Wednesday, 6 November 2013

False Equivalencies

“What are ‘pets’?”
“Um… they’re animals you don’t eat.”
“I thought those were called, ‘children’?”

That is my favourite dialogue from the animated film, “The Croods”.

I thought of it recently when the incident of a woman putting her pet puppy to sleep (for being overly aggressive) resulted in an explosion of comments on Facebook. Many commenters asked something along the lines of “what if her children were ‘overly aggressive’? Would she put them down too?”

Which is an example of “False Equivalencies”.

A puppy is not the same as a child.

Of course I could be wrong. In the minds of those two commenters, a puppy’s life may well be equal to if not more important than a child. In their minds, maybe killing a puppy, is as heinous as killing a child. Or even more heinous.

So maybe in their mind, it is not a “false equivalency”.

So I thought of Lawrence Khong. Were these two commenters and others of the ilk similar to Lawrence Khong, as I concluded? Or is that my false equivalency?

First, some background on Lawrence Khong, Pastor of Faith Community Baptist Church (FCBC). Khong has been in the media for several reasons including his public anti-gay stance, but most recently (2013) he was the voice of FCBC protesting an order from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) that FCBC compensate an employee for wrongful or illegal dismissal when she was pregnant. FCBC’s position was that the dismissal was on moral grounds. The employee had an adulterous affair (with another married church employee) and got pregnant as a result.

FCBC fired her while she was pregnant.

MOM ruled that this was against the law. FCBC resisted. Khong even offered to go to jail rather than compensate the ex-employee. I believe the answer he got was along the lines of “the choice is to pay her compensation, or go to jail AND pay her compensation.”

Eventually FCBC complied. But Khong pursued legal action to seek a judicial review over the constitutionality of the MOM order. He wanted our courts to rule if MOM has the right to tell churches what to do about their employees. 

[This is my layperson's understanding of the suit.]

Khong felt strongly that the values of the Church trumped the law of the land.  He felt strongly that his values, his morals, his judgement, his interpretation of his Church's values was the Truth and should prevail over mere secular laws. I'm sure he felt quite put out about being forced to comply with the law. Hence his pursuit of a judicial review of the constitutionality of the law. 

He will lose. But he will not be convinced.

My first response to this Christian, was to wonder if he understood Christ teaching about "rendering unto Caesar what belonged to Caesar, and to God what belonged to God"? Apparently he skipped class the day Sunday School covered that. Either that or he believed Jesus was wrong. 

He must have also been absent when they covered the story of the adulteress brought before Jesus to be stoned, and he said, "Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone". 

Khong certainly has no qualms about casting the first stone. Either he believes he is without sin, or Jesus's teachings fell on deaf ears.

Wait. So what has Khong got to do with Animal Lovers who think killing a puppy is as heinous a crime as killing a child?


They both have values. That in itself is not a problem. Everyone has values and priorities and beliefs about what is right and what is wrong.

The difference is, most people accept and respect that not everyone shares their beliefs, their values, their priorities. 

We do have some shared values. These values are what holds us together as a community, as a society.  

But we also understand that some values are not shared by everyone, and some values, even if we agree are good or bad, we do not have consensus on our response to infringement of those values. In other words, even if we have the same values, we may accord different weight and importance to those values.

For example, we may all agree that killing a puppy for convenience is wrong. Or inhumane. Or impulsive and selfish. But while some may feel that the person should be jailed (or worse, if one were to judge from the comments), others may not agree that it warrants such severe punishment.

Some people do not seem to tolerate such different views very well. Certainly the owner of the puppy who decided that the puppy was too much of a risk to her young family has different values about the worth of the life of a pet versus the wellbeing of her family.

Apparently, her detractors either do not share those values, or value the life of an animal above the wellbeing of a human, or felt that more should have been done about other options (not killing the pup) despite not being involved in the decision or understanding the constraints of the dog owner.

In other words, like Khong, they had no qualms about casting the first stone.


So the dog/pet/animal lover who had "given" the puppy to (let's just call her) "the dog killer", is claiming that by killing the pup instead of returning the dog to her, the dog killer had breach the terms of the "contract" that they had entered into when the dog lover had given the pup to the dog killer. The dog lover went so far as to seek the Minister of Law's advice on the matter. The Minister advised her that if there were indeed a breach of contract, she could pursue the matter as a breach of contract and sue her as a civil matter. Subsequently, an MP who is also a lawyer, offered his legal services pro bono.

It would be churlish of me to cast aspersions on his motivation, or to suggest that he might be motivated by the favourable publicity from this case. He may truly be a dog or animal lover himself, and may well be driven by his set of values about animal welfare to offer his services.

So the dog lover is suing the dog killer for $1200. The dog killer has offered to make a donation of $1200 to an animal welfare of the plaintive's (dog lover's) choice but with the condition that there is no admission of culpability (i.e. breach of contract) on the part of the dog killer.

As at this point, I do not know what is the plaintive's response but most of the comments have been less than generous and wants an admission of culpability on the part of the dog killer.

So it looks like it's going to court.

Over a pup.

And over a breach of contract valued at $1000 in damages, and legal costs of $200.

So some judge will have to hear this case. Some court will have to used for the hearing. Some lawyer will represent the plaintive. And the dog killer will have to get legal representation.

I am reasonably sure the costs of the court and the judge and the staff supporting the judge will be more than $1200.

And no. I was wrong. It is not just "over a pup". It is about a person wishing to get a judgement that her values have primacy over other people's value.

Just like Khong wants the court to rule that Church values have primacy over State Laws.

[Update Feb 2014: 

From TODAY 16 Feb 2014:
The bone of contention both parties had centred around a telephone conversation. Ms Ong said she had told Ms McElwee that she was prepared to take the dog back, but needed some time to find a suitable boarding place, with the intention of having it re-homed.
Ms McElwee, however, said she had understood it to be that Tammy would be placed in long-term boarding — a situation which her family felt “was not sensible” as it offered no chance of re-adoption. They had also been “concerned” about the dog’s “living conditions and the quality of life” and decided to euthanise her.
Ms Ong and Ms McElwee agreed on Friday that there was a difference in their recollection with regards to the telephone conversation, TODAY understands.
Lawsuit was settled "out of court". No fault. ]

No comments: