Just when the legislature in Albany legalised same-sex marriage, making New York state the sixth and largest US state (so far) to do so, Focus on the Family in Singapore launched another anti-gay campaign. They distributed two booklets over the last weekend to several other churches. At least one church has reportedly stuffed the lot in a corner refusing to redistribute the publications to its congregation. It probably recognised the campaign for what it was: an unchristian attempt to demean other people.
A heading inside one of the two booklets was dripping with irony. It said “Re-establishing honesty and accountability”.
This is coming from an organisation that believes in stealth tactics. It has not been honest about what it’s about, regularly presenting itself as a non-religious group that seeks to promote family life. Our compliant mainstream media has often re-printed their disclaimer that they are non-religious. Our Ministry of Community, Youth and Sports closes one eye and takes their word at face value, giving them legitimacy and support like they would to any secular organisation.
Do a websearch of Focus on the Family’s Singapore website, and you will see the extreme care they have taken not to breathe a word about their religious affiliation.
Even in their anti-gay agenda through the years, they like to present themselves as arguing against homosexuality (more accurately: arguing for the persecution of gay people through social and legal measures) from the standpoint of “family values”. Hogwash. Focus on the Family is an organisation dedicated to the pursuit of political Christianity, i.e. aiming to entrench fundamentalist Christian values as dominant values in whichever society they operate in, and to influence governmental policy and legislation accordingly. The effect on families with gay children is disastrous.
The booklets they have been distributing are evidence of their strong connections with rightwing Christianity, for in them they make no bones about what they’re about. The language used in the text echoes that used by the religious rightwing of America. The viewpoints expressed are taken from the same script as the anti-gay campaigns spearheaded by conservative US churches. Most damningly, littered throughout the text are references to the Christian god, Jesus and prayer.
But you can bet that the next time the Straits Times interviews them, they will once again deny they are a religious group, let alone one with a political agenda.
Here’s the cover of the first booklet:
On the inside front cover, Focus on the Family Singapore is clearly indicated. This positioning indicates that it is the responsible party.
The booklet begins by bemoaning the modern world. Television glamourises homosexuality, it says. Fashion is promoting androgynous styles. There are (gasp!) such things as unisex clothing, and “even perfumes that men and women wear”.
Read between the lines, and it reveals why certain conservative groups such as Focus on the Family are so terrified of the issue. It is not really homosexuality per se that makes them hyperventilate, it is the idea that ultimately men and women are equal, that men are not superior to women. How else could one explain their fixation with unisex clothing? Homosexuality blurs this distinction between maleness and femaleness and shows up the absurdity of any dogma that insists that one gender is so distinctive from the other that it should be invested with greater valence and authority. It’s patriarchy under threat again.
More to the point, the text says on page 3:
There are several myths regarding homosexuality currently circulating the globe and making their way to your ears. This booklet will help you debunk the myths and give you the facts on the issues surrounding homosexuality. . .
Then it goes on to muddle your brain with “facts” that are myths and try to tell you that well-accepted facts are actually “myths”. As an example of the latter, virtually all reputable researchers in social science and neurology today agree that sexual orientation is an immutable trait — a hundred years of research has yet to produce a single instance where someone’s sexual orientation is shown to have changed — but the booklet insists that it is not a fixed trait. To achieve this argument, Focus on the Family performs a series of logical tricks.
1. It first rephrases the statement “sexual orientation is an immutable trait” to “born this way”. The meaning is thus shifted and a strawman is created.
2. It then quietly assumes that “born this way” means genetic causation. Again, the meaning is shifted.
3. It then marshals arguments that show that there is no 100% correlation between genes and homosexual orientation. Quod Erat Demonstrandum. Homosexuals cannot possibly be born this way.
4. Therefore it can’t be a fixed trait because it cannot be inherited. (But who ever said anything about inheritedness?)
Other citations it brings up include some by the laughing stock institute called NARTH — the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality. This American outfit was set up by rightwing Christian groups to give a scientific gloss to their political agenda, but the very name of the organisation tells you that it aims to “cure” homosexuals. The science they do is considered disreputable since it is meant to serve dogma.
Spreading falsehood is one thing, but by the end of the first booklet — the inside back cover — its aim is clear. The recommended help is that of conversion therapy — snake oil and hocus pocus denounced by mental health professionals. Such attempts always fail (sexual orientation is immutable, after all). However, at the start, the patients are led to believe they can and will change, but when they finally realise it will never happen, they end up blaming themselves for failure and become more depressed than ever. Many commit suicide. People who sell conversion therapy are ethically culpable for the consequences, but of course they disclaim all responsibility.
Conversion therapy is unique to fundamentalist Christianity. It’s their attempt to dress up their hate campaign as one of “love” and “help”.
The second booklet is where the religious angle takes centrestage. “How should we respond?” is the title, and one should stop and wonder who the “we” is.
Once again, the inside front cover clearly indicates that Focus on the Family Singapore is responsible for this booklet.
Within its pages, there is no shortage of references to Christianity despite Focus on the Family’s insistence that it is a non-religious organisation. Page 11 has one such example, but even more interestingly, it speaks of “moderate homosexuals”:
What are those creatures? I guess it means gay people who acquiesce to their second-class status and do not demand their rights.
On the inside back cover, it says that
At Focus on the Family . . . it’s our goal and privilege to share with everyone the transforming power of God’s love . . . through the unconditional love and grace of Jesus Christ.
And still, they will claim they are a non-religious group.
Then again, maybe they are, because what they have set out to do — to demean and stigmatise other human beings, to bend truth and facts, to lie about their motives — is something no religion worthy of respect should be doing.