Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Those who would turn back the clock in Taiwan (中文 link at bottom)

The religious leader of an alliance opposing same-sex marriage brushes elbows with a pro-unification gangster; The Catholic Church distances itself from the extremists

Just when you thought that the revelations about the wonderful people behind the Taiwan Interreligious Coalition for Cherishing the Family couldn’t get any more damaging, things still get weirder. As if associating with ChristianEvangelical zealots and espousing their reprobate ideology in their opposition to same-sex marriage were not enough, we now learn that the spokesperson for the Alliance is socializing with another man whose vision for Taiwan’s involves turning back the clock — Chang An-le (張安樂). Yes, the gangster and former leader of the Bamboo Union Triad-turned “politician.”

We already know that the Taiwan Interreligious Coalition for Cherishing the Family is closely associated with the Happiness of the Next Generation Alliance, the umbrella organization behind the deplorable rally on Nov. 30 against amendments to the Civil Code that would legalize same-sex marriage in Taiwan. In December I shared a panel with Chang Chuan-fong (張全鋒), the spokesman for the Coalition, whose discourse on the nefariousness of homosexuality and the social/moral harms of gay marriage was a perfect echo of what the Alliance and Coalition have been saying for months.

What struck me then was the extent to which the argument against amendments to Article 972 relied on (lies aside) antiquated views about science, morals, philosophy, sexuality and the family. In other words, their case had validity only if we turned back the clock, and turning back the clock is exactly the outcome in store for us should they prevail in their endeavors to insinuate themselves into other people’s bedrooms.

Now, this is an event I’m happy I missed: 「多元文化與儒家倫理綱常研討會」(“Multicultural Seminar on Confucianism and Moral Order,” held on Jan. 19. Chang the Moonist (Unification Church) and head of the Coalition delivered the keynote speech on “marriage and family ethics,” while Chang the gangster was no less than the special guest. Topics under discussion during the daylong event (which could just as well have been called a conference on medievalism) included “civic morality and Confucian ethics,” “Confucian values for high-school textbooks” and “the family is the school of love.”

By no means to I mean to imply that Chang An-le’s participation at the seminar indicates his support for the actions of the Alliance and Coalition against same-sex marriage, and in fact I do not know what he thinks of the matter. However, it is interesting to note that a link to the conference schedule is provided on the Taiwan Family website, which serves as the rallying point for the campaign against 972. What we also know about the man is that during his sixteen years in exile in China he cultivated ties with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and created the Unification Party in Taiwan, whose ultimate aim is to foster “peaceful reunification.” Following his return to Taiwan and release on bail in late June 2013, Chang An-le distributed pamphlets, opened campaign headquarters, and appeared on various talk shows. In the process, Chang repeatedly showcased his poor understanding of the progress that Taiwan has made as a democracy, and often his solutions for social problems — “what would the CCP do?” — would force Taiwan to turn back the clock and undo much of the liberalization that has occurred in the past thirty years or so.

In that sense, the two Changs, who must have exchanged business cards, are of the same mind. Whether this further discredits the Alliance and Coalition remains to be seen, but it certainly adds yet another disreputable figure to the long list of individuals who gravitate around its ultraconservative core.

But it’s not all bad news. A split seems to be emerging between Taiwan’s moderate Catholic Church and the more extremist elements that have spearheaded efforts to block amendments to Article 972. Chao Hsin-pin (趙欣品), a representative of the Catholic Church, last week opined that the Alliance and Coalition had gone too far and apologized for some of the rhetoric and methods adopted to counter the movement in favor of same-sex unions, including references to the spread of AIDS. While Chao didn’t immediately call for a break with the Alliance (or the abandonment of efforts to block 972 for that matter) — she in fact encouraged more Catholics to join, presumably to dilute the radicalism — she also warned that if dialogue failed, some elements within the Catholic Church would break their ties with the movement.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out as the Alliance prepares for the next phase of activities sometime in March. 

New! A Chinese-language version of this article is available here.

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