The Christian-led movement against the legalization of same-sex marriage in Taiwan is now being directly aided by a group from the Extreme Right in the United States.
A Massachusetts-based anti-gay organization has been playing a behind-the-scenes role in efforts by conservative Christians in Taiwan to block legal amendments that would turn Taiwan into the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage.
According to a Dec. 27 blog entry, MassResistance’s point man in Taiwan is Arthur Christopher Schaper, head of the California branch of the organization, “who has been working tirelessly with Taiwanese activists, expatriates in the US, and others to get the word out.”
On Dec. 24, the Chinese-language service of Taiwan’s state-run Central News Agency ran a piece exposing how MassResistance has been trying to “educate” the Taiwanese public on the supposedly nefarious impact of homosexual unions using Chinese-language translations of a video titled “What ‘gay marriage’ did to Massachusetts” as well as a booklet.
Schaper is said to have lobbied influential Taiwanese-Americans in the U.S. and visited Taiwanese Christian churches in California, including the Bread of Life Church, which in Taiwan has actively participated in efforts, spearheaded by the Taiwan Family Alliance, to block same-sex marriage legislation. In previous articles, I have established clear links between Bread of Life in Taiwan and conservative, anti-gay preachers from the International House of Prayer (IHOP), Agape Christian Church and the Wagner Institute. Some Taiwanese preachers have been trained at those institutions, and a number of preachers from those churches in the U.S. have been invited to give talks in Taiwan in recent years.
From the moment I began monitoring anti-same-sex protests and activities in Taiwan in 2013, I have come across a number of Caucasian individuals, some wearing the cloth, which at the very least suggests active involvement by some foreign individuals.
Besides meeting a delegation from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) through contact with a party representative in California, Schaper has also lobbied U.S. Congressman Ed Royce, an influential friend of Taiwan. Schaper is also said to have worked closely with Fr. Otfried Chan, a catholic priest and secretary-general of the Chinese Regional Bishops Conference in Taiwan. Chan is said to have organized “thousands of protesters” against the legalization of same-sex marriage.
The U.S.-based Southern Poverty Law Center lists MassResistance as a hate group and one of the 18 top anti-gay groups in the United States. Among other things, the group claims that gays are also trying to get legislation allowing sex with animals and to lure children into homosexuality and sadomasochism. Typical of the conspiracy theories associated with such organizations — some of which believe that the American Psychiatric Association is controlled by homosexuals — MassResistance also accuses the CIA and FBI of having a “homosexual agenda.”
In a Dec. 28 post, Right With Watch, a web site tracking extremist movements, describes Schaper as a “Trump booster” who has “mocked reports of Russian interference” in the November elections.
Following the first reading of two bills intended to legalize same-sex unions in Taiwan in October — one proposed by the DPP and another by the opposition Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) — anti-gay groups in Taiwan led by conservative Christian churches organized protests in mid-November and again on Dec. 3 in front of the Presidential Office. During the rally, several LGBT activists were physically assaulted. In several instances, police officers present at the scene failed to intervene, a repeat of similar incidents during an anti-LGBT rally on Nov. 30, 2013.
During a hearing at the legislature on Nov. 17, Katy Faust, a self-styled “children’s rights advocate” who is closely associated with conservative Christian groups, spoke about the impact of redefining marriage. Faust, who according to sources was invited to testify by the opposition KMT, says that she was raised by two women. Days before her testimony, Faust also released a short video clip in Mandarin warning of the harm that same-sex marriage can supposedly inflict on children.
After legislators reached an agreement on Dec. 26 allowing the bill, which proposes amending Article 972 of the Civil Code, to proceed to a next reading, anti-gay protesters, who had gathered in front of the Legislative Yuan, again assembled in front of the Presidential Office, where they called on President Tsai Ing-wen, who last year campaigned on a platform of marriage equality, and other DPP legislators to step down. Oddly, they did not call on legislators from the KMT (e.g., Jason Hsu) to do so, and when asked reacted angrily, telling this correspondent to “go back to your country.” During the protest, several journalists were also prevented from doing their work; one of them was verbally assaulted and constantly had an umbrella pressed against her face. Once again, police failed to intervene despite the members of the press clearly showing their credentials and identifying themselves as members of the press. The movement is stridently anti-media and argues that it has been the target of “bias,” but nevertheless laments the supposed underreporting of its activities, a claim that does not stand scrutiny as their spokespersons often appear on TV talk shows and their protests have received extensive media coverage.
Besides rallies, anti-gay groups in Taiwan have used social media and direct messaging app Line to send text messages warning society of the supposed ills of allowing same-sex marriage. Among other things, the messages claim that legalization would create an “AIDS island” and have suggested that Western pharmaceutical companies are behind efforts to legalize same-sex marriage to spark an AIDS epidemic and profit from the increases in sales of antiretroviral medicines. As in other parts of the world, opponents of same-sex marriage also claim that legalization would lead to bestiality, promiscuity, incest, rape, chaos, the destruction of the traditional family, and laws making it a crime to use the terms “father” and “mother.”
Many openly consider homosexuality to be a choice (thus treatable) and the act to be “sinful.” They also oppose sexual education in schools, while some associated organizations have also been involved in campaigns to ban premarital sex. Some have also attributed unusually hot end of December temperatures, as was the case on Dec. 26, to homosexual activity. In several instances, segments of those groups have broken into eerie public prayer sessions involving hand gestures and ululation. There have also been reported instances of more moderate members of Christian congregations being the targets of bullying for advocating a less rigid line against homosexuality and same-sex unions.
Christians, who have spearheaded the anti-same-sex efforts in Taiwan, account for no more than 7 percent of the country’s total population of 23 million, which is primarily Buddhist or Taoist. More than 80% of young people in Taiwan, including several members of the artistic community, support same-sex marriage, which is clearly reflected in the composition of participants at LGBTQ rallies. This is in clear contrast to the events organized by opponents to same-sex marriage, which mainly consist of middle-aged and elderly participants who are bused in from around the country.
Although the bill left the chamber of the legislature on Dec. 26, taking Taiwan one step to legalizing same-sex marriage, further rounds of negotiation and evaluations will be needed after parliament reconvenes in 2017.
Disturbing in its own right due to its intimate relationship with the global Far Right movement, MassResistance’s involvement in Taiwanese politics raises serious questions about foreign interference and deflates the claim by anti-gay organizations in Taiwan that the LGBTQ movement — and homosexuality itself — are imported from abroad.