Ikea seeks solution over controversial pastor's show

Ikea seeks solution over controversial pastor's show

IKEA Singapore has responded to complaints from activists for its support of a magic show by a pastor known for his views against homosexuality, saying it is working to find an acceptable solution.

Gay rights activists were up in arms about a tie-up that allows members of Ikea Family - the retailer's loyalty programme - to obtain discounted rates for Vision, a magic show featuring pastor-magician Lawrence Khong of Faith Community Baptist Church.

A spokesman for the furniture retailer said last night it recognises that "the promotional collaboration with Vision has raised sensitivities among members of the public".

"We have been in contact with the show's organisers today and hope to find a resolution that is agreeable to both parties."

Ikea Singapore said earlier that its management was assessing the situation. It also posted an apology on its Facebook page in response to an upset customer, saying: "We are really sorry for the unhappiness this has caused."

Among activists who spoke against Ikea's decision was Jean Chong, co-founder of women's gay rights group Sayoni, who said she wanted to encourage the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community "not to patronise businesses that promote homophobia".

Olivia Chiong, who blogs about same-sex parenting, said Ikea Singapore's support "contradicts the brand's public and global stand for diversity and equal rights over the last 20 years".

An Ikea spokesman told international LGBT news portal Gay Star News that while Ikea Family is promoting the show on its website, it is not funding it: "Vision is offering our Family members a discount on tickets to a theatrical illusion performance that offers high family entertainment value."

Vision's main sponsor, IPP Financial Advisers, defended its support for the show, which features Mr Khong and his daughter Priscilla, and takes place in July. Its managing director for marketing and investments, Albert Lam, said: "We sponsored the show because we are proud of our Singaporean talent, and this is a world-class show. What Lawrence Khong believes is not part of our criteria for good entertainment value."

Others also praised Ikea for supporting the show. Thio Gim Hock, chief executive of real estate developer OUE Limited, thanked Ikea on Facebook, saying: "The normal family - man, woman and child - are in the majority and are the ones who need to buy furniture to start their home."

Mr Khong, 63, could not respond to queries by press time, said a spokesman for Gateway Entertainment, his church's media arm, which is producing the show.

He has spoken out against homosexuality. Last year, he pledged support for a campaign to "wear white" to protest against the LGBT picnic Pink Dot.

This is not the first time a company has come under fire for supporting certain organisations. In 2008, DBS Bank drew flak for picking Focus on the Family - seen by some as an anti-gay, anti-abortion organisation - as a target charity. The bank dropped the charity's name from its advertisements, but restored it later.


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