Upholding S'pore's unique brand of secularism

This is in response to Mr Clement Wee's letter (Secularism does not mean shutting out religious rhetoric altogether; May 5).

The Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act that was enacted by Parliament in 1990 ensured that a clear line has existed between politics and religion.

The regular meetings - privately, individually, and in groups - between the Government and religious leaders have ensured that sensitive religious issues are deliberated candidly behind closed doors.

Since independence in 1965, the contribution of our religious leaders in looking after the spiritual needs of people has been of as great a value as that of the Government's in taking care of people's material, health and security needs.

Inter-religious and social harmony thrives in Singapore because of the determined efforts by the Government and our religious leaders.

Singapore's secularism is unique - while it is rooted in the separation of religion and politics, it provides equal opportunity for all religions to thrive.

The key points here are: Singapore is a multi-religious society; different religious groups have their own deeply held beliefs and precepts; and politics and policies are here to serve all Singaporeans, regardless of religion.

Religious morals can be conflicting. Therefore, religious arguments on policy matters should be channelled through established organisations such as the Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circleto be brought to the Government's attention.

This would ensure that no religion is prioritised over another, all religiously informed views are given due consideration, and that religious morals beneficial to all citizens are not excluded when making policies.

After all, the purpose of a policy is to make improvements in people's well-being, while upholding justice and equality.

Arguably, in order to strengthen unity in diversity, public debates and arguments on policy matters must remain secular and reasonable.

S. Ratnakumar

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 09, 2018, with the headline 'Upholding S'pore's unique brand of secularism'. Subscribe