Secularism does not mean shutting out religious rhetoric altogether

Keeping church and state separate involves the de-linking of political institutions from institutions associated with any particular religion.

The key point here, though, is that institutions should be kept separate.

Vague concepts like "capacity" stand only to confuse (Allow views on politics made in personal, secular capacity, by Mr Tan Jin Yong; May 3).

In the United States and a number of European countries, the idea of identifying situations as religious capacities has led to a policy of banning the belief, but not the believer.

The effect, however, is that religious believers end up being shouted down the moment someone detects that any of their opinions have some basis in religious doctrine, even if they are able to proffer supporting arguments from a secular standpoint.

The shining line of separation has turned into a means of ghettoising theological views and privileging the discourse of the non-religious.

But the religious are just as much participating members of society as the non-religious, and should not have their religiously informed views shut out of political debate.

The Singaporean model is one where we prevent any single religious body from dominating our political institutions, but offer all an open space to discuss and present their takes on various social issues, including the current affairs issues that seem to interest the Alliance of Pentecostal-Charismatic Churches of Singapore.

Our Singapore model of secularism does not erase the generic role of religion in providing moral standards that are communally binding on both the state and citizen.

The values that form the bedrock of our legislation are taken from religion, not invented autonomously by the state.

While no one religion is prioritised over another in our model of religious harmony, it does not mean that religion as a whole is - or should be - inferior to the state and non-religious communities.

Clement Wee

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