04 February 2016
Singapore practises a separation of religion and state in which no political party that is religion-based is allowed, and religious leaders who wish to participate in electoral politics must first “remove their religious garb”.
Furthermore, no community can use its religious stance to dictate affairs of the state, be it in the formulation of public policies, making of decisions or enactment of laws. Singapore is guided by what philosophers like John Rawls and Jurgen Habermas call Public Reason – reasons that all citizens share and which are not derived from any particular scripture subscribed to only by adherents.
In turn, the state is obliged to treat all individuals as equal citizens regardless of religion. The rights and duties of citizenship are not distributed on the basis of affiliation to any specific religion. The state’s role is to ensure the moral and material well-being of its citizens and not to be involved in matters of the soul. It does not institutionalise or enforce any specific religion or take instructions from any religious body, as otherwise its sovereignty will be heavily compromised.
The Singapore secular state staunchly subscribes to all these cardinal principles. And due to this steadfastness, it is able to create the conditions conducive to harmonious multi-religious living where there are guarantees for freedom of conscience, equal treatment of religions, existence of public order and positive civic relations amongst its citizens.
… The writer is Head of Studies in Inter-Religious Relations in Plural Societies Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.
SRP / Online / Print
Last updated on 04/02/2016