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TOK: Abuse of Authority

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Yann Ting Lai

on 24 February 2013

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Transcript of TOK: Abuse of Authority

ABUSE OF AUTHORITY Real Life Situation How do we know when the assertion of authority becomes the abuse of authority? KNOWLEDGE ISSUE In 2010, Pastor Kong Hee, founding Pastor and President of Management Board of City Harvest Church, and 4 other senior members were charged with misappropriating S$24 million of church funds to allegedly fund his wife Sun Ho's music career. Further Questions How much authority is too much authority?

Is it justified to give a singular authority figure/group the authority over an entire group of people?

How reliable is the system with which authority figures are given their authority? by Lai Yann Ting & Jason Lim Personal Involvement Worried for the situation in our own churches

Rarely think to question our religious leaders and their decisions. What is Authority? Definition:

'The power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience.' - Oxford Dictionaries

'Power perceived as legitimate by the social structure.' - Answers.com Authority ≠ Power Stakeholders Authority Figure

'Subjects' of authority figure

Contract Makers Areas of Knowledge Politics


Ethics Politics Law - Contracts Ethics Authority figures are always CHOSEN for the role, in this way, they are GIVEN the authority.

Democracy: Leaders are elected by a majority vote; opinions of 'the people' are considered in decision making

Socialism: Authority figure ascends to leadership, or is chosen by a predecessor or a separate selection committee; decision making left largely to authority figure Authority Figure Subjects of Authority Figure 'A contract is essentially an agreement between two or more parties, the terms of which affect their respective rights and obligations which are enforceable at law.'

May even outline that the authority figure has to comply to a certain MORAL CODE Authority Figure Contract Makers Since authority figures are chosen, and then given a set of guidelines to follow (contract), in essence, they have a DUTY to use their authority in the way they are expected to.

Duty ethics: Branch of ethics that focuses on fulfilling obligations and doing your duty

Whether a decision made is right or wrong comes down to the MOTIVES of the authority figure and the PURPOSE of the decision made Authority Figure Subjects of Authority Figure Contract Makers What is Abuse? Definition:

'Improper/excessive use or treatment.' - Merriam Webster Dictionary

'Use (something) to bad effect or for a bad purpose; misuse' - Oxford Dictionaries "Abuse of Authority" is the excessive or improper use of legitimate power to a bad effect or for a bad purpose. Conclusion Limitations Economics - How economically justified is the action taken by the authority figure? How does this affect whether or not the action is considered an abuse of authority?

Not a lot of data available - Access to contracts signed by authority figures is limited, not usually publicized

An outsider's judgment of whether an action is considered an abuse of authority may not be the most accurate and may be subjective (moral relativism) Other Links What about assertion of power versus abuse of power?
Much more broad, power can come in many forms
Eg. The control that parents have over children. Would banning children from doing certain things be an abuse of power?

Cases of abuses of authority in countries other than Singapore
Do cultural differences play a part? Democracy: Authority figure and subjects share the authority, decisions made should be democratic.
Interests of authority figure and its subjects may differ.
If authority figure overrules, is this an abuse of authority?

Authority figure has all the authority.
Will never see his/her decisions as an abuse of authority. Democracy:
If authority figure overrules the interests of the subjects, it might be seen as an abuse of authority by the subjects.
However, this depends the mindset of the subjects

If authority figure has ultimate say, subjects may feel that their free will is suppressed
However, this depends on mindset of the subjects Case Study: Building of Integrated Resorts in Singapore Before opening in 2010, there was much debate over the building of casinos in Singapore. Government aim was to boost Singapore's tourism industry, in light of competition from neighbouring countries like Malaysia and Hong Kong. Singaporeans were concerned about the negative social impact of casino gambling, and other associated activities like loan shark operations and money laundering. Even after numerous petitions and objections from the people, PM Lee still went ahead with the plans. Opposition politicians claimed that this was "overruling consensus". A contract is breached when there is no lawful excuse 'in the event that a contractual obligation is not performed or is performed defectively in a non-trivial fashion.'

Does the breaching of contracts = abuse of authority? Proposes how much authority is given in the contracts (after mutual agreement with the authority figure)
Fair process Case Study: NKF Scandal "You can have whatever code in place. If the leaders ignore the code and do not comply, which I believe in this case happened, no code, whatever the type, is going to do the job." - Lawrence Lien, CEO of the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre Jacques Rousseau's idea of Social Contract - states that 'political authority is held through a contract with those to be ruled'

By duty ethics, subjects of authority figure should respect all decisions made by the authority figure and have a duty to be ruled under the figure of authority.

BLIND FAITH - Supporters may be emotionally biased towards the authority even though to some extent, even if they know the decision is wrong.

Those opposing the decision have no choice but to oblige even if they do not agree. Would the employer proposing the contract have some vested interests as well? (would the contract proposed be fair?)

Is it fair for a singular group of people to decide how the authority figure should assert his/her authority? Could claim that the decision made is for the good of the whole community he/she is leading
Utilitarianism: maximum happiness, greater good.
Motives are not revealed.

Self-interest theory - human beings are always selfish.
Selfish nature of the authority figure may lead us to question the motives.
If the motives are not of duty, by duty ethics, this would be considered unethical Case Study: 'City Harvest Church Controversy' The line between assertion of authority and abuse of authority is very thin, and hard to come to a concrete conclusion.

Instead, should be looked at on a case by case basis, examining the motives and purpose of the action taken (ethics), the boundaries that the action has to work within (contracts), and the core beliefs of the community (politics) Knowledge Claim Whether an action can be considered an abuse of authority or not depends on the motivation behind the action taken Bibliography Definitions of abuse and authority: http://www.answers.com/topic/power-sociology
http://merriam-webster.com In November 2007, Singapore's Charity Council introduced the code of governance to ensure accountability and boost confidence in the charity sector.

In 2011, the code was fine-tuned to provide greater clarity and compliance. This included tightening the distinction of roles between board and staff members. The code also makes clear that the salaries of the three highest paid staff should be disclosed for large charities that receive S$10 million or more. Contracts: http://www.singaporelaw.sg/content/ContractLaw.html#Section1
http://constitution.org/soclcont.htm ""The Government sought the opinion of the people but it does not go along with the opinion of the people and it has now made a unilateral decision. [...] Under the current situation, where a party is dominant and the civil society is very weak, the people cannot sway the Government's decision on such a matter that concerns the fate of the people. If the Government's judgment is wrong, it would lead the nation and our people on to the 'river of no return', where the cost would be very real and very heavy."

- Low Thia Kiang, leader of opposition Worker's Party http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Integrated_resort
http://www.oasisinteractive.com/?p=414 Allegations surrounding the scandal included the false declarations on how long NKF's reserves could last, its number of patients, installation of a golden tap in Durai's private office suite, his salary, use of company cars and first-class air travel.
'only 10 cents of every charity dollar went to subsidise patients' direct treatment costs'
S$189 million in reserves. In the area of Politics, whether or not an action is considered an abuse of authority depends on the system of governance (democracy, socialism)

However, the motivation and intent of the action taken must be taken into account. In the area of Law, whether or not an action is considered an abuse of authority is quite straight forward in some cases - boundaries and authority which the authority figure can work with are stated in the contract.

Authority figures either adhere or breach the contracts.

However, depends on the reason behind the breach in contract. Claimed that it was for the good of the church. “I believe they are innocent, those evil-doers are trying to frame them, (stopping) them from saving innocent souls. God (please) help them win,” David Zheng wrote.

"Religion is one market product that can turn (its) followers blind. Religion followers can sacrifice everything, some their money, some their bodies, some their families, and yet pledge strong allegiance to their leaders,” - Roland Seow Case study - Integrated resort: Case study - NKF Scandal: http://www.channelnewsasia.com/nkf/
http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/1210296/1/.html Case study & Real Life Situation - City Harvest Church Controversy: http://news.insing.com/tabloid/city-harvest-scandal-split-singapore/id-cd543f00
http://www.christianpost.com/news/singapore-megachurch-defends-pastor-kong-hee-against-charges-of-misusing-funds-77414/ Blind Faith "The whole misuse of funds boiled down to his greed. Who can we trust next? Pastor(s) have greed too." - Thomas Tan Abuse of authority could arise from ulterior motives by the employer and authority figure during negotiation process. - negotiation in their favor. Linking back to the City Harvest Church case, Pastor Kong Hee's misused the church funds for personal agenda. Ways of Knowing Language


Emotion "[T]he Crossover Project is not about one person's singing career; it is a mission that is fundamental to the congregation of CHC. The Crossover Project is an outreach that uses Sun Ho's singing and music to engage people and places that would never otherwise hear the Gospel. As a result of the Crossover Project, many churches have grown worldwide and the faith of many has been strengthened," Some supporters/followers of Pastor Kong Hee were biased towards him - BLIND FAITH? In the area of knowledge of Ethics, whether or not an action is considered an abuse of authority depends on the motives behind the actions of the authority figure, and to some extent, the duties they are expected to perform. Knower's Perspective Jason:

There is no general way of deciding when the assertion of authority becomes an abuse, but looking at it case by case will be a better way.

Yann Ting:

The abuse of authority arises when the authority figure has motives that are less than noble, even if the action ends up having a positive outcome. The Social Contract "... human beings begin as individuals in a state of nature, and create a society by establishing a contract, whereby they agree to live together in harmony for their mutual benefit, after which they are said to live in a state of society. This contract involves the retaining of certain natural rights, an acceptance of restrictions of certain liberties, the assumption of certain duties, and the pooling of certain powers to be exercised collectively." In a society, authority figures must fulfill certain duties that are expected of them, and subjects must relinquish a certain amount of freedom under their leadership.
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