DBS’ charity tie-up draws flak

Source: Straits Times
Date: 5 December 2008

DBS’ charity tie-up draws flak

Some cardholders don’t agree with charity’s anti-gay, anti-abortion stance
By Grace Chua

DBS Bank’s selection of Focus on the Family as its charity for the holiday season this year has attracted a backlash from some customers unhappy with its choice.

Now, it has withdrawn the promotion from its website, following complaints that the charity’s United States parent organisation, and its Singapore arm, are anti-gay, anti-abortion and pro-abstinence. But it will still be donating a sum to the charity’s educational centre for learning-disabled children, it said.

‘Focus on the Family is a voluntary welfare organisation endorsed by the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports, and the National Council of Social Services,’ said a DBS spokesman.

‘We will still be supporting the cause of children and learning by contributing to the building of the children’s learning centre.’

Under the tie-up, customers who spend above $300 after Nov14 on their DBS cards at some malls could redeem a pair of teddy bears.

DBS would then donate a sum to Focus on the Family.

But at least 10 customers have complained, writing in to say they may cancel their cards and close their accounts.

Mr Ng Yi-Sheng, 28, even formed a Facebook group online to oppose DBS' choice of charity

Mr Ng Yi-Sheng, 28, even formed a Facebook group online to oppose DBS' choice of charity

Playwright and poet Ng Yi-Sheng, 28, formed a Facebook group online last Thursday night opposing DBS’ charity choice and urging its more than 1,000 members, not all of whom are DBS customers, to write in to the bank.

Miss Chan Sze-Wei, a 28-year-old student who wrote to DBS, said: ‘I thought the charity tie-up was an inappropriate choice. Even if it reflects the beliefs of some of DBS’ management or staff, it does not necessarily reflect the beliefs of customers.’ She said that group’s stance and beliefs, and close affiliation with its US parent group did not jibe with her values.

Focus on the Family Singapore’s president Joanna Koh-Hoe said: ‘We are deeply concerned that a small group of activists has successfully intimidated a major financial institution like DBS in such an unwarranted fashion that maligns a well-intended collaboration for the cause of children and families.’

In the US, the organisation conducts family life education from a Christian standpoint. Evangelical activities, however, are not in its charter here, according to the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports’ list of registered charities.

‘We function akin to other faith-based organisations such as the Thye Hua Kwan Moral Society and Care Corner Family Service Centre in Singapore, or World Vision and YMCA internationally,’ said Ms Koh-Hoe.

The charity here conducts marriage and parenting seminars and sex education programmes in schools. While it says it is not overtly Christian, it is conservative.

Its sex education website for teens – noapologies.sg – is pro-abstinence. It also publishes educational materials such as Straight Talk, a booklet on homosexuality aimed at teens. These were distributed through family service centres, schools, libraries and churches.

Eight out of 10 other DBS card holders The Straits Times contacted did not know about the charity scheme, while nine had not heard of Focus on the Family.

One who had, 25-year-old civil servant Andrew Tan, said he did not mind the tie-up.

The DBS spokesman added: ‘It was never the intention of the Bank to discriminate against any group by supporting the cause of children and learning in Asia – DBS believes in diversity and inclusion. Going forward, we will be conducting more extensive background checks.’

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