Mon, Jun 30, 2014 - Page 12 News List

Something wicked this way comes

In the first of a two-part series, the ‘Taipei Times’ reveals how Christian organizations have formed anti-gay alliances with Taoist and Buddhist groups to influence government policy on same-sex marriage

By Ho Yi  /  Staff reporter

“Our church was packed to capacity during those weeks,” Chen Hsiao-en says, highlighting fears felt by the gay community leading up to the demonstrations.

“Newcomers would burst out crying, saying that they couldn’t take it anymore... One gay Christian thought his church would unconditionally love and accept him, but as soon as he came out to the pastor, he was rejected. Many [gay people] left their churches, heartbroken, after the demonstration on Nov. 30.”

For members of the religious alliance, however, the demonstration was a triumph — one that successfully pressured the legislature to halt the amendment to Article 972.

“Public opinion has to change, so we stepped forward. Now lawmakers and the media know our religious groups are against [same-sex marriage]. City councilors, mayors or the president — no matter what their elected office, they follow the voters. We are great in number, so let’s see who they will listen to,” says Paul Chang (張全鋒), vice president of the Unification Church Taiwan and one the alliance’s spokesmen.

‘Moral Taliban’

Religious opposition to same-sex unions is, in fact, shepherded by those who represent a small minority of the country’s population. Chen Chih-hung (陳志宏), a Taiwan Lutheran Church (基督教台灣信義會) bishop who also serves as the alliance’s spokesman, says that Christian churches are the driving force behind the crusade.

“To a certain extent, Christian groups take the lead on this issue since Asian religions haven’t traditionally seen homosexuality as a big deal. Churches in the US and Europe have confronted the impact of gay marriage directly… Since only a small percentage of Taiwanese are Christians, we share what we know with other religions so that they understand the seriousness of the situation,” Chen Chih-hung says.

According to statistics compiled by the Ministry of the Interior last year, Taiwan, a country composed of predominantly Buddhist and Taoist worshippers, has nearly 580,000 Protestants and Catholics. So the crusade against same-sex marriage is something of a foreign transplant.

“Christian churches in Taiwan are informed by churches abroad about what gay activists have been doing here… We lack experience. They have told us how serious the issue is and what strategies [gay rights advocates] deploy,” Chen Chih-hung says.

The clergyman says a large amount of information about how to combat gay rights issues comes from a global network of organizations, including The Society for Truth and Light (明光社), a conservative Christian pressure group based in Hong Kong and dubbed the “moral Taliban” by its detractors.

Focus on the Family, headquartered in the US city of Colorado Springs, is another institute promoting a conservative Christian agenda internationally. It has an office in South Africa, considered part of the American Christian operations whose role in the recent anti-gay legislation in Africa has been widely reported. Focus on the Family has a branch in Taipei called Loving Family (愛家基金會).

Dubious logic

For this global network of Christian organizations, society is built on the institution of marriage, which can only be between a man and a woman. All forms of sexual activity outside the heterosexual institution are considered dangerous and sinful.

“Same-sex unions cannot lead to marriage. They are a form of promiscuity like adultery, rape and prostitution… Since promiscuity is a sin, demanding human rights [for gay people] doesn’t make sense,” Chang says.

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