Discriminatory parental benefits – stop giving excuses

There’s nothing to call it but discrimination. The only takeaways from Minister Tharman’s latest justification of our discriminatory laws against parents and children from single-parent families is the usual “support married women who remain in the workforce and raise their children within the context of marriage”. Marriage is laudable and it is to be encouraged, but discriminatory laws and benefits are not the way to do it.

While we acknowledge and appreciate the benefits already dished out to both married and unmarried parents, the visible gap in benefits is a blow to many of Singapore’s children. This bare-faced prejudice will only perpetuate the hate when the children of single parents realise that they have been given second-class citizenship. The rationalised argument of “children still receive equal benefits” is hogwash. My earlier post details the discriminatory gap:

Unmarried mothers (parents) do not receive: Baby Bonus Cash Gift and Child Development Account, 8 weeks of Maternity leave, Paternity leave, Shared parental leave, Parenthood tax rebate, qualifying child relief, handicapped child relief, working mother’s child relief, and grandparent caregiver relief, Foreign Maid Levy Relief, Housing grant for families and Housing priority schemes.

Is the minister trying to tell us that children receive no benefit from these things? That these are only enjoyed by their parents? The children of these parents are not discriminated against at all?

The bogeyman of moral hazard is clearly false – it has been shown time and again that giving better protection to divorcees has not in fact impacted the divorce rate, that giving incentives like the Baby Bonus has not been able to make a dent in the birth rate, that these days, Singaporeans don’t give much thought to government policies when making major family/life choices. But it seems that the G would rather take the moral low ground.

The G clearly has no idea how to win hearts in this context. There are better ways to encourage marriage and to encourage the raising of children. We should not need to scrape the bottom of the policy barrel to punish those who sometimes have little choice in their life circumstances.

If the G wants to appease and support specific (or maybe most) religious sensitivities, then do so within those spheres. Encourage members of those faiths to actively support raising children within the context of marriage and organise resources for them to use. If there are specific secular groups that also support raising children within the context of marriage, they too can enjoy G support for that agenda.

By law, however, we cannot afford to make discrimination official. This will tear at the very fabric of our society that the G claims to be trying to preserve.

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Forestalling a war of Pink and White

Lawrence Khong has taken another step into the face of the LGBTQ community to ask churches to ally with muslims and wear white in opposition to something called the “gay lifestyle”, a nebulous term for the support and normalisation of LGBTQ rights in our society. I’m not sure if, had this been several hundred years ago, Pastor Khong would have picked homosexual allies to go sack the Muslim-held cities of the holy lands. It seems a queer choice of bedfellows (pardon my pun).

As a conservative Christian, I hold to the belief that God has clearly revealed that homosexuality is not His design and, along with the sins that I and the rest of mankind commit, attracts the penalty of death. We are all condemned.

But this earthly home, Singapore, consists of more than the Church. We are a diverse society, put here, together, now, by God for His glory. Should anyone insist that God approves of homosexuality, they will be commenting within the Christian context and sphere, and on that basis I will refute the argument as robustly as I am able.

Outside of this Christian circle, however, is the larger society, which has its many worldviews, rules, factions, and values. As much as I will not appreciate someone else dictating to me what I should believe, I have no right to prescribe my worldview for others – I can only persuade within the law and the bounds of society.

While Pink Dot’s organisers and sponsors have kept the event’s tone very measured, many of its participants border on the belligerent and throw barbs at the religious beliefs of others, claiming universal oppression and hatemongering. Pastor Lawrence Khong’s own tirade against his so-called homosexual conspiracy often comes out as discrimination against rights that the state has given universally – regardless of our individual proclivities and sins. In the light of these tendencies, it would be wise for both groups to withdraw from public displays (although they may legally have the right to do so) and continue persuading others in the private sphere.

The last thing we want to see happening is for there to be a real legal situation that is actively used to force any one segment of society to conform to the values of another, at detriment to the freedoms we all share and hold dear.

MUIS’ wisdom should apply to all. Don’t be confrontational about this issue. The lines, as far as civil society goes, are quite clear. Polarising the issue and a confrontational approach will only delay a peaceful solution and new equilibrium for Singaporean society, and push both religious and homosexual agendas to the fringe. We’ll make more progress talking than screaming.