ST Online Forum: Three-point rebuttal to writer's response to article on gays (10 May 2007)

Thursday, May 10, 2007

May 10, 2007
Three-point rebuttal to writer's response to article on gays

I REFER to Mr Brian Selby's letter, 'Professor's view on gays prejudiced' (Online forum, May 8), written in response to my article, 'Decriminalising homosexual acts would be an error' (ST, May 4).

As my article and this letter are not intended to be theses with footnotes, I will not delve into the various issues in great detail in this forum. Suffice to say that I have three main objections in response to Mr Selby's letter.

First, Mr Selby asserts that my article constitutes 'hysterical, homophobic and bigoted diatribe'. His words obfuscate the important and relevant legal and policy issues raised in my article.

Mr Selby appears more interested in precluding informed debate by adopting the tactic of insulting those whose views he disagrees with, in the hope of silencing these views. This undermines free debate in a democratic society.

If, to take a stand is to be prejudiced, then everyone is 'prejudiced" in favour of his or her own view. According to his reasoning, Mr Selby is himself prejudiced against the views expressed in the article. He is a bigot by his own yardstick.

His use of the term 'homophobia' is also provocative and aggressive. This is because the term 'phobia' suggests a disease and thus 'homophobia" is a disease which symptoms are a 'fear of homosexuals", implying that those who have not jumped aboard the pro-homosexual bandwagon are somehow ill.

Mr Selby's approach attempts to beat certain views into submission rather than to engage in reasoned debate. Indeed, his personal insults seek to undermine my professional credibility and, by association, my views. Such an uncivil response shows up the weakness underlying Mr Selby's own biases.

Second, Mr Selby in questioning my professional capacity as a law professor at NUS, dogmatically assumes his own views are the only right views. This resort to 'professional assassination' is unfair and does not even bother to engage the substance of the debate.

Third, Mr Selby makes several obtuse assertions. He misunderstands my observations concerning the broader homosexual agenda which has manifested in foreign countries, particularly in Europe and North America.

He asks for evidence showing steps taken to lower the age of consent or change the definition of marriage in Singapore. The point I made was that decriminalising homosexual acts is the first step in achieving this agenda.

It is instructive to consider the experiences of other countries and to learn from their experiences, good and bad. The onus is on those calling for the decriminalisation of homosexuality to show that such steps as outlined in my article will not take place in Singapore.

He makes another erroneous statement that my view is that these foreign countries protect free speech 'so long as it does not perpetuate a violent act".

The point I made is that homosexual rights in countries such as Sweden have trumped other constitutional rights such as freedom of religion and conscience and the free speech of people in expressing their view that homosexuality is morally wrong.

Those who oppose the views expressed in my article should do so in a responsible manner. The making of unsubstantiated and unnecessary personal and professional attacks against myself (for example, in cyberspace blogs, letters to the media or my employer) is unfair and defamatory.

Concerned Singaporeans must not be stopped by such tactics of intimidation, such as this form of written abuse, from speaking out against matters which harm the welfare of Singapore.

The call for decriminalisation of homosexuality raises several controversial issues. My article highlights important and relevant considerations which inform the debate, so often glossed over by those who promote 'homosexual rights' over the rights of all in general.

The cogency of my arguments is not undermined merely because a sector of society dislikes such arguments based on their personal preferences and 'liberal" views; their views are not presumptively superior and indeed, radical liberalism is morally questionable.

The fact that different viewpoints exist, based on alternative premises like moral relativism, does not undermine the legal reasoning, logic or policy issues raised in my article.

In due course, the Government will address and resolve these legally and politically contentious issues (in a context where these issues can more fully be debated, such as Parliament, compared to the limitations of newspaper articles or cyberspace).

In the interim, concerned Singaporeans do not deserve to be misled by wild rhetoric but to have access to well-reasoned perspectives and, one would hope, civilized debate.

Yvonne C. L. Lee