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ESM Goh clarifies remark made to pastor

Mr Goh was responding to a prepared statement by Pastor Lawrence Khong. -ST
Grace Chua

Sun, Jan 20, 2013
The Straits Times

SINGAPORE - Former prime minister Goh Chok Tong's office has clarified comments that he made to a pastor who called homosexuality a "looming threat" to the family unit.

It said that in his impromptu comments to churchgoers while on a walkabout, the Emeritus Senior Minister had been making a "general remark that people are free to stand by their beliefs".

Mr Goh was responding to a prepared statement by Pastor Lawrence Khong, who called the family unit "the basic building block of society".

Mr Khong added: "We see a looming threat to this basic building block by homosexual activists seeking to repeal Section 377A of the Penal Code."

He had been welcoming Mr Goh to the Faith Community Baptist Church's (FCBC's) Touch Centre auditorium. Mr Goh was on a walkabout in his Marine Parade constituency on Sunday when he made a 10-minute unscheduled stop at the church after being invited in by churchgoers.

He greeted the congregation, and according to the FCBC's account of the event on its website, he "responded to Reverend Khong with a strong word of encouragement. 'You stand by your belief, and you'll be fine!'"

Mr Khong had been referring to a lawsuit, to be heard in court next month, by a couple seeking to prove that Section 377A, which outlaws homosexual acts, is unconstitutional.

The repeal of similar laws around the world has "led to negative social changes, especially the breakdown of the family as a basic building block and foundation of the society", Mr Khong said.

He added that it takes away parents' rights over what children are taught, attacks religious freedom and denies free speech to those who disagree with homosexual activists.

As of last Thursday night, Mr Khong's prepared statement had garnered 625 "likes" on Facebook and over 430 comments, including support and criticism.

It even drew a rebuttal in a Facebook note from a fellow pastor - Reverend Miak Siew of the Free Community Church, which accepts same-sex and transgender relationships.

Mr Siew said: "Strong families are not defined by their composition. The repeal of 377A poses no threat to families bound together by love.

"It is the continued stigmatisation of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people that you are perpetuating that is a threat to families - because you have placed obstacles in how parents understand their children who are different, and created huge rifts in these families."

Sociologist Terence Chong, a senior fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, told The Straits Times: "One needs to look at recent events in order to understand where this pushback from Pastor Khong is coming from.

"Pink Dot events are becoming more celebratory and open, while a homosexual couple has decided to challenge 377A in the high court.

"Christians like Pastor Khong see this as a threat and conflate it with the undermining of the traditional family unit. It's a reaction to what they perceive as immoral trends."

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