Given its relatively small numbers, Christian organizations are forming alliances with Taoist and Buddhist groups to influence government policy on same-sex marriage.
The main drivers behind last year’s anti-same-sex-marriage demonstration on Nov 30, which attracted tens of thousands of people and reportedly one of the largest mobilizations of Taiwan’s religious groups in recent years, comprised Christian, Taoist and Buddhist groups.
According to a special report by the Taiwan Times early this week, the organizers included the Alliance of Religious Groups for the Love of Families Taiwan, a network of Christian organizations, Buddhist sects, the Chinese Regional Bishops’ Conference and I-Kuan Tao – a religious movement that combines Confucianism, Taoism and Chinese Buddhism, and which also recognizes non-Chinese religious traditions such as Christianity and Islam.
Before last year’s protest, the most notable anti-gay mobilization occurred in 2011 when the Chen Ai Alliance, a self-proclaimed parents group successfully pressed the Ministry of Education (MOE) to suspend the release of three reference books that contain gender and sexual diversity teaching materials, as required by the Gender Equity Education Act for teachers in elementary and junior high schools, with help from several legislators.
In the 2-part [part 1 and 2] report by staff reporter Ho Yi, Chen Chih-hung, a Taiwan Lutheran Church bishop who also serves as the alliance’s spokesman, was quoted as saying that Christian churches are the driving force behind the crusade.
‘To a certain extent, Christian groups take the lead on this issue since Asian religions haven’t traditionally seen homosexuality as a big deal. Churches in the US and Europe have confronted the impact of gay marriage directly… Since only a small percentage of Taiwanese are Christians, we share what we know with other religions so that they understand the seriousness of the situation,’ Chen said.
The journalist noted that both Chen and Paul Chang, vice president of the Unification Church Taiwan and one the alliance’s spokesmen, in separate interviews spoke of a ‘dark, hidden agenda of the LGBT movement in Taiwan.’
The report reads: ‘The most active elements of the movement, they say, are not gay rights activists but libertines, with LGBT equality only part of their mission. The ultimate goal is to replace the institution of marriage and family with a culture of sexual promiscuity.’
Prior to the Nov 30 protest, the alliance produced a widely circulated short video titled ‘Sexual liberation is storming Taiwan’ is designed to ignite anxiety and fear by stigmatizing gay people and their supporters as proponents of promiscuity, group sex and bestiality.
The report noted that Christian anti-gay proponents in Taiwan are well aware that painting LBGT advocates as sexual deviants would generate a much greater response from worried parents and other concerned citizens than to preach that homosexuality as a sin as it would find little resonance in among Taiwan’s predominantly Buddhist and Taoist society.
‘And that is exactly the strategy adopted for last year’s anti-gay marriage law rally, which was disguised under the banner "Think of the Children,"’ the report noted.
Last month, Taiwan’s Presbyterian Church, which was previously regarded as gay-friendly, adopted and confirmed a pastoral letter issued by the church’s general assembly, which announced that the church would officially oppose same-sex marriage.
‘Every human rights activist in Taiwan knows that today the biggest opposition to same-sex marriage is Christianity. Before we at least had the Presbyterian Church, which was regarded as gay-friendly, and many of its pastors have been supportive and open-minded when it comes to lesbian and gay issues. That’s all changed,’ said Chen Hsiao-en, secretary of the Tong-Kwang Light House Presbyterian Church which is LGBT-affirmative and counts many gay men and lesbians among its clergy.
Marriage equality advocates say Taiwanese society is ready for same-sex marriages if consensus is needed.
A recent poll jointly conducted by the Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights (TAPCPR) and Academia Sinica last year showed that 53 percent of the public are for same-sex marriage and only 37 percent of Taiwanese are opposed to it. In 2001, polls revealed that more than 50 percent of the public were against legalizing same-sex marriage.