly applaud Pastor Khong for demonstrating more understanding of the issue than many others.

It gives me hope that he and his associates are not the right-wing extremists some may sometimes speak of them as — and I trust that he sees that we are not the sexually deviant (and devious) extremists some in his camp see us as.

We are citizens. Let us speak in that sphere. It is not actually about camps. It is, I hope, the beginnings of mutual forbearance, tolerance and coexistence. That is all the repeal of Section 377A hopes to be. Legal coexistence. Legal existence.

Lim Yu-Beng is a Singaporean citizen, artiste and father. This is adapted from a longer post on his Facebook page.

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