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NDR 2022: Religious groups assured by plans to protect marriage definition following repeal of Section 377A

SINGAPORE — Religious leaders and groups said that they were assured by the Government's plans to protect the definition of marriage in the Constitution, but some of them expressed concern about the repercussions of overturning the law penalising sex between men.

NDR 2022: Religious groups assured by plans to protect marriage definition following repeal of Section 377A
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  • Religious groups said they were assured that the Government plans to amend the Constitution to protect the definition of marriage
  • However, some groups expressed their worries over the repeal of the law that criminalises sex between men
  • They are concerned about advocacy for same-sex marriage intensifying and "reverse discrimination" should they not support this, for instance
  • One group called for more safeguards so that people who express views tied to their religious beliefs may be protected from laws that penalise hate speech

SINGAPORE — Religious leaders and groups said that they were assured by the Government's plans to protect the definition of marriage in the Constitution, but some of them expressed concern about the repercussions of overturning the law penalising sex between men.

They were responding to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s announcement at the National Day Rally on Sunday (Aug 21) that Section 377A of the Penal Code will be repealed, which had been lobbied by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) individuals and their advocates.

The Roman Catholic Church here put up a post on its website and Facebook page saying that it took comfort in Mr Lee’s assurance that safeguards on marriage “will be looked at seriously in Parliament”.

The communications office of Archbishop William Goh, the leader of the Catholic Church here, said: “With regards to the repeal of Section 377A, we do not seek to criminalise the LGBTQ (community) for they, too, are children of God and loved by Him.

“However, we seek protection of the family and marriage according to natural law; and our rights to teach and practise them unhindered.

“We must not allow reverse discrimination to take place against those who believe in marriage as defined between a man and a woman.”

It is therefore necessary that marriage between a man and a woman be “enshrined and defined in Singapore’s Constitution before Section 377A is removed”, it added, to ensure that this protection is not challenged easily.

Several religious leaders attended the National Day Rally at the Institute of Technical Education headquarters in Ang Mo Kio.

Speaking to the media after the rally, Mufti Nazirudin Mohd Nasir, the top religious leader for Muslims here, said that he was glad the Government will protect the definition of marriage in the Constitution to reflect the norms of Singapore society.

“We hope that those who disagree with our view on sexuality and on marriage can understand why religious groups like the Muslim community will want to preserve and strengthen the institution of marriage.”

Dr Nazirudin said that religious groups should continue to work with the Government to strengthen the institution of marriage and families and to educate the community on the values of the religion.

However, differences must be respected to ensure that society remains cohesive, he added.

Likewise, chairman of the Sikh Advisory Board Malminderjit Singh said that the consensus of Sikh leaders is that marriage under the Sikh code of conduct should be between a man and a woman.

"At the same time, other important Sikh values include the values of love, compassion, equality and inclusiveness," he said.

He called the repeal a pragmatic move and one that strikes a fine balance.

Venerable Seck Kwang Phing, president of the Singapore Buddhist Federation, said that spelling out the definition of marriage in the Constitution would be a good move to prevent more court challenges that will cause divisions in society.

“I think Singaporeans are assured and prepared to be more inclusive; to respect, to accept the differences so they can show their compassion to others,” he added.

Mr Rajan Krishnan, chairman of the Hindu Advisory Board, said in a statement to TODAY that the board agrees with the decision to do away with the law because the behaviour of individuals in private settings is within their own right.

“Everyone should be treated equally as part of God’s creation, regardless of their sexual orientation,” he added. “This should be accepted and respected, as long as they conduct themselves within the law and cause no harm to others in society.”

However, Mr Rajan said that the repeal of Section 377A is a separate issue from the definition of marriage. 

Marriage, he said, should be between a man and a woman, and that position should be protected.

“Any move to formalise, strengthen and protect this definition… is thus welcomed.”

In a three-page statement, the National Council of Churches of Singapore — which represents some 200 churches here — said that it accepts the Government’s decision to repeal Section 377A.

Although it does not see the need for this move, it “takes heed” of the risk of the law being struck down in a future court challenge.

The council called for the definition of marriage to be expressly defined in the Constitution rather than for the amendments to merely include a provision that references relevant portions of the Women’s Charter or the Interpretation Act that already define marriage as being between a man and a woman.

The churches it represents are concerned that abolishing Section 377A will “lead to a beginning and intensification of the contention and advocacy” for same-sex marriage, so they would like to see several more safeguards.

It sought the assurance of the Government that the religious freedom of churches will be protected and that pastors, Christian teachers and workers be protected from laws that punish hate speech as they continue to teach against gay sex.

Pastors and counsellors who offer a “distinctively Christian approach” in their counselling should also be protected and not be compelled to adopt solely strategies that affirm LGBTQ+ people, the council said.

It is also concerned that there will be an “intensification of the celebration of LGBTQ+ culture” in companies and urged the Government to make provisions in tripartite guidelines on fair employment practices to guard against “reverse discrimination” faced by Christians who do not support these views.

It called on churches to maintain the social cohesion in Singapore and asked that pastors, Christian teachers and workers uphold the teachings of the Bible on sexuality but to articulate them with love and compassion.

In a separate statement to the media, the Alliance of Pentecostal and Charismatic Churches of Singapore, which represents more than 80 churches here, expressed disappointment over the decision to repeal Section 377A.

“The decision to remove a moral marker as weighty as Section 377A signals a rewriting of acceptable sexual relationships and celebrates homosexuality as being characteristic of a mainstream social environment,” it said.

On the matter of amending the Constitution to define marriage, the alliance said that when this matter is put to a parliamentary vote, the party whip should be lifted so that Members of Parliament may fully express the views of all Singaporeans, including the religious, and vote according to the feedback they receive.

The provisions of the Constitution can only be amended by Parliament. It requires the votes of at least two-thirds of the total number of elected Members of Parliament, excluding Nominated Members of Parliament.

“The repeal of 377A contributes yet another layer of moral complexity to an already sexualised world,” the church grouping added. 

“Against this backdrop, the alliance expects that its pastors may have to care for an increasing number of people who seek help in understanding and dealing with same-sex attraction within their churches.”

Click here for all the key updates and highlights of National Day Rally 2022.

Related topics

Section 377A marriage religion LGBTQ discrimination employment National Day Rally 2022 NDR 2022

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