Update (April 20, 2014): The Singapore Straits Times has picked up this story on Monday and reported that Ikea Singapore is reviewing its support for the pastor-magican’s magic show.
Ikea Singapore has come under fire from LGBT groups and individuals for supporting and promoting prominent anti-gay pastor Lawrence Khong’s upcoming Vision magic show in July.
Khong, who once called the LGBT rights movement the ‘onslaught of the evil one’, has repeatedly urged the government to retain its colonial-era anti-gay sex law and championed the LoveSingapore network of churches to lobby against gay equality in Singapore.
It is believed to be the first time that Ikea Singapore is being listed as a supporter of Khong’s production to be restaged at the Esplanade Theatre in July.
Members of Singapore’s LGBTI community have questioned the gay-friendly Swedish furniture giant’s support of the anti-gay pastor.
‘Many people know how diversity-friendly and inclusive IKEA is as an international family brand. They have even won international awards for positive portrayal of LGBT persons in their ad campaigns,’ Leow Yangfa, deputy executive director of Oogachaga, a gay-affirmative counselling service, told Gay Star News.
‘Hence, as a gay man and a loyal IKEA member, I was deeply appalled and offended to learn that they are sponsoring the homophobic Mr Khong’s magic show.’
Touted as an ‘uplifting tale about love, family ties and family values’, the show is produced by Gateway Entertainment Pte Ltd which is owned by Faith Community Baptist Church (FCBC) in Singapore.
The 63-year-old pastor-magician and his daughter Priscilla have leading roles in what promotional material say is an S$2 million (US$1.5 million) production which sold more than 16,000 tickets in its previous run in 2011.
While the promotional material for the show doesn’t mention the show’s evangelical aims, the church had issued a press release for the show’s run in Shanghai last October, titled ‘Sights set on China: Vision breaks new ground with Shanghai debut.’
Listing the Vision production in Shanghai as one of FCBC’s five challenges, Khong was quoted as saying on its website on August 2, 2014: ‘We’re taking authority so that we can go (into Shanghai) and conquer in the Spirit. We know that it’s not by might, not by power, but by the Holy Spirit.’
He added, We’re going to tear down the power of darkness through the blood of Jesus, which we pray will cover us wholly. We’re going to be allowed entrance, and any opposition that comes to receive us will have to receive the blood of Jesus first. Hallelujah! Jesus is the Lord of Shanghai!’
When contacted by Gay Star News, spokesperson Sandra Keasberry of Ikano Pte Ltd which operates IKEA Singapore clarified that while it is promoting the show on its website, they are not funding it.
‘Vision is offering our FAMILY members a discount on tickets to a theatrical illusion performance that offers high family entertainment value,’ she added.
The company did not clarify whether it is aware of Khong’s anti-gay stance and why it had decided to support a pastor who is known in the country for advocating discrimination and ill-will towards LGBTI individuals.
Jean Chong of queer women’s group Sayoni said Ikea’s support ‘raises the question if IKEA is truly committed to diversity worldwide.’
‘I would encourage LGBTI communities to stop patronizing companies and services that support homophobia in any form,’ she told GSN.
In 2014 just days before the Pink Dot rally, Khong through his LoveSingapore network of churches called on Christians to join an informal Muslim group in wearing white to protest against homosexuality and defend traditional family values.
Prior to that, he had unsuccessfully tried to organize an anti-gay ‘Family Values’ rally on the same day Pink Dot was being held after failing to shut Pink Dot down.
He said in a Facebook post at the time, ‘So, why are we giving Pink Dot leeway to promote their alternative lifestyles in such a high profile way? I would like to see our government leaders draw a clear line on where they now stand with regard to this moral issue.’
‘Ikea’s support of Lawrence Khong is a direct contradiction of Ikea’s pro-diversity values’: Olivia Chiong
Olivia Chiong, who co-parents a two-year-old daughter with her wife in Singapore and an Ikea customer for 20 years, said she was deeply disappointed and unhappy to know that Ikea is supporting the anti-gay pastor’s show.
‘Khong has publicly initiated discrimination and hate against any types of families that do not confirm to his ideal. An ideal that he has tried to force down people’s throats. His blatant disregard and disrespect for fundamental human rights has been demonstrated in his attempt to rally his troops in a crusade against the LGBT community, and denying one of his previous employees her salary and maternity leave because she was pregnant before her divorce was final.’
Chiong added, ‘Ikea’s support of Lawrence Khong is a direct contradiction of Ikea’s pro-diversity values. As one of the families Lawrence Khong has condemned as evil, I am concerned that Ikea will be seen as endorsing his continued hate speech against us.’
In 2013, Petra Hesser, Human Resources, and Steve Howard, Sustainability, IKEA Group said in a statement, ‘We are guided by our vision – to help create a better everyday life for the many people. We also believe you can be yourself as an IKEA co-worker, an IKEA customer or in your home. We do our best to stand for equal opportunities and support the human rights of all people. And every co-worker can expect fair treatment and equal opportunities whatever their ethnicity, religion, gender, physical ability, sexual orientation or age.’
He was responding to criticism that an article that featured two women, Kirsty and Clara who live in England with their child, was not published in their Russian edition of IKEA Family Live customer magazine in order to comply with Russian laws.
In March this year, Ikea announced that it would close its Russian lifestyle website.
A blogger who goes by Sarah Jane in 2013 wrote that not only did Ikea remove the feature of the lesbian couple from its Russian customer magazine, it also didn’t feature the couple in its Singapore and Malaysia editions.