Lawrence Khong: 'I told the Minister to send me to jail'

Lawrence Khong: 'I told the Minister to send me to jail'

Q: Was it the right thing to do, firing that employee?

The issue is whether there is sufficient cause. We were a little surprised when we were told that it is not sufficient cause because in a church context, adultery and immorality is held with different view. In fact, I talk to many pastors in the city. It is very common in a church that when someone commits adultery, they are told to resign. There was another case just a couple of years ago in my church - a staff who had done the same thing. He knew it was wrong. We tried to find other opportunities of employment for him. But he knew he had to step down.

Q: But in this case it was a dismissal, not a resignation.

When I first heard of this case, my immediate response was, "Oh dear, she will need a job more than ever before." This became especially so since I came to know from other sources that the father of the child was not prepared to marry her.

Our condition was that this employee must acknowledge that she was wrong. You see, in a church, we work with sinners, so to speak. We work with broken people. That's our job. So we cannot throw people out just because they have done something wrong. But if they are sorry and are willing to make things right, then to a great extent, we would want to keep that person. We wanted to help her deal with some issues in her life, so that she would go on to stronger relationships in the future.

But it turned out that over a period of time, she was lying to us. She said she was going to break off the relationship but she continued to see him on a regular basis. Finally, the day came when she saw the highest level of leadership in our operations, that is, me and my wife, who are the two senior pastors, the two team pastors overseeing her, the COO (chief operating officer), as well as the employee's brother-in-law, who used to be a pastor with us but who is now a pastor in Malaysia.

Before the meeting, her brother-in-law asked me if I could try my best to keep the job for her. I told him that that was our aim. But during the meeting, she said: "No, I'm not going to break it off with the man. I want to be with him." So finally I told her that I would like to give her five days to consider resigning. I also said I knew she would need finances and we had a LoveSingapore fund for those with financial difficulties. If she applied, we would help her. After that meeting, the brother-in-law said to me: "I wanted to appeal for you to retain her. But at the end of the conversation, I don't even have the grounds to do that."

Two weeks later, it became clear that she had no intention to resign, so we had no choice but to let her go.

Q: Apart from adultery, what other issues in an employee's life could also cause someone to be dismissed - issues that other employers may not have a problem with?

We are not nitpicking here. We're not saying, your skirt is two inches too short, or, there is an occasional burst of temper or a vulgar word. We're talking about bigger issues of morality. I would think that if someone is going around cheating other people, which we have dealt with too, or if they go around borrowing money and telling all sorts of stories, that would be not acceptable. Smoking is also not acceptable.

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