October is Pastor Appreciation Week or so I gathered from my friend in US. Unfortunately, here in Singapore, it will appear that October is pastor bashing week. Or rather, one pastor in particular who has single handledly in one move, wipe off whatever remaining goodwill towards Christianity that the non-Christian has left after the sad saga of the CHC and Lighthouse.
By now everybody will have known of the challenge that is being mounted by Faith Community Baptist Church against the Ministry of Manpower and the Minister’s order to the church to compensate a pregnant employee for their termination of her from her job in the church. For those who are still living in dah dah land, here is the short brief of what happened so far.
There was this married man and this lady. Both worked for FCBC. They had an affair and the lady got pregnant. The man quit the church. She did not. She was asked by the church to forget the man and move on. She refused and after some heeing and hawing, she was fired from her job. One reason given was that she did not breached the implied rule of the church. Another reason was that she was working in the marriage department of the church and her state of affairs was a bad example for other married and to-be married couple. At that point in time, she was already 7 months pregnant. The church did not compensate her for the firing. The lady complained to MOM and after some “investigation”, the church was ordered to pay her slightly over $7,000.00 as compensation for wrongful dismissal. The church paid up but has now launched a court action to get a review of the decision by the MOM and quote “the Courts can give guidance on where we stand with reference to the constitutional rights of religious bodies in the management of their religious affairs, which we believe include the hiring and dismissal of staff, the moral standards expected of staff at a level that reflects the ethos and values of the organisation”
The sacking of the woman had already given Christianity a bad name. Where is the compassion, the forgiveness that is always being preached? But having said that, to be fair to the church, I think the church has every right to sack her. She has breached the “rule”. Sexual indiscretion is a major no no in many companies notwithstanding that it may not be spelled out in the HR manual. They have counselled her, given her a chance and a choice and she did not bite. So they rightfully terminated her. But where they went wrong was the failure to compensate her for in lieu notice and in following labour law on termination of pregnant employee. The church argued that its rule book do not allow for compensation in the case of termination. That to me, is pure bullshit! The senior pastors or any other bosses in any organisation will surely have the discretion to waive this and pay out of compassion or pity or whatever reasons they can make up but they failed to do so. Where is thy compassion?
Now having been slapped in the face by the government, the church like an indignant son who felt he has did not wrong is spoiling for a fight. The thrust of its argument is that the church has a constitutional rights to the management of their religious affairs etc. In simple words, it is saying that it has the right to behave as it deem fits within the rules of its own religious code.
And this is where I find the argument absurd. Let suppose that the Court agrees with the church’s argument and rules that the church has the power to enforce its own spiritual code of conduct over its members and employees and that its own law override the country’s law. So in this case, the employee sinned (committed adultery) and was fired. Case closed.
I can imagine what’s going to happen next. The Jehovah Witness movement will now come forward and restate it case against its members serving NS. SThe Mormons will said it is their religious rights to practice polygamy. The Islamic movement will want to enforce their hudud laws against their members and the list will go on and on. Is this how we want it to pan out?
The FCBC has stirred a hornet nest that was already buzzing from the CHC crude attempt to finance the Crossover Funds. The rest of the Christian community don’t really need this type of adverse publicity. The mega church has grown too big for its boots and is becoming a social menace. Maybe the CHC case and this case is good in the long run if eventually the government steps in to see what really going on behind these million dollar enterprise.