ICC in Singapore: “Couples named at services”

Couples named at services

The Straits Times (Singapore), 16 July 1997.

A former member of the Central Christian Church said yesterday that the church would announce the names of dating couples during its Sunday services so that these relationships would become “official.”

Similarly, the congregation would also be told if a particular relationship was not successful, said Mr. Robert Goh, 27, the project manager of an insurance company. “The church would announce that the couple has broken off for now.”

He was one of three defense witnesses who gave evidence yesterday to support the newspaper editors’ case that the church’s leaders controlled all aspects of the members’ lives, including their choice of dates or marriage partners.

The church’s head founder, Mr. John Philip Louis, had said that members were encouraged to date or marry fellow members, but that the church did not have any control over their relationships. The leaders, he said, merely advised the members because they were concerned about their well-being.

When Mr. Goh was cross-examined yesterday by lawyer Cheong Yuen Hee, who represents the church, he denied that members were allowed to date freely. “There was absolutely no freedom of choice of your own girlfriend and boyfriend without the approval of the church leaders.”

In order to date, “brothers” and “sisters” — what the church calls male and female members — must seek permission from the leaders who looked after them, he said. He once told his own leader that he liked a particular female member. “He is turn approached the girl’s leader and came back with the news that I was not ready for the relationship. The reason was that my spiritual maturity was not the same as the girl’s. She was moving ahead faster than me.”

Couples who were allowed to date were encouraged by the church to go on group dates, he said, adding: “The reason was that it would prevent temptation leading to immorality.” Dating, he said, usually took place on Saturdays.

Mr. Goh, who said he dated regularly, added: “After dinner, we would find a place where individual couples could have their own time together, but each couple was always within the sight of the group.” Couples were discouraged from holding hands, he said.

He testified that, in 1993, he did not tell his church when he dated a colleague who was not a Christian because he was afraid that the church would break up their relationship. He left the church the same year. When asked by Mr. Cheong, Mr. Goh replied that this was because he felt burdened by church activities and wanted time to be with his colleague, whom he later married.

The hearing continues.

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