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Singapore: Netizens angry over pastor’s comments on Buddhism and Taoism

Categories: East Asia, Singapore, Freedom of Speech, Religion

Pastor Rony Tan of Lighthouse Evangelism, an independent church in Singapore with 12,000 members, has already apologized for attacking Buddhism and Taoism in his sermons. Pastor Tan apologized after receiving a call from the Internal Security Department [1]. Despite the apology, the issue remains a controversial topic in the blogosphere.

Part 1 of the infamous video sermon [2] of Pastor Tan

An excerpt from Pastor Tan’s statement of apology [3]

I have received a number of emails from people who have been saddened and hurt by the testimonies of an ex-monk and an ex-nun. I realized that my presentation and comments were wrong and offensive. So I sincerely apologize for my insensitivity towards the Buddhists and Taoists, and solemnly promise that it will never happen again.

When we have received those emails, we immediately removed the video clips from our website. I urge those who have posted those clips on the YouTube to remove them as well.

Like many Singaporeans, Choo Zheng X was angry [4] after viewing the videos

I felt deeply angry when I saw the videos of Pastor Rony Tan deriding Buddhists in his church. A place of worship was used to propagate misinformation and ignorance. A faith of love and acceptance was being used as a vehicle of intolerance.

Other Singaporeans were angry too, so angry that a large number were calling for Pastor Tan to be jailed under the Internal Security Act or the Sedition Act. But I held myself back

But the author is hesitant about using the Sedition Act to punish the pastor

It’s telling that when controversy like this occurs, Singaporeans immediately look to a punitive measure to solve the problem. That’s how simplistic our attitudes towards faith and ethnicity have become.

Sadly, laws like the Sedition Act encourage Singaporeans to take the path of least resistance, short circuit important social dialogue, and retard the process of seeking richer inter-faith/cultural confidence building.

Alvin Phoon warns against using exaggerated legal and punitive actions against the pastor [5]

Bigots of different religions and persuasions squabble all the time. Normally I’m happy to sit back and watch because they make for good entertainment. However, in this case, threatening legal action against one party for making religiously insensitive comments is rash and will bear serious future consequences. Instead of being so adamant on imprisoning a man for mere words that were probably not even well thought out in the first place, why can’t we just take a step back, and move on with our lives? Pile on the humiliation if you must. But remember that the day Rony Tan goes to prison is the day religious tolerance and freedom of opinion ceases to exist.

Shawn Lim wants the pastor to be punished [6]

What they should have done, instead of warning him, was to punish him. Fine him; send him to jail, whatever. If it takes a show of power to prevent this kind of incidence from happening again, by all means, do whatever that is necessary.

So why are the authorities so lenient when what Pastor Rony was clearly out of line with the first rule of religious harmony; which is to show respect for other religions? Do they not realise that a ‘warning’ in an increasingly vocal society is not enough?

dhamma musings does not believe that the current practice of holding inter-religious dialogues [7] in Singapore can promote religious and racial harmony

I doubt that inter-religious dialogue, at least as it is conducted in Singapore, really brings about a change in how the different religions feel about each other. The participants are already respectful of other faiths. The ones who could do with a bit of tolerance – the bigots, zealots, fundamentalists and the evangelicals, won’t come

i.justrealized notes that religion is a sensitive issue [8] in Singapore

Actually the interviewees are quite funny if you watch it with an open mind. One of the interviewees revealed that he had some bowel problems causing blood during defecation. In a moment of fear, he prayed to Jesus and was totally healed.

I should point out that religion is a sensitive issue, especially in Singapore, where the risks of tensions are high. We will not want to jeopardize peace in the process. Singapore has been strict on religious harmony.

In the church I frequented, there is a strong belief that Christianity is the only true religion and all other religions are Satan attempting to bring away people from the Christian God.

Pastor Tan’s lectures were contradicted in several websites and blogs: Half Time Adventurer [9], sgfrag.net [10], and the National University of Singapore Buddhist Society [11].

Facebookers posted comments [12] on Pastor Tan’s facebook fan page. An Arrest Pastor Rony Tan facebook group [13] was also created.