The offensive phrase, which some may even deem defamatory, was not found in a filler article by some cub reporter, but was part of a multi-page special section on mega churches. Whether the orchestrated compilation on local worship services was a covert fishing expedition is yet to be determined, but the waving of dirty laundry, not national day flags, appear to be a plausible agenda. A similarly toned effort on mega GRCs would be more welcomed. Fortunately, the pastor whose father's reputation was tarred and feathered for reasons unknown remained faithful to his preaching from the pulpit - he turned the other cheek, as the Good Book taught, and salvaged the ongoing national campaign to promote filial piety.
One does not have to be a vigilante to spot the danger of the words used in the delicate social fabric of a multi-cultural melieu that is Singapore. A publicly spirited citizen was outraged enough to pen his protestion in a Forum letter:
"Your report ("Rise of the megachurches"; July 17), and in particular its reference to Pastor Joseph Prince's father as "an often drunk Sikh priest...", displayed an unacceptable disregard for minority religions in Singapore.
It is entirely up to Pastor Prince to decide how he wishes to describe his own father. But a national newspaper in a country which prides itself on racial and religious harmony should have known better than to report it.
When a mainstream newspaper reports such a comment, it conveys a false caricature of Sikh priests as drunkards and irresponsible fathers. It also suggests that there was good reason for Pastor Prince to convert from Sikhism to another religion.
The report could have simply mentioned that his father was a drunkard. There was absolutely no reason for the reference to the father's religion.
The report has hurt the feelings of the Sikh community in Singapore."
The epistle was signed off by a Mr Surjit Singh, Chairman of the Sikh Advisory Board. The Straits Times followed with it's standard minuscule "that was never our intention and we apologise for the error of judgement" response.
Larry Flynt wrote of his battles with the mainstream media, "The lie gets printed in bold headlines on the front page, then the retraction appears beneath an underwear ad on page twelve" (page 78, "Sex, Lies & Politics; The Naked Truth", 249 pages). It is no credit to our nation that The Straits Times has a lower sense of journalistic integrity than a porn publisher.