Lighthouse Evangelism pastor Rony Tan's incident has again put the spotlight on religious harmony in Singapore. After getting a call from ISD, he quickly issued an apology. Hot on the heels of the three youths who were arrested by the police for posting racist remarks on Facebook, some are asking why the "difference in treatment".
I've been following the discussions online and this is what I think that there is a difference: (By the way this post is NOT intended to defend the pastor for what he has done, but rather the possible thinking behind the actions taken against him).
The first one is farely obvious. In the case of the 3 youths, the police were involed. If you have any experience with our gahmen, you'll know that once official action begins, the government machinery invariably starts grinding base on its protocols. In the army this is known as the SOP (Standard Operating Procedure). So once the police gets involved, they will follow a prescribed course of action - investigate, identify, make an arrest if a law was broken (in this case the Sedition Act was used), pass on to the courts to decide the next course of action. In this case, bail was granted pending further investigations. Whether the 3 youths will be fined or let off with a stern warning we'll know in the weeks to come. (I personally think the 3 boys will get off with a warning and probably some counseling and community work).
In Pastor Rony Tan's case, it seems like ISD got wind of the incident (probably from all the chatter online) and decided to take direct action to prevent things from getting out of hand. The Pastor was probably given a stern warning from ISD and given an ultimatum to recant his words and apologise, or else. Obviously he chose to apologise. The police and official government machinery was never involved called upon.
Second is that the 3 youths were anonymous. Rony Tan was not. Although it doesn't make the pastor's actions less serious, it meant that he could be quickly contacted and given the ultimatum. In the case of the 3 youths, we were told that the police made "extensive enquiries to establish the identity of the suspects" (note the formal use of the investigation terminology). Again, once a police investigation has begun, the Justice system and the courts gets involved.
Lastly the 3 youths' case was racially motivated. Rony Tan's incident involves religion. Although both R's have the potential to ignite like tinderboxes, recent events probably made Religion a more sensitive issue that needs to be handled with extreme care so as not to further ruffle already ruffled feathers.
Nonetheless I think this is a good time for religious leaders and followers of all faiths to reflect on their behaviour in public and behind closed doors. In the course of our worship and proselytizing, are we spreading the religion's teachings and/or gaining enlightenment, or are we inadvertently doing the Devil's work?