Singapore Religious groups: Protect marriage before decriminalisation

Religious and family groups in Singapore are calling on the government to prioritise locking same-sex couples out of marriage ahead of plans to decriminalise homosexuality.

On Sunday Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced the government would remove section 377A of the criminal code, which currently makes homosexual sexual activity illegal. The move was welcomed by LGBTIQA+ rights groups who have fought for decades to have the British colonial era law removed.

At the same time the Prime Minister said the government would strengthen the country’s laws pertaining to marriage to ensure that gay couples could not make a claim for marriage rights in the future.

In response to the announcement several religious and family groups have called on the government to hold off on removing the laws criminalising homosexuality, and prioritise the adjustments to the country’s marriage act.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore is one organisation urging the government to define marriage in the Constitution before repealing Section 377A.

“Otherwise, we will be taking a slippery road of no return, weakening the fabric of a strong society which is founded on the bedrock of holistic families and marriages,” the Archbishop’s Communications Office said.

Making the ground breaking announcement the Prime Minister said Singaporeans who were concerned about the island state’s traditional values should understand that the repeal of the law would not lead to government allowing changes to what children are taught in schools, what is shown on television and general public conduct.

The call to “protect marriage” ahead of decriminalisation was also echoed by the National Council of Churches.

“We seek the government’s assurance that the religious freedom of churches will be protected as we continue to teach against same-sex sexual acts and highlight such acts,” the National Council of Churches said in a statement.

The group said the government needed to ensure that pastors and church workers would be protected from charges of “hate speech” and not be compelled to adopt solely “LGBTQ-affirming” strategies in their counselling.

Reverend Yang Tuck Yoong, the chairman of the Alliance of Pentecostal & Charismatic Churches of Singapore, also called on the government to allow MPs to have a free conscience vote on the issue. Reverend Yang said the government’s change in policy was an “extremely regrettable decision”.

In a statement the group said it maintained it’s belief that “the act of homosexual sex is harmful, both to the individual and to broader society.”

The organisers of a recent Town Hall meeting which brought together groups opposed to the repeal of the laws against homosexuality also commented on the decision suggesting that the government needed to introduce additional legislation to stop homosexuality being promoted to young people.

Jason Wong, who is the founder of the Yellow Ribbon Project as well as the Dads for Life movement, and Mohamed Khair Mohamed Noor, the CEO & Founder of The SuChi Group, lead the group Protect Singapore.

Writing on Facebook Jason Wong said the government’s decision was disappointing.

“We are deeply disappointed that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that the government will be repealing Section 377A without the assurance that comprehensive safeguards will be put in place to protect our children and freedom of conscience against LGBTQ+ extremism.

“Activists are already expressing their discontent with marriage being protected, which is a sign of what they will be asking for in the near future.” Wong said.

Putting in place laws and policies to ban the “promotion, endorsement or propagation of LGBTQ+ ideas to children under the age of 18” is one of several demands the group has made on the government.

Laws preventing people from speaking about homosexuality are currently in place in Russia, and the United Kingdom previously has Clause 28 in their laws which stopped LGBTI issues being mentioned or promoted in government owned facilities. The laws were in place for 15 years from 1988 until 2003, the government subsequently issued an apology for their existence.

The decision to repeal Section 377A has been welcomed by a range of LGBTIQA+ organisations in Singapore, as well as business groups.

A statement a range of LGBTIQA+ groups said it was disappointing that at the same time the laws criminalising homosexuality were being removed, the government was also adjusting the constitution to stop same-sex marriages being recognised in the future.

“Any move by the government to introduce further legislation or constitutional amendments that signal LGBTQ+ people as unequal citizens is disappointing.” the LGBTIQA+ rights advocates said.

The group said the government should resists calls from religious groups to amend the constitution as it undermined the foundation of Singapore as a secular society.

The statement was signed by a range of groups including Pink Dot, Oogachaga, Aces Going Places, Gay Health Singapore, the Free Community Church, The Green House, The Heartweavers, The Healing Circle, the Inter-University LGBT Network, Indignation, Kaleidoscope, Same But Different, One Queer Cher, Pelangi Pride Centre, Transbefrienders, Transgender Singpore, and several other groups.

Graeme Watson 

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