The National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS) has told its 250 members that it does not view Faith Community Baptist Church's (FCBC) application for a judicial review as a "church versus state matter".
NCCS president Bishop Terry Kee said he did this so that the churches would leave the matter to the courts and "let it rest". On Thursday, the NCCS sent a letter to church leaders saying the judicial review "is not to be framed as a church versus state matter".
"Rather, we see the case as one of employer's-employee's obligations and duties under the Employment Act and the common law in this area," NCCS added in the letter, which was signed by Bishop Kee. On Wednesday last week, FCBC's pastor Lawrence Khong applied for a High Court judicial review of a Ministry of Manpower (MOM) order to his church to pay compensation to a former employee. The church had sacked the woman, when she was about seven months pregnant, for committing adultery.
The Employment Act protects an expectant mother from her fourth month of pregnancy.
If she is sacked without sufficient cause during this period, her employer must pay her maternity benefits.
In his letter, Bishop Kee noted that FCBC feels "aggrieved and concerned" that its dismissal of the employee over "a moral issue" was deemed by MOM to be one without sufficient cause.
Bishop Kee added that the council has "confidence that the courts will shed light on the matter, and decide what is right in the interpretation and application of the law of the land in such instances". The decision to issue this letter was made on Sunday, when a small group of NCCS leaders including Bishop Kee discussed the matter during one of their regular meetings.
Bishop Kee told The Straits Times that they agreed to make a statement "to inform members of our perspective, and to call on them to leave the matter to the courts, and let it rest". Separately, Mr Khong had met several leaders from the LoveSingapore network of about 100 churches on the morning of Wednesday last week, hours before he filed his application for a judicial review. Sources who attended that meeting said he spent most of it explaining his decision to the group of about 50 church leaders present, who asked questions and affirmed his decision.
The ministry had warned that the church is embarking on a "confrontational approach", which Mr Khong has denied. He has said FCBC wants a "clarification" from the court on the parameters within which it operates as a church.
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