Last Saturday, 12 June, the Straits Times published a page 3 story with the headline, "City Harvest founder now accused of plagiarism" and reported that two co-authors of the Leadership Bible, Professor Sid Buzzell and Dr Kenneth Boa, confirmed that Pastor Kong had NOT asked them for permission to use their materials.
The managing director of the publishing company (also a CHC member) which published Pastor Kong's book told the reporter that "at the time of publication, both himself and Mr Kong were aware that certain portions of the content were not original" and the uproar was due to a "lack of citation".
In a follow-up report on 13 June, the Sunday Times reported that most of the churchgoers at CHC's Saturday service whom the reporter spoke to "were not bothered about the plagiarism". One churchgoer told the reporter that "It's just a lack of citation. He just has to add the citations in future." (see 17 June update at the end of the post)
While church members may have the excuse of not being experts in the book publishing business, the MD of the publishing company should have no such excuse to say that the plagiarism was just "a lack of citation". This is because citations require that PRIOR permission was given for the use of the author's materials which in this case was NOT given.
It is sad that now that the truth has come out, there are still many church members who are not able to or wish to face up to the inconvenient truth that plagiarism was committed by their beloved pastor. It seems that the church is in denial mode. It is not possible for the church to move on if it is not able or does not wish to confront the truth. The health scare which our very own Health Minister, Mr Khaw Boon Wan went through recently is a good lesson.
In his blog, Mr Khaw shared that he initially could not accept his doctors' analysis of his regular health check that he probably had a serious heart condition which required a coronary angiogram immediately. Mr Khaw could not believe what his doctors told him since he led a healthy lifestyle and felt no discomfort. Clearly in denial mode and against his doctors' advice, Mr Khaw delayed his coronary angiogram for six weeks and even increased his exercise regime, trying to convince himself that there was nothing wrong with him.
Finally, Mr Khaw decided to go for a CT angiogram which revealed a blockage at the left main artery. This result ended his denial stage and Mr Khaw 'switched immediately into the acceptance stage and took quite a religious approach to it: "It's a crisis I cannot avoid; let me face it squarely"'. It was only after Mr Khaw finally accepted that he had a problem that he was able to make up his mind to deal with it and eventually dealt with it; he went for a heart bypass operation and is now resting and recovering his health.
One reason why I used Mr Khaw as an example is because his case is about the Health Minister dealing with a health issue, which I feel parallels with Pastor Kong and the church dealing with a "christian values" issue. This plagiarism case has now spilled from the online media into the mainstream media, and become a crisis CHC and Pastor Kong in particular, and the Christian community in general cannot avoid; let us face it squarely.
This is also actually a lesson for CHC and Pastor Kong in particular and the Christian community in general to prepare for an even greater test to come - when the CAD releases the results of its investigations in the months to come; let us all, for our own sakes, learn this lesson quickly.
17 June Update:
Jun 16, 2010
To plagiarise is to steal
I WRITE in support of the view expressed by Professor Mark Featherstone, in the letter, "Students blind to plagiarism" yesterday.
Apart from the need to teach our students how to write papers without plagiarising, it should be made clear that to plagiarise is to steal and is an act of dishonesty.
I was perturbed to read of a church-goer's comment that a recent case of plagiarism can be attended to by simply "adding citations in future". She missed the point. Plagiarism is a moral issue that shows up a person's character flaw.
Daniel Koh Kah Soon
(my personal note: Rev Dr Daniel Koh is a lecturer at Trinity Theological College)