Leave home without it, or better yet, cut it up. That is what some members of Singapore's gay community are saying in response to a credit card promotion by a Singapore bank in which up to S$15,000 will be donated to the infamous Focus on the Family (Singapore).
Picking up on the Focus on the Family brand name which is synonymous with the anti-gay, rightwing Christian agenda, some gay and lesbian credit card holders have reportedly started to cancel their cards and/or sent protest letters to the bank.
In a letter posted on an email group, Dominic Chua, an educator, has written to the bank to say that he is "thoroughly disappointed to learn that DBS is supporting a right-wing Christian organisation as part of its corporate social responsibility drive this Christmas" and that it "could do better than support an organisation that wilfully perpetrates misinformation about and prejudice toward gay persons."
In a full page advertisement in the Straits Times on Nov 13, DBS Bank declared that it would contribute up to S$15,000 towards Focus on the Family, "a charity dedicated to helping children and families thrive" when DBS/POSB credit card members spend S$300 on their cards from now till Dec 21 at selected malls.
The bank, which is Singapore and Southeast Asia's biggest with branches in 16 countries and territories in Asia including Hong Kong, China, Malaysia, Taiwan and US, is said to have about 1 million cards in circulation in Singapore.
Headquartered in Colorado, Focus on the Family is at the forefront of numerous anti-gay initiatives in the United States and most recently contributed US$600,000 to the Yes on Proposition 8 campaign in California which overturned the state Supreme Court ruling that legalised same-sex marriage.
The group made the headlines worldwide in 2005 when its founder James Dobson accused the cartoon Spongebob Squarepants of promoting homosexuality as Spongebob was often holding hands with Patrick Starfish!
Focus on the Family also stages Love Won Out, a 10-year-old ex-gay ministry that seeks to "cure" gays of their homosexuality, despite the contrary opinion reached by the American Psychiatric Association that reparative therapy is dangerously misguided and risks "depression, anxiety and self-destructive behaviour."
In Singapore, Focus on the Family has on numerous occasions made their anti-gay stance known in the press. In a 19 December 2004 article (Gay party no-go 'a signal not to push limits) in Singapore's Sunday Times, Tan Thuan Seng, the then president of Focus On The Family Singapore, agreed with the ban on gay events in Singapore saying, "We don't want them to encourage young people who have some degree of gender confusion to make the mistake of going into a gay lifestyle."
In 2003 the group organised "Homosexuality: Myths and Truths," a conversion/reparative therapy seminar with sessions on 'Preventing Homosexuality,' 'Recovery Therapy' and 'Unwanted Homosexuality: Steps to Early Detection and Prevention.' Due to protests by People Like US, a gay advocacy group, that highlighted the claims purported by the seminar organisers to be contrary to the beliefs held by the mainstream medical community, the state run and funded National Council of Social Services withdrew its training grant originally offered to participants on grounds of the speaker's lack of qualifications.
Focus on the Family Singapore currently distributes a series of "Love Won Out" booklets published by its parent organisation to promote conversion or reparative therapy to change one's sexual orientation. In Straight Answers (or Straight Talk), it asserts that despite safer-sex campaigns, "an estimated 30 percent of all 20-year-old homosexual men will be HIV positive or dead by the age of 30."
The literature continues to misquote psychiatrist Dr Robert L Spitzer to say that gays and lesbians are able to "make changes toward becoming heterosexual" despite his protest that his study has been misquoted by proponents of conversion therapy.
In a May 23, 2003 Wall Street Journal commentary, he wrote: "I did not conclude that all gays should try to change, or even that they would be better off if they did. However, to my horror, some of the media reported the study as an attempt to show that homosexuality is a choice, and that substantial change is possible for any homosexual who decides to make the effort."
The booklet further lists details for Choices, a local ex-gay ministry linked to Church of Our Saviour and Exodus International, for those who are "seeking to overcome homosexuality."
While the group in Singapore bills itself as a non-religious organisation with no mention of its Christian affiliation on its web site, it links to its parent web site and in two clicks readers are presented with its mission statement: "To cooperate with the Holy Spirit in sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with as many people as possible by nurturing and defending the God-ordained institution of the family and promoting biblical truths worldwide."
Focus on the Family (US) has also been referred to as an "evangelical Christian group" by major media including the Washington Post and the New York Times among others, and "one of the pillars of the Christian right" by United Press International, a newswire service.
When contacted by Fridae, the bank declined to say if they are aware of Focus on the Family's international reputation as an anti-gay Christian rightwing group.
A DBS spokesperson however told Fridae that the donation is in line with DBS' corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts and will be "directed towards building a new learning centre for children� with various learning disabilities."
She further added that "it is not the intention of the Bank to discriminate against any group through the choice of FOTF as our beneficiary."
Miak Siew, a prominent member of Singapore's gay community and postgraduate student in Berkeley, California, wrote on his blog: "Yes, one can defend DBS by saying they might not have known about the darker side of Focus on the Family. My view is this - before you pick a charity, do your homework."
He has appealed to his friends to not use their POSB/DBS cards and added that he is planning a mass action to protest the bank's decision when he returns to Singapore for the Christmas holidays.
While many applaud the bank's charity initiatives such as for The Children's Society as cited by the bank as the beneficiary of its Christmas in 2006, many object to raising funds for an organisation that spreads disinformation about gay men and lesbians.
Focus on the Family's founder James Dobson has written in his books and other literature that homosexuality is a mental disorder caused by family problems and bad parenting, and that the "homosexual activist movement has sought to implement a master plan that has had as its centerpiece the utter destruction of the family."
Chua said in this letter: "If it is a deliberate policy on DBS' part to support institutions that are so opposed to the well-being and happiness of gay people everywhere, I will ask my friends, both straight and gay, to consider switching their accounts to banks that affirm and support social diversity."
Ovidia Yu, a novelist and playwright, who is a DBS card member said she phoned the bank to register her complaint and that she would not be using her card and will be looking around for another bank.
Another irate customer Irene Oh told Fridae that she intends to stop banking with DBS and will tell her friends to follow suit. "It is important for us to respond so that companies will sit up and take notice," Oh said in an email to Fridae. "They are likely to be more aware that they cannot get away with supporting homophobic organisations without generating a backlash from their gay and lesbian customers."
When asked by Fridae, a gay finance and banking journalist with 10 years experience, who declined to be named for this story, advises gay and lesbian consumers who object to the bank's alliance to not use the card for the time being and to think twice before cancelling the card.
"If members of the gay community want to express unhappiness with DBS, the best way to do it is to take your DBS or POSB credit card out of your wallet and leave it at home for this festive shopping season. This way, you won't use it. Don't cancel the card, because you may eventually need the credit facility and it will be a hassle to re-apply."
But don't forget to tell the bank why you are leaving your card(s) at home this festive shopping season. Send DBS a message through the General Customer Feedback Form or the Consumer Banking department.
Page 2: Falsehoods spread by Focus on the Family
Falsehoods spread by Focus on the Family
The information below is extracted from A False Focus on My Family. The 32-page booklet is published by Soulforce, an American civil rights and social justice organisation whose vision is "freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance."
The booklet can be downloaded online from www.soulforce.org .
A False Focus on My Family: Why every person of faith should be deeply troubled by Dr. James Dobson's dangerous and misleading words about the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community
The Psychology Of Fear
Five false and spiritually violent claims by Focus on the Family
VIOLENT CLAIM ONE: Homosexuality is a mental disorder caused by family problems and bad parenting.
Response to Claim One: Forty years of research concludes that gay men and lesbian women are as healthy, stable, and functional as their heterosexual friends.
VIOLENT CLAIM TWO: Gay people want to destroy marriage and the family.
Response to Claim Two: America's health and mental health associations and scientists say that same sex couples have the same hopes and dreams as any other family.
VIOLENT CLAIM THREE: Same-gender parents are unfit and seek to hurt children.
Response to Claim Three: Numerous studies show that children raised by same-gender parents grow up to be just as healthy as children raised by heterosexual parents.
VIOLENT CLAIM FOUR: Homosexuality can be prevented by parents and "cured" through "reparative therapy."
Response to Claim Four: America's major health and mental health associations warn that "reparative therapy" is ineffectual or even psychologically damaging.
VIOLENT CLAIM FIVE: Gays and lesbians are sick, ungodly people who want "special rights" not civil rights.
Response to Claim Five: The widow of Martin Luther King, Jr., other civil rights heroes, and distinguished biblical scholars say that homophobia is like racism and other forms of bigotry.