A Response to Lim Yu-Beng’s “God’s will and State law: A dangerous mix”

I refer to the commetary which the actor Lim Yu-Beng wrote for the Today News located here in response to Pastor Khong’s statement to our former Prime Minister Goh Gheok Tong.

I find it astonishing that before he begins his consideration of Pastor Khong’s points he should disclaim debating “Pastor Kong’s interpretation of his religious beliefs”. In which part of the statement did Pastor Khong set forth an interpretation of his religious beliefs? Not a single word about his faith or religion was actually mentioned in that statement, except of freedom of religion.

Therefore to go on to say that, “I do, however, question his right to impose those interpretations on others through legislation.” is fallacious. He did not even give an interpretation of his religious beliefs in that statement, even less recommend the imposition of it on others through legislation.

Perhaps what Mr Lim is questioning Pastor Khong’s internal motives for making his statement.  But then again, how on earth is Mr Lim supposed to divine Pastor Khong’s motives? And even if Pastor Khong’s arguments are motivated by religious reasons, what exactly is wrong with that? Pastor Khong, for example, might believe that God institutes governments to restrain bodily violence, does it follow therefore that he has no right to argue for the crimininalisation of assaults and murders based on civic public reasons? To “impose” his belief upon murderers and thugs?

It is a logical fallacy to leap from Pastor Khong’s internal motives, to misreading his statements as a “religious interpretation”, to dismissing his actual arguments. Mr Lim should be engaging with Pastor Khong’s actual text, not reading his own meaning into it. This is a red herring and unnecessarily colours and misleads the readers into thinking that Pastor Khong’s entire statement was an exercise in theological argumentation when it is actually nothing of that sort.

Mr Lim’s further argument that “Nobody is making it compulsory for [Pastor Khong] to be gay. Why should he want it compulsory for others to be straight?” is once more a distortion of Pastor Khong’s words. Where did Pastor Khong said that legislations were making it compulsory for people to be gay? What Pastor Khong did say is that it leads to the taking away of the right of parents to how they want to educate their children in matters of sexual morality and the freedom to speak concerning one’s religious convictions about homosexuality. And examples of these in the West can be found via a simple Google search.

Why did Mr Lim go on to speculate as to “Perhaps Pastor Khong’s basis for the desire to stamp out homosexuality via legislation is the Biblical verses which list homosexuality as precluding entry into the Kingdom of God”, while completely ignoring what did Pastor Khong actually say about the family unit being foundational to society?

I continue to be amazed at the leaps of logic which Mr Lim makes, how on earth does the mere “use of LoveSingapore in order to further [Pastor Khong] views” lead to the impression that “Religious groups have the right to impose their will upon state legislature, at the expense of other groups.”? Isn’t it astounding that Mr Lim would see the mere airing of views to be equivalent to imposition of their will upon state legislature? Isn’t Mr Lim here simply confirming what Pastor Khong wrote about how activism for homosexuality would lead to a censure of views of those who disagree, because the mere airing of a contrary view is equivalent to an imposition of their will upon state legislature, and therefore is a no-no?

The following paragraphs about “religious groups” and “scriptural arguments”, etc, are once more fallacious and has nothing to do with what Pastor Khong actually said and his actual arguments about the arrangement of civic society around the family unit, etc. Hardly a religious argument. The only way Mr Lim can make his argument is to censure Pastor Khong’s motivations, as opposed to his public reasons and justifications, etc. But unless he wants to censure Pastor Khong’s conscience and internal thoughts (an even more dangerous territory to intrude!), I am at a loss as to what is the significance or point of these argument.

I wonder if Mr Lim realises the implications of what he is saying,

As a firm believer in multireligious, multicultural Singapore, my hope is for peaceful and happy coexistence. As ESM Goh says, people are free to stand by their own beliefs. Nobody has to believe the same thing in order to get along. We can celebrate our differences and cheer on one another’s growth along our own paths.

Mr Lim first says that “Nobody has to believe the same thing in order to get along.” Then he proceeds to “celebration” of differences,  “cheering” on one anther’s growth, etc. But what if, as Pastor Khong might believe, homosexual behaviour is precisely something to be discouraged, socially censured, or religiously condemned? Is Pastor Khong not allowed to habour his belief because it refuses to ‘celebrate’ and ‘cheer’ on what Mr Lim wants? Shall this new orthodoxy of political correctness be imposed on everyone whose beliefs constrains them from celebrating what Mr Lim wants to cheer on?

Ultimately, it is correct that we are a multireligious and multicultural society. However, already the path towards the censure of the freedom of religious adherents to hold to their beliefs, which is what Pastor Khong warned about, has already been mapped out. The mere expression of views is now equated with “imposition”, you can hold to your beliefs, as long as you affirm and celebrate and cheer what we want.

Is this not a short step towards censuring Pastor Khong, and those who likewise agree with him (religious or not), from expressing their “disapproval” of homosexual behaviour? The task of reconciling a multireligious and multicultural society, with its contradictory and conflicting beliefs and views, is not an easy one, but misrepresenting Pastor Khong’s views, as well as fantastic leaps of inference, is surely not the way to advance the discourse. Mr Lim should be interacting with Pastor Khong’s arguments about the family unit and the effects which the normalisation of homosexuality would have upon it, not misleading us with arguments about the Bible which Pastor Khong did not mention.

A much more helpful route would be to discuss and examine the history of the development of the institution of marriage, and the interaction between the religious and secular which leads it to its present form. I have done this at some length here, and I’ve compiled my other writings on the broader topics of homosexuality, marriage, etc, here.

Update: I’ve written a short reflection of what effect the repealing of 377A would have for Singapore, in particular our education system here.