Groups hope screening will still be left to them

Religious groups in Singapore said that they already screen foreign speakers before inviting them, and they hope the Government will continue to leave such checks to them.

Existing procedures include specialised departments and committees that screen speakers and go through recordings of their old sermons.

Ustaz Zahid Zin, chief executive of the Muslim Youth Forum, said that guidelines are already tight when Muslim organisations invite speakers.

He added: "Sometimes a speaker may speak out of their confines or out of context and get carried away by emotions. When the act is tightened, I hope some leeway can be given to the religious organisation, especially if it has been making sure and reminding the speaker to stay in line."

Trinity Christian Centre senior pastor Dominic Yeo said that while the recent incident involving the barring of the two unnamed Christian preachers is a good wake-up call for all religious bodies, it "does not need to lead to heavy-handed policies".

He added that he believes it will not be necessary for the Government to "enact additional protocols" to oversee religious practices and activities when religious leaders are mindful of their influence and their role in nation-building.

"Evidence of self-censorship and self-supervision can be seen at various inter-faith dialogues with national leaders, where leaders practise a culture of religious sensitivity," he said.

The Roman Catholic Church of Singapore's spokesman said the archdiocese here comes under the Pope and the local bishop and stressed that the church must be allowed to continue to manage itself. The church also has more than 1,700 Canon Laws for the proper governance of the church, its priests, doctrinal and moral matters to ensure unity and compliance.

ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute sociologist Terence Chong said that while state intervention is necessary when prejudice or hate speech is cloaked in religious doctrine, "it is also important that religious communities do not feel that they are constantly scrutinised by the state".

Melody Zaccheus

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 05, 2017, with the headline 'Groups hope screening will still be left to them'. Print Edition | Subscribe