By Christian Zhang
Walking through I-Light Marina Bay this past weekend, I was surprised that proceeds from the “Art-Zoo” - the inflatable, animal-themed playground on the [email protected] Bay - will benefit a contentious Christian organization called Focus on the Family.
It was an odd logo to be seeing at a public event.
A refresher: in 2014, Focus on the Family ran a controversial sex-education workshop at Hwa Chong Institution that was sexist, perpetuated gender stereotypes, and ineffective - girls, apparently, never mean what they say while guys can’t help but constantly desire and fantasize about the female body. Following the public outcry, the Ministry of Education said it would end its relationship with the organization.
Focus on the Family is also an affiliate of a US-based conservative Christian ministry whose mission statement is “to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ while promoting biblical family values.” The organization is infamous for its inflammatory and scientifically inaccurate positions opposing LGBT rights, birth control, abortion, gender equality, and diversity education programs.
While Focus on the Family Singapore is locally registered, operated and financed, it is inexorably tied in name and philosophy to its American namesake. According to the US organization’s 2015 tax documents, it gave $250,000 in grants to recipients in ‘East Asia and the Pacific’ - which includes affiliates in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.
Supporting and educating families is a noble and important goal in any society. And the bouncing off giant, inflatable animals can be really fun. But surely there are other uncontroversial charities that are just as, if not more deserving of our help?
TOC wrote to the organisers of Art-Zoo to query on the choice on 9 March, however, there has been no reply up till the publication of this post.
Just today, Gaystarnews.com published a report on the matter and included the response by Art-Zoo about FOTF being the beneficiary.
According to the report, Art Zoo said many LGBTI people were involved with the installation. But it would reconsider future relationships with the organisation.
"Our selection of beneficiaries – Student Care Services and Focus on the Family – is based on their support towards local families, communities and the less fortunate,"
"Based on our understanding, FOTF SG is autonomous relative to its US counterpart."
‘We sincerely believe that ‘art has no borders’. And we certainly do not support any form of discrimination or the spread of ‘hate’ throughout our communities – whether implicitly or explicitly.
"Our management team is made up of over half of LGBT members. Our team has put a lot of hard work and hours in pulling this event together and it is disappointing that our good intentions of providing an art installation that is open to everyone has caused distress. This was not our intention."
"Nonetheless, we will look into the matter thoroughly and will review our current commitments with FOTF as well as any future partnerships."