Christian fundamentalists hijack Singaporean feminist group

AWARE, a 25-year-old Singaporean women's right organization, recently found itself in turmoil after a coup orchestrated by conservative fundamentalist Christians who signed up in large numbers just before the annual general meeting, then elected a new executive that immediately purged the organization of all its traditional leadership down to the subcommittee chairs.
AWARE held its annual general meeting (AGM) on 28 March 2009. There were over 100 people present. Of them, about 80 had only joined the organisation between January and March, one to three months before the meeting. Nine out of 12 executive committee (EXCO) places, including four Office Bearer positions, went to newcomers, who were voted in by wide majorities. There are wide-ranging suspicions that this "leadership grab" has been orchestrated by a well-organised group who do not share AWARE's values and who are seeking to use the name and the resources of a well-respected institution to further their own agenda. These concerns have been expressed not only by onlookers, but by older members of Aware...

# The new president, Josie Lau and 5 other Exco members belong to the same church, Church of Our Saviour. Given this, it is very likely, in our view, that they have acted in concert to take over AWARE. We do not know why as they have refused to disclose their reasons to either members of AWARE or to the press and this makes us even more worried. They, or persons whom they have been associated with, have written homophobic letters to the press. While that is their personal conviction to which they are entitled, we do not want AWARE to be made into a vehicle for any hidden agenda.

# Josie Lau, was in charge of the DBS Charity Drive in support of Focus On The Family, US-based Christian organisation that is opposed to abortion and equal rights for sexual minorities. This created a controversy last year which was well-documented.

# 160 members, including former AWARE committee members and founder members, petitioned for an extraordinary general meeting to consider a vote of no confidence in the New Exco on the basis that the New Exco has not acted and is not acting in the best interest of AWARE; does not appreciate or share the values of AWARE and does not have the requisite experience of carrying out AWARE's work or is otherwise inadequate to further AWARE's objectives. An EGM will be held on 2 May 2009.

WHAT HAPPENED (via IZ Reloaded)


  1. I don’t really see what the newcomers have to gain (assuming that the scenario is really as shown above).

    What’s to stop the old members just forming a new organisation and continuing as before?

  2. #2 posted by shadowfirebird

    the groups name and reputation has been advertised and/or is know to a lot of people. there for it has some value from a marketing stand point.

  3. This is why democracy never works. Too many of the wrong kinds of people always show up to vote and ruin everything.

  4. Responding to Shadowbird:

    Also, putting together a Registered Society here in Singapore is a lot of work. I just went the through process with a new group, and it took months.

  5. @4

    You are confusing two different things. This was a specific political organisation. They failed to check to ensure that new members were in agreement with their basic principles. An organisation that hopes to promote something can be infiltrated if membership is too open.

    Polity is an entirely different issue. You don’t get to join or leave polity. In that case it’s not a question of knowing what the specific goal is, since everyone is involved in the process.

    Democracy is the *only* thing that can work, since we can’t make something that works for people without knowing what people want. The only way to know what people want is to ask them.

  6. @5

    Then I may live in a democratic society, but it’s a thin veil at best. My state nor city ask what I want or need. They may ask if I’d like them up my property tax (or other state taxes) through the issuing of bonds, but rarely do I get asked if I think these projects are good ideas.

    The level of democracy you are suggesting would be an excellent system even with its inherent drawbacks. It’s to bad I doubt I will ever see such an efficient and lean governing system in my life time.

  7. The ethical issues surrounding the “ballot box takeover” of one advocacy group by another with different views is a great pub debate topic. Thank you!

  8. And in the finest traditions of Singaporean democracy, the rules have been followed to the letter while the results are completely unjust.

    MM Lee would be proud.

  9. The questionable ethics of xian’s always leave me scratching my head.

    Which is why I’m so often embarrassed by my co-religionists and why I’m very selective about mentioning my church-going activities to folks in Real Life®.

  10. 1) How did the old group found out that 6 of the new exco belongs to the same church?

    2) Despite what brand awareness and reputation AWARE may have had, this is hardly good publicity for the church. Or DBS.

  11. Didn’t many on the left here in the U.S. think it was “cute” or “clever” when Michael Moore joined the N.R.A. and tried to run for president of that organization? But now that a conservative group successfully does essentially the same thing in another country, it is decried as being unethical

  12. Perhaps they should have had better controls on who can vote for their leadership… ie. minimum time as members, etc.?

    Joeklahoma, I think you’re projecting. I don’t know of any evidence the “many” thought it was cute or clever. Most on the left view Michael Moore as a slightly crazy uncle. He’s got good points some times but goes a little far.

  13. @9

    Singapore’s a slow news country. The local press have pretty much done this to death so we pretty much know what Josie Lau’s bloody shoe size is by now.

    And yes, it’s embarrassing enough to DBS that they wrote to the Straits Times to say what a silly cow she is…


    Presumably the Fts Moore had very little chance of succeeding, therefore it was amusing but hardly a challenge to the natural world order?

  14. #10 lets see. 1 person, versus quite a few people. An unsuccessful power grab versus a successful power grab.

    Gee, I have no idea why people reacted more to one than the other! the ideas are so much.. alike…?

  15. @1
    Judging all Christians by the ones who get media attention is akin to judging all World of Warcraft players by the ones who get media attention– higher ratings equal showing them as overweight white males living in their mother’s basement.

  16. Oddly enough, this happened almost in reverse in my college. An LGBT activism group infiltrated a smaller Christian group and elected its members to all of the lead positions, meaning all the members of the Christian group no longer had access to any of their funding.

    The problem was in the rules of my college – to avoid discrimination, ironically, groups were not allowed to restrict voting for their leadership positions in any way. It did prompt a change in the rules, at least, to allow some reasonable restrictions without allowing any sort of litmus testing.

    It’s always unfortunate when members of any ideology decide to break their own moral principles or morality in general so that they can achieve a victory – which always winds up being Pyrrhic.

  17. joeklahoma: Not even remotely comparable. Michael Moore is a well-known public figure (in fact, I think that the right wing tends to pay more attention to him than most lefties I know) and was making a point rather than trying to take over and subvert the organization.

  18. These same tactics happen in America too. Moderate churches have been infiltrated and then taken over by fundamentalists using these same techniques. Pro choice groups in America have also been compromised by anti-abortionists. NARAL being a case in point.

    Politically, this is how the Republican party in Minnesota was taken over in the 90’s by the religious right. They took over the party apparatus en masse booted the older but saner republicans who wouldn’t toe the line.

    “The questionable ethics of xian’s always leave me scratching my head.”

    I can help you understand. Many Christian fundamentalists believe that since they are saved they can commit no sin. The logic being that once you are saved your sins are wiped clean, then your only task is to follow God’s will. God is omniscient and omnipotent and cannot sin. Because you are born again in Christ and have a personal relationship with Jesus, where he talks to you directly, all you have to do is follow his commands. How do you know what those commands are? Your pastor will tell you and Jesus speaks to you so you “just know”.

    Given these preconditions you can commit any crime, including murder, guilt free. It was God’s will therefore by definition it cannot be a sin.

    I’m not making this up.

  19. I’m now thinking about infiltrating a local religious organisation, assuming they have a voted in board.

    I could become the ‘mayor of christianity’, or some such title and begin delivering random nonsensical edicts from my ivory tower. I’ll blend right in, I’m sure.

  20. @10… For what it’s worth, Moore was a competitive marksman at a young age and a lifetime member of the NRA since his youth. Although he has obvious political motivations, he was a longstanding member of the NRA before running for organizational leadership positions.

  21. noen “Politically, this is how the Republican party in Minnesota was taken over in the 90’s by the religious right. They took over the party apparatus en masse booted the older but saner republicans who wouldn’t toe the line.”
    Didn’t you know that Mod Republicans (or, in the modern vernacular, RINOs) aren’t real Republicans (hence the RINO).

    “I can help you understand. Many Christian fundamentalists believe that since they are saved they can commit no sin…”
    Man, is Jesus ever gonna be disappointed when He returns. He rants against legalism, then comes back to find a bunch of new Pharisees working for Him.

    “Given these preconditions you can commit any crime, including murder, guilt free. It was God’s will therefore by definition it cannot be a sin.”
    I’ve always been stunned at just how supportive this God character is. Whatever you’re going to do anyway, He’s behind it.

  22. I’m with Dhuff in #8 on this one.

    On a serious note, how should an organisation go about sensibly defending itself from a co-ordinated attack like this? What sort of measures can be *reasonably* used to determine whether members can join/vote at AGMs/Run for board positions?

    This is especially a problem for school/university associations where there are restrictions against discrimination – just as Roach mentioned in #17. An organisation I was part of faced losing ALL of its funding, and it’s ‘official’ University Club status over an issue exactly like this.

  23. @10: Moore ran for president, as any member may do. He didn’t sign up a million gun-hating liberals to outvote the rest of the NRA. Thanks for playing.

    When setting up an organization with an elected board, it’s a good idea to establish a probationary, non-voting status for new members. If anyone’s going to bum rush the board politically, they’ll have to be better-disciplined than the average yahoo.

    One of my favorite stories about the French Situationists is that they did something similar in the mid-60s to UNEF, the big leftist student union at the Sorbonne. Members were apathetic and didn’t care who was in charge, so fans of the Situationist easily won control of the board. They mailed the Situs asking for advice. Raoul Vaneighem, an early member later kicked out, wrote a truthful and scornful essay called On The Poverty Of Student Life, which the new UNEF board spent the entire treasury on publishing, as a deluxe leatherbound pamphlet.

    Despite riots and death threats by suddenly active members, they moved to dissolve the UNEF entirely, but were stopped by a judge.

  24. Organizations ought to do more to protect themselves against these sort of moves. Staggered boards, waiting periods to become members, member sponsorship, that sort of thing. It’s monumentally stupid to leave one’s organization open to this.

    A slightly different problem, but it is amazing how many people on the outside of any organization think that they are entitled to the benefits of it. There are (were?) constant assaults on the Buck Foundation of Marin to pretend that its charter — to support projects in Marin County — really meant “Marin and San Francisco.” The Olin Foundation, a decidedly conservative/libertarian group, arranged its donations so that it would put itself out of business by giving money to other worthy groups before anyone might change their sympathies and try to redirect money to groups antithetical to its charter.

    Active groups from all sides is great for the country, but organizations really should really think about their immune systems.

  25. In the 80’s doing AIDS activism, we found our biggest struggle was with keeping fringe revolutionary communist groups from trying to hijack our agenda. Given the chance they’d turn our specific demands for AIDS related action into 15 page screeds on the need for the workers to rise up and take over.

    None of us were really in the mood to wait for the great leap forward since everyone around us was dying…

  26. @bcsizemo

    My state nor city ask what I want or need. They may ask if I’d like them up my property tax (or other state taxes) through the issuing of bonds, but rarely do I get asked if I think these projects are good ideas.

    You can speak at city council meetings or the equivalent in your area. There are always ‘public comment’ periods for major public projects.

    Yes, it’s not easy. And yes, many times public comment periods are mumblingly announced. But you can’t expect a personal invitation and a ride to the meeting.

    Democracy is what you make of it. And if you don’t, somebody else will.

  27. Some friends and I once took over a moribund CORE chapter (Congress Of Racial Equality) that was under the control of a couple of geriatric CPUSA members (Communist Party of the United States of America). It took a couple months of parliamentarian maneuvering and recruiting new members before we swept the do-nothings out of office and transformed it into a community center of activism.

    For a couple years we were the hottest CORE chapter on the left coast, boycotting, striking, sit-ins, picket lines, before we were in turn swept out of office by the new “Black Power” crowd that relegated all white members to either making coffee or running mimeograph machines. There were, however, other ways we found to keep busy:

    We went off and stopped the war in Vietnam.

  28. what do they REALLY do in that log cabin?

    In any case, this is another reason why every group should write specific rules from inception forbidding any religious entanglements. One thing history has taught us is the priests are SNEAKY.

  29. Of course, Takuan, the best entanglements are the forbidden ones. Taboo.
    Also, anyone who was surprised by, say, the actions of the Dover school board (or, more recently, the Texas State Board of Education) isn’t paying close enough attention. They’re sneaky up to the point that their mouths open.

  30. Noen, you have clearly enunciated the reason the non-religious and religious moderates should say to hell with religious tolerance. Instead we should fight tooth and nail to eradicate any religion.

  31. Another prime example of this is the scientology cult’s takeover of the Cult Awareness Network. “According to the (Old) Cult Awareness Network’s executive director, Landmark Education and the Church of Scientology were the two groups for which CAN received the highest number of inquiries from concerned relatives – twenty-five per month per group.”

    Scientology’s response was to have fifty scientologists join the organization to try and “reform” it. When CAN’s executive director refused, concerned that they would take over, they started 50 individual discrimination lawsuits.

    When CAN finally went bankrupt after Scientology lawyers sued on behalf of a deprogrammed member of another cult, a scientologist lawyer bought their name, logo, and materials in bankruptcy court.

    Now Scientology operates the Cult Awareness Network as a front group.

  32. @NOEN #23

    “Many Christian fundamentalists believe that since they are saved they can commit no sin…you ‘just know’.” -NOEN

    I, a Christian, will have to dispute this. This is certainly a misinformed notion of Christianity.

    Inherently we still have sin and will sin, saved as we are. There is a whole list of rules and guides stated in the Bible, and human beings (pastors included) with their different schema will still lead them to disobedience and/or misconstruings. And the Bible certainly says nothing about becoming political leaders. (People of that time even WANTED to make Jesus their political king. He refused.)

    I am not saying that all Christian politicians have got it wrong. My opinion is that as much as this new ex-co’s initial desires are (in their hearts) good, their subsequent actions and methods may not have been carried out wisely.

    “Given these preconditions you can commit any crime, including murder, guilt free. It was God’s will therefore by definition it cannot be a sin.” – NOEN

    Based on the Bible, the only book that should matter to a Christian, a yardstick that measures people who have been “truly born again” does exist. This statement that you alleged certainly doesn’t fall under the yardstick, nor is an accurate measure to judge true Christians by.

    That said, I would like to reiterate that none of us (Christians, even when saved) are perfect. Yet we should be striving to keep to His Word in the physical form of the Bible. If any ‘Christian’ should say that they are without sin and can do anything they want, please do not heed their words.

    *This is a standpoint of a Christian’s beliefs to clarify the above-mentioned author’s statement, not a bid to push for conversion in case it too gets misconstrued.

    – Ben

    1. Actually, I’d have to say that Calvinism does echo Noen’s statement. I know lots of Christian people who are very benevolent, but there are branches of Christianity whose world view is quite hostile to the non-elect.

  33. It gets even better: the coup leader has spoken at a press conference and openly admitted that the takeover was because they’d been alarmed that the organization has become “pro-lesbian and pro-homosexual”.

    Some of the soundbites are fairly shocking, such as her insinuation that same-sex attraction is caused by childhood sexual abuse. As somebody who is attracted to both women and men, I am incredibly offended by this.

    The breaking story:
    The soundbites:

  34. Misshallelujah, fancy running into you off LJ (it’s lj user=sinboy). I was just about to post those links via my friend Mario, who’s been collecting them.

    Also, here’s an example of the “feminism” of Dr. Thio’s church group:

    It’s unfortunate that so many mothers are not at home with their children. Many women
    have run off with another man at work (was it worth that extra income?). It’s often a great
    stress on the marriage when the wife is independent of her husband. Regardless of what we think, God has declared to us that His will for a young woman is to do four things:

    1. marry
    2. bear children
    3. guide the house.
    4. not be a reproach to her husband

    resource on Anglican Church of Our Saviour at Margaret Drive”

  35. This reminds me of the time that I tried to infiltrate the PWC (People for the Wearing of Clothing). I never did figure out how they knew I was a nudist.

  36. It’s actually a little bit worse than that, Mr. Doctorow:

    It turns out the “Christian Fundamentalists” in question are, quite literally, “Jesus Campers” of the same ilk that Sarah Palin et al are part of…and they likely took over, quite explicitly, as a form of hostile takeover to destroy the org.

    Even worse, it would appear that Church Of Our Saviour is not in truth an Anglican church at all–it is in fact essentially a daughter church of the infamous Hillsong Community Church of Sydney, Australia–headquarters of the Aussie “religious right” and infamous for being, quite literally, a “Bible-based cult” (along with other members of its denomination in Australia). There’s indications that COOS may have literally been “taken over from within” by a church in Perth associated with Hillsong, in fact.

    Anyone who’s familiar with, say, the antics of the Family First party in Oz or–more disturbingly–the reports of religiously motivated abuse of people in Hillsong-linked “faith based rehab” chain Mercy Ministries know already how this is Bad News. Or you can just read regular news reports from a Hillsong escapee.

    (I grew up in a church that is part of the exact same movement–the New Apostolic Reformation (sometimes known as “Joel’s Army” or “Elijah’s Army”)–that Church Of Our Saviour is a part of, and that the “kid’s ministry” in the movie “Jesus Camp” is a part of. The movement in general is EXTREMELY hostile to LGBT people and women’s rights; some Joel’s Army groups are actually so extreme (up to and including assaults on LGBT people and literal promotion of anti-LGBT Holocaust revisionism) that major watchdog groups fighting hate crimes classify them as hate groups on the same level of dangerousness as the Klan or neo-Nazi groups. Yes, the group I grew up in was one of those that promoted anti-LGBT Holocaust revisionism.)

  37. hmmm, perhaps there should be a deep underground secret cell of LGBT activists who carry out strategic actions against such organized evil. Selective use of blackmail, judicious assassination and where possible, simple bribery to steer events away from the abyss of bigotry.

    1. Nah. We just give them really bad haircuts and decorate their houses hideously. Did you think those were coincidences?

  38. The Christian Taliban have staged a coupdetat and succeeded.

    Now they want to Talibanise AWAARE. Please note Aware used to have the MAJOR RACES and RELIGIONS involved via its EXCO….now it is bein CONTROLLED BY ONE FAMILY, ONE CHURCH AND ONE RACE……AWARE no more a Secular multiracial and multireligious Organisation….KAPUT!

  39. Right now (00:42 GMT) #awaresg is the top trending hashtag on Twitter. Follow the story there!

  40. AWARE is once again devoted to equality for ALL women, not just those deemed deserving by a group of fundamentalist christians.

    The outcome of a marathon 7 hour EGM was a 2 to 1 vote of no confidence in the New Exco who spared the NGO a costly legal battle by stepping down.

    Don’t let anyone tell you Singaporeans are politically apathetic.

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