Sunday, 21 February 2010

Pastor draws flak for remarks about gays

Netizens outraged after clip of interview with ex-lesbian was put online; police report filed

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Guanyu 道 said...

Pastor draws flak for remarks about gays

Netizens outraged after clip of interview with ex-lesbian was put online; police report filed

By Carolyn Quek
20 February 2010

Barely a week after he landed in trouble for comments about Buddhists, Senior Pastor Rony Tan is again at the centre of controversy.

This time, comments he made about gay people - again in a video on his Lighthouse Evangelism church’s website - have riled many people online, and they are demanding an apology.

Several calls were made to the police about the comments, and at least one report has been lodged.

A police spokesman confirmed that a report was received, but declined to reveal further details.

The video at the centre of the controversy shows an interview with a former lesbian who is now a church worker, in which she renounces her past lifestyle.

The 80-minute clip was duplicated by blogger Kenneth Tan, a 32-year-old based in Shanghai who described himself as the editor-in-chief of an English language news and lifestyle blog there. He posted the clip on the Internet.

In the video, which has since been removed from the church’s website, Pastor Tan warned churchgoers against homosexuality.

‘Many, but not all’, said the leader of the 12,000-strong independent church, would be ‘harassing and seducing young boys’, giving rise to more gay people.

He also took issue with homosexual families, saying they cannot be regarded as family units. Doing so, he said, would lead to a downward spiral.

‘Next time, people will get married to a monkey and they want rights.’

Calls for an apology came swiftly after the video was posted online. Netizens ranging from Facebook users to readers of gay lifestyle portal said they were outraged.

Film-maker and lecturer Boi Kwong, 32, who lodged the police report, said he felt the pastor’s remarks were ‘demeaning’ to gays and lesbians.

Another film-maker, Mr. Royston Tan, 33, said he called the police because he felt the video violated human rights.

‘I’m not fighting for gay rights, but it’s basic human respect,’ he said.

When contacted by The Straits Times, Pastor Tan, 64, defended his remarks.

He said: ‘I’ve said nothing wrong, you know. Like I said, my stand is with the average person and the Government.’

He said he had always taught his congregation that the homosexual community should not be discriminated against.

‘But, of course, you know there is a law against homosexual acts, so that’s always been my stand.

‘I’ve always taught my people that...if they (homosexuals) are talented, we should not deprive them. And if we have friends, we should still continue the friendship.’

He added: ‘The act is wrong, (but) as a person, there are a lot of good points that we should appreciate.’

Pastor Tan’s stand is consistent with that of the National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS): Homosexuality is wrong, but gay people should not be discriminated against.

In a statement on its website, the NCCS said that while the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian faith teachings, the Church does not reject or despise homosexuals.

When asked whether a police report in such a case could lead to a criminal case being made against Pastor Tan, senior lawyer Subhas Anandan said it could.

There are sections of the Penal Code that make it an offence to attempt to provoke a breach of peace or incite a community to commit public mischief against another, he said.