Allow views on politics made in personal, secular capacity

It has been, and most probably still is, the consensus in Singapore society that there ought to be a line separating religion from politics (Imperative to keep church and state separate; May 2).

Most Singaporeans would therefore not disagree with the views expressed by letter writer Sean Lim Wei Xin.

The difficulty lies in deciding where this line should be drawn.

In Singapore, I would suggest that one clear demarcation of this line is the capacity in which a view is expressed.

Mr Lim identified himself as a Christian in his letter.

In the same letter, he attempts to influence Singapore politics by his views. He must have assumed he did not cross the line between religion and politics.

And I agree. Mr Lim wrote the letter in his individual capacity.

Every Singaporean, whether religious, atheistic or agnostic, has views shaped by his or her beliefs.

This should even be encouraged as part of every Singaporean's civic participation in society.

It would be wrong if a Singaporean cannot express views on politics simply because he or she believes in a religion.

Many Singaporeans are religious, as are many of our Members of Parliament.

Likewise, a religious leader may express a view on politics in discussions with his congregation.

Religious believers, acting on what they believe, will also inevitably influence politics.

Neither a leader nor a believer should influence politics using his religious capacity.

However, they can influence politics in their own personal or secular capacities.

In fact, this should even be encouraged as part of every Singaporean's civic participation in society.

Tan Jin Yong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 03, 2018, with the headline 'Allow views on politics made in personal, secular capacity'. Print Edition | Subscribe