The government has to remain secular… neutral, fair. We are not against religion. We uphold sound moral values… religious groups are free to propagate their teachings on social and moral issues and they have done so on the IRs, on organ transplants, on 377A, homosexuality… And when people who have a religion approach a national issue, they will often have views which are informed by their religious beliefs…
…the public debate cannot be on whose religion is right and whose religion is wrong. It has to be on secular rational considerations, public interests – what makes sense for Singapore.
~ PM Lee Hsien Loong, National Day Rally Speech 2009
The Singapore model of secularism is based on the Singapore Constitution. In particular, Article 15(1) declares the right of every person to “profess and practice his religion and to propagate it”.1 As a secular state of this nature:
- the public space is shared by people of different belief systems
- the state is neutral (not anti-religion)
- there is no state religion (religion is separate from governance of the country)
- both religious and non-religious perspectives (e.g. atheist or agnostic) can be expressed in the common space and influence public discourse
- the state governs from sound reason and for the public good
The expression of a faith-based argument in public debate on politics does not mean that faith has intruded into the state to wield political power over citizens. To exclude faith-based arguments from public debate will necessitate also excluding the atheistic, anti-religious perspective, otherwise one or the other would be imposing itself on a secular, neutral state.2
Many of the principles that govern a country are based on the values held by its people. These values are typically informed by their faith or beliefs, whether it be God’s nature and commands or Confucian ethics. When social issues touch on morality, there is an even greater need for a consensus of views in a pluralistic community, where there should be room for Christians to express their beliefs in a civil and respectable way.
Public policies and laws require a moral judgment for the public good (e.g., drug trafficking and littering are morally negative), and will naturally “impose” on people with opposing views (e.g., those who traffic drugs and those who litter).3
Homosexual activists play up the religious, historical and cultural origins of prohibition against homosexual conduct to argue that laws such as Section 377A of the Penal Code are archaic and no longer relevant to changing social norms. If the majority of society believes that normalising homosexuality does not serve the public good, then legalization of homosexual conduct between men would be imposing the state’s worldview in violation of the people’s consciences and religious freedoms.