There has been extensive coverage about the recent furore around a Hwa Chong Institution (HCI) school counsellor’s anti-LGBT rhetoric and sharing of a video made by a church featuring an individual who claimed to have his attitudes towards homosexuality changed by his renewed Christian faith.
HCI has since come out to state that the views presented by the counsellor was made according to his “own perspectives” and does not represent the view or position of HCI or the Ministry of Education (MOE). Furthermore, the counsellor has been officially reprimanded by HCI and suspended from conducting sexuality education lessons for students.
Taken on its own, this seems to be a mere storm in a teacup. A single school staff member was merely making unsanctioned, irresponsible, and discriminating comments about the LGBT community during sex education class to students. School management was quick to take the staff member to task, internal procedures over vetting of sex education content will be reviewed, damage control successfully executed.
Or is it?
A Very Christian Call To Arms?
The HCI incident occurred on 17 July 2022. Only a week prior, the LOVESingapore Movement made a daily entry on 10 July for its annual 40.Day Prayer series.
What is interesting about the 10 July Prayer Guide was how it explicitly called on younger Gen Z Christians to join MOE in greater numbers, so as to “let God use you to mould lives that will shape the future of our nation”.
Bemoaning how Christian teachers are dwindling in numbers with declining interest amongst the younger generation to serve in Education and School “due to parents pushing them to pursue other professions”, the prayer guide claimed that Singapore would be poorer for the lack of continuous renewal and regeneration of “godly, principled, and dedicated teachers who regard education as a divine calling”.
LOVESingapore’s 10 July Prayer Guide also threw even more fuel on its aggressive rhetoric in exhorting its Christian fellowship to further unity and activism in Singapore, by calling on Christians to “resist the devil” existing in “subtle, serious, evolving, and lurking threats” to the “progress of the Gospel in Singapore” through courageous and discerning exposure, restraining, and destruction.
The Prayer Guide described its ultimate aim for Christians to “Turn Singapore Godward – region by region, zone by zone, block by block, family by family, person by person”.
It also misguidedly calls on the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act (MRHA) as protection against any potential “religious persecution” Christians might suffer as a result of their above actions, and ends off with an exhortation for Christians to brace themselves against what it described as “ideological opposition arising from contemporary fault lines such as LGBTQ”.
The clincher as usual, is saved for last.
“Pray that, amid the polarisation, we will fear God, not man. We will close ranks, stand firm, and stay true to God’s blueprint for gender and sexuality, marriage and family. We will not cower, flinch or dodge. We will pray, trusting God for wisdom to contribute penetrating insight and provocative foresight — for our nation’s long-term good.”LOVESingapore 2022
Divinely-appointed Spokesman for God, or Human-Invented Anointment?
The most immediate question to ask is: Who gave this group of Evangelical Christians the right to preach and proselytise as if they themselves had the God-Given Right to determine what is Singapore’s “long term good”, and convert the whole country to Christianity according to their fundamentalist Christian values?
They’re not even the Catholic Church. The Pope isn’t their head. Even such well-established Christian communities of real global and historical importance have not made such aggressive evangelical calls to ideological arms for their followers against any secular issue in Singaporean society they might see as “contemporary ideological faultlines and opposition”. The ideological arrogance on display here is frankly spectacular and nauseating in equal measure.
A Christian Fifth Column in MOE?
The next critical question to ask is: Given the public publication of such fervent evangelism and Christian preaching in Singapore explicitly calling for more Christians to join MOE and help make the Church be “the best ally” to MOE fulfilling its mission of moulding future generations for Singapore’s future, does the presence of individuals like the HCI counsellor hint at deeper infiltration of Christian evangelism motivated by fundamentalist Christian teachings/values into MOE’s education professional community?
It should be no coincidence that the pro-Christian values, anti-LGBT video shared by the HCI counsellor was produced by Truelove.Is, another local church best known for controversy surrounding its community and social media efforts portraying what some have described as “psychological conversion therapy without physical abuse”.
Is LOVESingapore a Trojan Horse for One Pastor’s Christian Fundamentalist Motives?
The LOVESingapore Movement’s 10 July Prayer Guide is also deeply problematic due to its purpose of existence and its main leadership figure, Pastor Lawrence Khong.
The LOVESingapore Movement was founded in 1995 by Pastor Khong as a self-described “Unity Movement” to unite fellow evangelical churches in Singapore such as his own Faith Community Baptist Church.
However, it became Pastor Khong’s personal vehicle for publicising his anti-homosexuality beliefs, particularly in 2014 when the Movement created a guide on supporting Section 377A of Singapore’s Penal Code criminalising sex between men in one of the most open religious lobbying of the government to retain said law.
Pastor Khong also simultaneously attempted at influencing the Health Promotion Board with his Christian ideology in an open letter criticising its online sexual health guide for “undermining the family” and “normalising homosexual practices”.
Most significantly, Pastor Lawrence Khong also has ties to the “Wear White” anti-LGBT campaign between 2016 to 2022. Known as We.Wear.White during his leadership, the campaign called on the public to wear white during the same time period as the annual pro-LGBT PinkDot Rally. The purpose was for the anti-LGBT campaign led by the LOVESingapore Movement to send a public message to Singaporean society and the government: that its self-anointed role as Church and Christianity representative in Singapore was keeping to the Church’s stance on heterosexual Marriage and the Natural Family, being aligned with the core values of a self-described “conservative majority” in the country.
Not The First Time
HCI’s sex education classes being involved in drama over religious (read: Christian) influences in their conduct and messaging has happened before in the past. In 2014, a HCI student who attended a relationship workshop conducted by Focus On The Family Singapore wrote an open letter to HCI’s principal decrying what she perceived as sexist rhetoric and gender stereotyping made with religious motivations during the workshop.
It seems that 8 years on under a different principal (Dr Hon Chiew Weng was principal during the 2014 incident; Mr. Pang Choon How is the current principal of HCI since 2018), little has changed at HCI when it comes to vetting and evaluating its methods and teachings of sexuality and relationship classes for its students.
Does a top school in Singapore have zero grip or oversight on its teaching content or its staff? Once is an oversight. Twice is passive neglect. Any more similar incidents in future, and it cannot be seen as anything less than active condoning by the school’s management and MOE at large.
Christian Fundamentalism Infiltration: A Ticking Time Bomb
The fact that similar incidents with similar Christian influences have happened twice speaks more of a potential larger issue of Christian evangelical fundamentalism infiltrating into HCI and MOE’s education professional community, a direct violation of the secular nature of education in Singapore.
When we see open prayer guides made by one of the most high-profile evangelical Christian lobby groups masquerading as an innocent “Unity Movement” and headed by a pastor with well-known intolerant Christian fundamentalist beliefs, it is no wonder that such incidents that happened at HCI occurred in the past and present, and makes it no surprise when they happen again in future be it at the same school or someplace else.
In a country where Muslim girls were suspended from secular national schools back in 2002 due to their parents’ insistence on them wearing the Islamic tudung headscarf which was not part of approved school uniform dressing, the silence from the Government about the LOVESingapore Movement’s overtly inflammatory 10 July Prayer Guide is deafening.
The very MRHA that the LOVESingapore Movement alluded to as “protection from religious persecution” states clearly that action can be taken by the Minister of Home Affairs against any person in a position of authority in any religious group or organisation, should they be found to have committed/attempted to commit acts of promoting amongst other things “…political causes” and “carrying out subversive activities” under the guise of propagating or practising a religious belief.
MHA needs to address LOVESingapore’s 10 July Prayer Guide and wider public rhetoric/behaviour, so as to give Singaporean society a clear answer and reaffirmation of its secular nature and inclusiveness for all regardless of race or sexual orientation.