by T.W Tan
Nearly 11 years ago, I wrote a letter, concerning my feelings about homosexuality, Section 377A and Singapore Christians’ response to these matters.
Pertaining to the arguments stated in the letter, I continue to stand by most of the issues that I addressed in 2007. Furthermore, it troubles me that, years later, some local Christians still hold on to the belief that it is fine to imprison homosexuals for gay sex.
This sentiment resurfaced once more after Mr. Johnson Ong filed a court challenge against 377A, arguing that the law to imprison individuals for gay sex is unconstitutional.
Not surprisingly, 377A will very likely remain in place, with this retention strongly backed by the National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS).
As a Christian and like many local Christians, I do not accept that homosexual acts are behaviours rightly justified under God’s moral directions.
I also do not believe that, due to evolving social expectations and norms, Christians should modify biblical moral standards, and thereby render a sin, not a sin, out of respect and tolerance for gays.
However, a law that would throw gays behind bars is a disproportionate and heavy-handed response against activities which conservatives do not see right.
In that aspect, NCCS’s latest statement on retaining 377A is disappointing due to how it ostensibly believes gays should be treated if they act in a manner not in line with biblical standards.
There are, after all, other serious, sinful behaviours (i.e. adultery, premarital sex) that most Christians would not have recommend imprisonment as a response, given how overly drastic such a move will be. So why the singling out of gay sex to be penalised by this excessive measure?
Moreover, the retention of 377A is not helped by the fact that the Singapore government chooses not to actively enforce it. This inaction further hints the authorities’ discomfort over punishing gays with sentences which could rob them years of freedom – a human right matter not to be considered lightly.
The question is, for whose interest is 377A kept for? Judging by recent comments from both government officials and the community, it is obvious that the opinions of social/religious conservatives may have a big influence on its retention.
NCCS must fully comprehend the implications arising from its support of 377A as well as ejecting the notion it is simply paying lip service to the decision to keep it.
By backing 377A's continual existence, the Council has inadvertently left itself an elephant in the room: Due to its support, is NCCS then insinuating that it will have no qualms about encouraging the government to throw gays into jail should the authorities choose to enforce 377A?
As of today, the Council appears to have no concrete answer to this question.
Also, given that Singapore’s cultural environment is not inherently Christian, NCCS should see that supporting 377A would be futile to any meaningful dialogue in which the Council could engage with the secular society or even with the LGBT community.
Furthermore, NCCS should be aware that gays are not just people who frequent secular circles; within Singapore churches, there are some Christians who are gays themselves and have either come of the closet or chosen to keep their orientation a secret, so as to avoid repercussions from within the flock. The Council should, therefore, consider the kind of message it is sending to these members it wishes to help, even as it chooses to side with 377A's retention.
I am convinced that Section 377A is at best archaic and at worst, a draconian legislation aimed at a specific group of people who have no malicious intent.
In addition, the law will not in any way help the cause of the Church. On the contrary, 377A's existence will only serve to be counterproductive against Christian outreach to individuals, especially church members who may be dealing with the same issue.
In light of these aspects, NCCS should reconsider its support of retaining Section 377A in Singapore’s legislation.