Walk in, walk out

Today’s ST Forum had a letter (gist of it reproduced here because they usually take it down after a week). A Christian halfway house called Hiding Place was asked to move from its current premises. It also lost its Institute of Public Character status. So a whole host of civil service officers signed off a letter explaining why.

So out of curiousity, I searched for the earlier letter. Apparently someone wrote in to express his concern:

I am also concerned by the loss of the home’s standing as a charity, with the Government’s removal of its status as an Institution of a Public Character (IPC) three years ago.

The reason given was that the home’s Constitution should be inclusive and not aimed at proselytisation. But if IPC status was granted when it first applied, was there a reason for treating it differently subsequently?

Inclusivity is demonstrable by an organisation’s conduct rather than the political correctness of its statements.

Furthermore, last Saturday’s report noted that 90 per cent of the home’s walk-ins are not Christians, but Buddhists, Taoists, Hindus and Muslims – a testimony to the home’s inclusivity.

This was the official reply:

As for the halfway home’s Institution of a Public Character (IPC) status, the ministry recognises that religion plays an important role in the rehabilitation of former offenders. So, in 2008, it granted special concessions to nine halfway houses, including The Hiding Place, to let them use religious principles in their programmes, provided participation is voluntary and the programmes do not aim to proselytise.

Their governing instruments should not explicitly state religious promotion as the aim, to distinguish them from other religious charities that do not qualify for IPC status.

However, The Hiding Place decided to retain its objective of propagating its religious faith although it knew that doing so meant that its IPC status would have to lapse on expiry in 2009.

As the IPC status is a pre-requisite for the Halfway House Service Model (HSM) administered by Score, The Hiding Place subsequently withdrew from the HSM on Feb 1 last year.

That “90 per cent of the home’s walk-ins are not Christians, but Buddhists, Taoists, Hindus and Muslims” is moot point. If proselytization to ex-convicts is the objective, surely you won’t be taking in 90% Christians?

Walk in as a non-Christian, but walk out as a Christian. That’s the whole point. “Inclusivity” isn’t the issue. “Intention” always is.

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