On Separation of Church and State

Separation of Church and State, as far as western democracies go, does not mean that religious leaders and organisations cannot hold political views or endorse political candidates. It does not even mean that the Church cannot take part in politics.

Indeed, the Church is a powerful player in politics, eg. US Presidents have mainly been Protestant and not Catholic, and religious leaders, eg Reverend Jesse Jackson, have even been nominated as running mates for US Presidential Elections.

For them, separation of Church and State means that they are a democracy, not theocracy; that there is no one State Religion; that there must be religious freedom; and most importantly, that the Govt cannot interfere in the affairs of religious groups, tell them what to teach, what not to teach, what is deviant teaching, etc.

For Singapore, however, the direction of the PAP is to muzzle all religious groups, to the extent that they can’t make any kind of statements against Govt policy. So even on matters such as abortion and contraception, which the Catholic Church feels strongly about, they could not say anything publicly against the PAP’s Two Is Enough policy.

Hence, the anxiety and fear of the PAP govt when it heard that the Archbishop had written a letter of support to Function 8.

I leave it to readers to consider which model is better for Singapore.

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Someone who sees beyond PAP and "opposition" in Singapore politics. To understand more please see the Top 10 link below.
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4 Responses to On Separation of Church and State

  1. I think the govt do not ‘muzzle’ the religious groups when it comes to national policy. I believe religious groups do get the opportunities… in private. I suspect the reasons for doing so is the sensitivities involved and the public reactions .

    • Thanks. Feedback is different from opposition. Religious groups aren’t allowed to oppose govt policy publicly. They get shot at for politicking from the pulpit. They are challenged to remove their frocks and step into politics the moment they say anything opposing Govt policy.

      • Call me a coward but I do feel that religious groups should not oppose government policies publicly. Using the scenario of Anti-Abortion (on religious grounds) vs Stop At Two. Let’s say government do not back down and the religion’s leader continue to openly oppose this policy, what would his followers do? On the other hand, should the government back down after the public airing of one particular religion, what would other religious groups do? “Hey! It’s against my religion to carry arms… no NS for my followers!” Better to have close door discussion and work out what is workable for both parties before dissemination to their respective followers.

        I may be a liberal but I’m still very conservatively cautious about mixing religion with politics. Just my humble opinion.

      • Thank you for your comments. I understand your views, but I feel you’ve been brainwashed by the PAP.

        You buy the PAP line that religious groups will not only oppose Govt policy, but oppose it in a way as to create unrest or trouble. You buy the PAP line that followers of religions will take whatever their leaders say and go into conflict with the Govt.

        That is not true at all.

        Just because the Church opposes something doesn’t mean there will be conflict or other religious groups will also take up arms.

        Everyone has the right to an opinion and to a belief, and the right to air his belief publicly.

        You know in the US, abortion is a very divisive issue. Pro-life vs pro-choice.

        You also know where the Church stands on this issue.

        Every Presidential candidate is questioned on this issue, and has to take a stand.

        Does it mean that the Church will decide the fate of the country? Will the Church try to undermine the President? Will the country split apart because the Church has a position on abortion?

        Of course not. Everyone knows the position of the Church on abortion, on gays, etc and the Church does not hold back its views. But that doesn’t mean they will fight the Govt on the streets. They may tell their followers who to vote for, but it doesn’t mean that there will be conflict, it doesn’t mean the Church will tell its followers to go riot because one candidate supports abortion.

        As long as the Church and the State do not agree, doesn’t mean one or the other must back down. If they understand and respect each others’ right to an opinion, that is workable.

        No, the fear of riots and religious conflict is just a red herring. The reason why pap doesn’t want religious groups to express and views publicly boils down to a fear that they will become power centers in the country. It is the same fear that caused the pap to control the media, because the media is also an institution of power in a democracy.

        As you know, Presidents have been brought down by investigative journalism, some news editors are so powerful they can make or break a political candidate, by making him look ood or bad. The pap didn’t want that, hence they had to control the media.

        Same thing with the Church, which in certain countries (eg Italy) is very powerful, hence the pap would not stand a situation when they could be opposed by any religious group.

        Hence the pap had to muzzle religious groups to cement its hold on power.

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