Italics are mine

Dear Pastor Khong,

I wrestled at length how to reply to your statement. I believe you spoke out from your own firm beliefs, and I respect your right to those beliefs and your right to speak up, even though I do not agree with you.

I want to point out several things you have brought up that need to be clarified. You are misrepresenting the truth.

You stated that “examples from around the world have shown that the repeal of similar laws have led to negative social changes, especially the breakdown of the family as a basic building block and foundation of society.” Can you give me an example? And what do you mean by the breakdown of the family? Higher divorce rates? You see, you are repeating the rhetoric of the Christian Right in America. England, where we inherited Section 377A from, repealed their version of the law in 1967. I do not see the United Kingdom falling apart. The United States of America eliminated their laws in 2003. Australia, Fiji, Hong Kong, New Zealand and India inherited the same British law like us in Singapore have abolished theirs. These societies are not crumbling.

[I don’t see how the failure to cite examples is “misrepresenting” the truth. Pastor Khong wrote a statement, not a thesis. There are many other places to look for rigorous arguments and empirical evidence, google is your friend. And besides, he has answered his own question, divorce is by definition the breakdown of the family and they are higher in most Western nations, etc. See who tops the list:

 Secondly simply because his arguments have been made by someone else does not invalidate the argument. That would be a sort of proxy argumentum ad hominem, guilt by association, attacking an argument by attacking the person who made it.

Finally, he never said that societies will “crumble” but that it will lead to negative social changes. Besides, a couple of years is a short time in history. It took almost a century before the USSR “crumbled”, but that doesn’t mean that it will not, nor does it invalidate the arguments of those who critiqued the communistic system in the early 20th century that it will eventually self-destruct. And of course, societies can attain an “equilibrium” and be sustained for a very long time even under the most oppressive systems. Just because North Korea has not “crumbled” doesn’t mean that their policies does not have a “negative” effect on their society.]

The idea that “the family unit comprises of a man as Father, a woman as Mother, and Children” is not biblical. As Dale Martin, the Woolsey Professor of Religious Studies at Yale University, writes, “Most Christians assume that the current centrality of marriage and family represents a long tradition in Christianity, it is actually about 150 years old. One could even make the argument that the current focus on the heterosexual nuclear family dates back only to the 1950s.”

[Without going into the theological debate as to what is “biblical”, it is sufficient to note that the Catholic Church has from the earliest times had papal and Christianised Roman Emperors decrees outlawing fiat divorces and polygamies and concubinage, and a cursory study of marriage liturgies in the medieval times will show that monogamous marriages have already been normalised. These may not have been perfectly enforced, but then again, no law is ever perfectly enforced and many nobles continued to have mistresses. I’ve written on the history of the development of the concept here and here.]

Strong families are not defined by their composition. I know of many families that do not fit into your mould of “one man as the father, one woman as the mother, and their children.” I know families of single parents, families of grandchildren raised by their grandparents, families of couples without children – some by choice, some by circumstance. But what makes strong families is the love that binds them.

[How curious that he left out polygamous families, or families of concubines or even incestrous families. Odd since for most of history, the best argument against the “norm” of the “nuclear family” is precisely the persistence of polygamous marriages and concubage, until the very last century. And of course in ancient Greece, paedophilia or “pederasty” as it is called between Greek man and boys was quite the norm. But I don’t see him celebrating this love. But of course, one is always free to “pick and choose” the parts of Christendom’s marriage which one likes and quietly censure those actual practices of the world which he doesn’t like.]

In the Gospels, when Jesus was told that his mother and his brothers wanted to see him, Jesus refused to identify with his traditional family and instead shared a new vision how what family means in the kin-dom of God. He said, “Whosoever does the will of God, that one is my brother and sister and mother.”

[True, but unless he is going to extend that as an argument for incest, I am not sure what the relevance is to the institution of marriage.]

The repeal of 377A poses no threat to families bound together by love. It is the continued stigmatization of LGBT people that you are perpetuating that is a threat to families – because you have placed obstacles in how parents understand their children who are different, and create huge rifts in these families.

Your statement not only hurts and stigmatizes LGBT persons, but also people who do not fit in to your cookie cutter idea of a “traditional family”. You have made people who do not fit in – whether they are single parents, divorcees, or children who are orphaned, whose parents are not around by circumstance – ashamed of who they are.

[That it poses no threat is what must be proved, not assumed. One might even go a step further and say that 377A poses no threat to “families bound together by love”, so why would anyone want its repeal? Anyway, every rule and coercive law by definition stigmatises someone, by virtue of the fact that it necessarily forbids and censures certain behaviour. Laws against paedophilia stigmatises paedophiles, laws against necrophilia stigmatises necrophiles and laws against incest stigmatises incesterous lovers, and laws against polygamy stigmatises polygamous lovers. But I don’t see him campaigning for them or being too concerned with their hurts, etc. Unless he means to argue for the abolition of all criminal laws, then the question is not whether the law will stigmatise but who. Besides, there is nothing wrong with stigma at all as the law operates hand in hand with such social policing such as stigma, etc. One can read more about it here. ]

I am saddened every time I counsel straight people who come to my church because they fear that their own pastors would reject them like how they reject LGBT persons. That instead of being a place of healing, love and forgiveness, their home church has become a hostile place of condemnation and judgement.

As an activist who fights for human rights and free speech – I believe that you have the right to say what you want to say, even if it challenges the status quo and make people feel uneasy. Free speech is not just my right to say what I want to say, but everybody’s right to say what they want to say. That also means that I must be willing to allow other people who disagree with me to have their right to say what they want. One of the ten commandments is not to bear false testimony against your neighbours – and in that spirit, I ask you to please desist in your claims that I am attacking your religious freedom, or your right to say what you want to say. I am doing neither. Free speech also has to be responsible and based on facts and the latest research.

When you speak against homosexuality, I only ask you to think of the psychological and emotional damage you inflict on LGBT persons and their families. As Rev. Steve Chalke, Senior Minister of Oasis Church, London, writes, “Why am I so passionate about this issue? Because people’s lives are at stake. Numerous studies show that suicide rates among gay people, especially young people, are comparatively high. Church leaders sometimes use this data to argue that homosexuality is unhealthy when tragically it’s anti-gay stigma, propped up by Church attitudes, which, all too often, drives these statistics.” So many LGBT persons are broken by what you say and driven away from their families and their communities. So many have attempted to take their own lives, and some, sadly, succeeded in doing so.

[Same point as above.]

I would like to invite you to a dialogue, so that we can listen to one another, in love, in respect, and learn to understand each other better, so we can work together to build a better Singapore.

Your Brother in Christ,Rev Miak SiewPastor, Free Community

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