Church wants review of minister's order to compensate axed employee

Pastor Lawrence Khong says the case is about getting a clarification from the court on the parameters within which it operates as a church. -- PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA
Pastor Lawrence Khong says the case is about getting a clarification from the court on the parameters within which it operates as a church. -- PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

Thorny questions of adultery, church and state are set to be aired in a rare High Court legal review being sought by one of the largest churches in Singapore.

The case involves a pregnant administrative worker at the Faith Community Baptist Church (FCBC) who was sacked last year after committing adultery.

She complained to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in September last year. In August this year, Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin decided she was "dismissed without sufficient cause". He ordered the church to compensate the woman's salary and maternity benefits of $7,000.

The church told The Straits Times that it plans to file papers today seeking a High Court judicial review of Mr Tan's decision.

A judicial review is when an applicant takes a public authority to court to seek redress of a particular decision over which the applicant feels aggrieved.

The church says it wants the case reviewed as it believes Mr Tan acted unconstitutionally in interfering with how the church manages its own affairs.

But this disclosure prompted the ministry last night to caution the church that it is embarking on a confrontational approach.

Such judicial reviews by a church are rare. The FCBC is believed to be the first religious body seeking a High Court review over how it conducts its affairs.

The church's senior pastor Lawrence Khong denied that he is putting the church on a confrontational path with the Government.

"What we are seeking is a clarification from the court on the parameters within which we operate as a church," he said.

"I hope that this experience will bring deeper understanding of one another and greater mutual respect."

Last night, the ministry said it will study the court documents when it receives them.

Expressing disappointment, an MOM spokesman said: "We live in a secular society where laws have been put in place to protect individuals while not depriving religious organisations and individuals of the space to carry out their practices."

tohyc@sph.com.sg