Friday, June 5, 2009

Where Dr. Thio Su Mien is a religio-fascist idiot

This monday, first of june, Dr. Thio Su Mien, 'feminist mentor' of Aware Scandal infamy posted the following absurdity

Militant religionism? It's family values 

I REFER to last Saturday's letter by Mr John Hui, 'Militant religionism the real threat to social harmony', which made serious, inflammatory and inaccurate allegations against me. Mr Hui adopted the propagandistic, pejorative technique of labelling me a 'militant Christian', alluding to 'militant exclusionist religionism' which 'already generated disharmony'. He alleged that I persuaded Christians to join the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) to 'push forward Christian moral values'. 

What view is he demonising as an imposed Christian value? Apparently, this relates to sexual morality norms and defining 'family'. I share the Government's view that 'the conventional family, a heterosexual stable family', is society's building block. If espousing this view of the family constitutes 'militant exclusionist religionism', then most Singaporeans are guilty militants. 

Mr Hui's mischievous mischaracterisation of a mainstream value as an imposed religious value incites anti-religious hostility, threatening social disharmony. 

Aware did much to promote women's concerns. However, I found its apparent recent shift to advocating the homosexual agenda alarming. I encouraged people not to be passive bystanders but to participate in shaping our common good. 

My concerns were validated when the Ministry of Education (MOE) suspended Aware's Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) programme, removing Aware from the external vendors list. 

The CSE instructors guide contained 'explicit and inappropriate' content which conveyed 'messages which could promote homosexuality'. This violated MOE guidelines that sex education must promote 'family values'. This proved the presence of the homosexual agenda in our schools for at least two years, which understandably upset many parents. 

Upholding family values most Singaporeans share is not a religious imposition. Undermining family values through school programmes disrespects valid parental concerns and the morality of the majority. Which really threatens social cohesion? 

Dr Thio Su Mien

I sent a reply to the straits times forum which they did not publish. I will reproduce it below:

I refer to Monday's letter by Dr. Thio Su Mien, "Militant religionism? It's family values". She claims that just because the Singapore government and most Singaporeans share her views about homosexuality, that they have a right to impose these views on everybody else. The point of religious freedom is that people have a right to their religious views and practice, which in principle cannot be overridden by any number of people. Secularism is therefore about the government being neutral between different values (religious or not). The only laws that a government can legitimately make are those based on formal logical principles derived from pure practical reason which are value neutral (like laws against murder, coercion, theft, deception etc). Hence even if 99.99% of the nation consisted of conservative religious people, it is wrong for the government to institute laws that ban sodomy, gay marriage or gay adoption because that will unjustly impose on the religious practice of the 0.01% who are non religious and have no reason to abstain from such practices. However, legalising these practices does not impose on the religious because they are still free to marry, free to do what they have done all the time. Only now, the LGBT community is also free to do whatever they want as long as the individual adults consent to it. It is also wrong for the government to take the official position that family values are better than other values. Tax funded schools should not be in the business of imparting values at all. That is the provenance of the family and the clan or the church or madrassah etc. These are the institutions where it is appropriate to teach these values.

Yes, yes, its a bit rushed, but I make very important points. Why am I so harsh with Dr Thio?

1. She is a religio fascist because she wants to impose conservative religious views on the rest of us. Even though religious liberals, the non religious and the atheists form a minority in Singapore, we have a right to our religious practice and views. This is a right that, prima facie, ought not to be violated.

Looking at the forum page (both print and online), I see that a lot of my fellow Singaporeans do not seem to be getting this. Many understand that it would really screw up the social fabric if narrow religious views were imposed on a majority or even a significant minority. But this already cedes half the argument to Dr Thio and her ilk. If a purely religious law merely imposes on an already socially marginalised minority (which already exerts very little political pressure) then whoopee, the social fabric can absorb the discontent and the fascists win.

That is why I want to talk about rights. Rights represent lines that should not be crossed. There are very few cases where rights to treligious freedom may be violated. The only relevant case I can think of now are Jehova's Witnesses. They are a branch of christians who do not swear oaths (no pledge) and therefore would not serve NS. They would mooch off the govt (going to tax funded schools etc using tax funded roads) without giving back. The state can legitimately ban Jehova's witnesses from migrating here and obtaining citizenship, or banish Jehovah's witnesses who refuse to do NS and even send defaulters to DB because conscription (in Singapore's case) is necessary to the continued existence of the state. But, other than narrow cases like this, there are no exceptions to this rule.

Banning sodomy, gay marriage and gay adoption have no justification but religious ones. To keep these laws, or to write them into the statutes, prevents the nonreligious, or the religious liberals from doing things for no other reason than someone else's religion says so. In fact it even imposes on conservative christians. People should be free to sin and be bad christians if they want to. It is up to a person's personal conscience what type of Christian, Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist or Satanist he wants to be.

2. One has to be either stupid or evil not to realise the assymetry between imposing a religious law and lifting it. I would rather not think of people whom I personally do not know as evil. But, owing that she used to be the Dean of the Law Faculty in NUS, she should know the difference, or else her credibility as a lawyer becomes questionable since she has such a large  blindspot on the issue. The alternative is that she has an agenda to impose her conservativism on the rest of society and only pretends ignorance of this fact. 

As I stated earlier in my reply, laws that ban sodomy, gay marriage and gay adoption are an unjust imposition on the non religious. It violates their religious freedom. On the other hand, legalising gay marriages, and allowing them to do their own thing does not impose on the religious rights of the conservatives. They are still free to believe what they like, marry how they like, and preach whatever they want within the boundaries of discourse in Singapore. (Another issue I've got problems with, but another battle for another day)

Dr Thio, would like to suggest that legalising these would be an imposition on the religious majority. Since the government has to impose either way, better to impose on a minority right? But how does allowing gays to do their own thing impose on the rights of the religious? Doesn't make sense right? Not unless they think that they have a right to force everyone else to follow their religious/cultural taboos.

In so far as the government is complicit in this type of mindset, the government is wrong. However, the government has indicated that it believes that gays must have the space to pursue their own lifestyle. Taken to its logical conclusion, this would mean liftting bans on gay sex, marriage and adoption. The PAP is very gradualist in its mindset. They may very well have a timetable to start liberalising in this area. Gradualism is a smart political strategy given a bigoted populace. The government can affirm a commitment to the people's pregudices while gradually giving Gays more and more freedom. I am however, more impatient. For this particular issue, the government should move faster.

This brings us to another point I wanted to make

3. The general populace is bigoted if it believes that gays shouldnt have the right to marry eachother etc. They being in the majority, and this being a socially acceptible form of bigotry does not make it any less bigoted or any less wrong. Espousing the view that only heterosexual families are legitimate is militant exclusionary religionism, no matter how widespread or how many people high up share this view.

4.The statement the conventional family, a heterosexual stable family', is society's building block is either meaningless, trivially true or false outright. What do they mean when people say this?

a) Everybody in society can be said to be a part of a heterosexual family unit in one way or another. A person is often a father, a mother, son, daughter, sibling, in-law, aunt, uncle, cousin, husband, wife, etc. But this is a trivial descriptive fact. It does not make any argument as to why gay marriages should remain illegal.

b) One could further argue that these relationships impose duties. I have duties towards my parents and my siblings, and I will take on duties to my wife when I get married, and duties towards my children when I eventually have children. These familial duties are part of what makes society society and are part of the very fabric of scoiety. Buth this would be true of any family, heterosexual or not. Even from a more normative concpetion of society, we can see how family and marriage are good institutions that must be maintained. But the important aspects of these institutions in no way suggests why these institutions should only be restricted to heterosexuals. In fact, the argument suggests expanding these institutions to include gays. Our society would be more cohesive if they were included too and were not marginalised.

5. Talking about the homosexual agenda is basically importing the culture wars from the US into Singapore. There is no homosexual agenda. Gays are not out there to rape your kids or convert straight children into gays. In fact, gays are not sexually attracted to children. Most pedophiles are straight. Apparently, any depiction of gays which does not demonise them and condemn them must be the work of the homosexual agenda. Apparently, having sex education and talking about gays in a neutral manner in order to conduct value neutral lessons is succumbing to the gay agenda. For these people, anything short of lynching them and burning them at the stake must be part of the gay agenda. They are religious extremists. Once people start talking about the gay agenda, you know that they are talking nonsense. That is because, other than to obtain equal rights for themselves, there is no such thing as a gay agenda.

Value neutrality is important as a philosophy of government. Future posts will explain why value neutrality is necessary. For now, here is a point that I would like people to consider. Value neutrality is not a necessary compromise between various factions. It is, as part of the aim of being a just overnment an ideal which all governments should strive to achieve. Moreover, it is a precondition to legitimacy of government. The further away from value neutrality a government goes, the less legitimate it is, i.e. the less right it has to exist.

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