By Kirsten Han
A mysterious PDF has been circulating on Facebook these past few days, reaching many more eyes than it was ever intended to. Issued by the Christian “unity movement”, LoveSingapore, the document is addressed to pastors and church leaders. It provides a handy guide for these leaders to mobilise and deploy supporters of Section 377A of Singapore’s Penal Code, which criminalises sex between men.
The problem with this document is not that it’s a guide encouraging church leaders to organise and mobilise in favour of 377A. Plenty of campaign groups do – and probably should – find ways to make it easy for people to take action in favour of their cause, such as providing draft letters for people to send in to the Members of Parliament.
What’s disturbing about the document, though, is that it deliberately asks that these pastors and church leaders hide their religious affiliation.
“Don’t use church or religious rankings or titles,” it says. “Write as a concerned citizen, a parent, a teacher, a student, a doctor, a homemaker, etc. Don’t use the church email address. Use your personal one instead.”
It also advises its readers not to forward emails and leave contact chains that identify previous writers.
It is this misdirection that is troubling. Supporters are told to present themselves simply as concerned members of the public, obscuring the fact that they are coming from one particularly vocal religious group to dominate the discussion within a secular nation. Such an action skews the conversation, misleading observers and hiding true agendas and motivations.
Lawrence Khong, chairman of LoveSingapore, makes no secret of wanting to influence our legislature with his religious ideology. He purports to represent the “silent majority” of Singaporeans, when he has only ever represented the conservative beliefs of his church.
This needs to be called out both in our Parliament and our society. The same should have been done when Member of Parliament for Mountbatten Lim Biow Chuan raised his concerns about the Health Promotion Board’s FAQ on sexuality – was he representing his constituents, or his church?
The debate of the majority
The dangers of a vocal religious group trying to portray themselves as representatives of a put-upon “silent majority” are real. It makes it incredibly easy for the government to point at their arguments and say, “See? This is the voice of the average Singaporean, and they’re not comfortable with homosexuality! Clearly we’re not ready to repeal 377A!”
This has always been and always will be a cop-out. Sure, the government should not be society’s moral police, but 377A is not about moral policing. It’s about rights. Regardless of how the people of LoveSingapore feel – and are entitled to feel, much as we disagree with them – gay men should not be so blatantly discriminated against in our legislation. It’s a matter of rights, and human rights should not need to wait for majority approval before they are respected.
As the government of all of Singapore, our leaders should not continue to float this “Singaporeans are not ready” line, and take the lead to protect their LGBT citizens (and residents) from state-endorsed discrimination. The Health Minister Gan Kim Yong made the right move in standing by the HPB’s FAQ on sexuality rather than giving in to the loud objections of Lawrence Khong and his supporters.
It would be naïve to think that the Health Minister’s firm response would discourage the likes of LoveSingapore. Leaked document or not, their efforts to become the loudest voice in the matter will continue.
But that doesn’t mean that nothing can be done. We might disagree with LoveSingapore, but they had the right idea when they encouraged people to write in to their MPs and ministers, to make their feelings on the issue known. Thankfully, these methods aren’t exclusive to them; we too can employ them in favour of our cause. We too can write in to MPs, write blogs and participate in discussions on social media. By doing so, we not only point out to the government their need to defend the rights of all their citizens, but we also challenge the “Singaporeans are not ready” narrative.