Online campaign leads to rethink at DBS

Source: Business Times
Date: 5 December 2008

Online campaign leads to rethink at DBS

Bank removes ad references to controversial outfit
By Siow Li Sen

[SINGAPORE] DBS Bank has removed all referneces to Focus on the Family (FOTF) in its advertising after its credit card promotion supporting the evangelical Christian organisation provoked some angry reactions.

Since the bank’s Nov 13 credit card promotion where DBS said that it would donate money to FOTF, “a charity dedicated to helping children and families thrive”, members of the gay and lesbian community have called for a boycott of the bank.

FOTF in Singapore is an affiliate of a US-based organisation of the same name founded in 1977 by evangelical Christian James Dobson who campaigns against gay rights.

Last month, FOTF in the US retrenched some 200 staff after it spent US$600,000 to defeat marriage equality in California. Mr Dobson has also railed against US President-elect Barack Obama, who has countered that Mr Dobson “makes things up”.

DBS spokeswoman Karen Ngui said that it was never the intention of the bank to alienate any particular group. “DBS supports children and learning in Asia…. it’s the cause that we are supporting and not FOTF, and or what it stands for,” she said.

She added that DBS believes in diversity and inclusion.

“We have since removed all references to FOTF in our advertising…. however, we still support the cause…. and thus will be contributing a small amount to the New Learning Centre for children with learning disabilities, due to be opened in March 2009.”

The bank’s earlier move had sparked an online campaign. Jean Chong, a gay activist with People Like Us, said that to date, 1,063 people, including non-gays, had signed up with a Facebook group attacking the bank’s support for an FOTF cause.

While some gay activists concede that DBS may not have known about the anti-gay agenda of FOTF, they felt that it still should not give to the charity because the donation could indirectly benefit its cause.

“It is my view that unfortunately, DBS did not realise that FOTF has a lot of baggage. It is also unclear how by funding one part of of an organisation’s activities, how much you also indirectly help another of its activities because money is fungible.,” said Alex Au, People Like Us activist.

Ms Ngui has said that its credit card team checked on FOTF and proceeded as they are endorsed by the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports and National Council of Social Services (NCSS). “Going forward, the bank will conduct more extensive background checks,” she said.

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