SINGAPORE – The decision whether or not to repeal a law that criminalizes sex between men is up to the government, and the Catholic Church here takes a neutral stance on the repeal of Section 377A of the Penal Code, the Archbishop of Singapore William Goh.
As long as the rights of the church and clerics are protected and they can continue to teach what they believe to be right, the church will not oppose any repeal of Section 377A, he said. added in a recent interview.
Questions of whether the law should be changed or repealed resurfaced after the Court of Appeal ruled in February that it would stay on the books but could not be used to prosecute men for same-sex sex.
The head of the Roman Catholic Church was among religious leaders, Singaporeans and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) groups that Cabinet ministers have engaged in recent weeks as the government considers the best path to follow to advance the law.
Religious and LGBT groups saw this as a signal of an impending policy change and released statements to express their position.
Responding to questions on the matter, Bishop Goh stressed that it is up to the government to decide whether the law should be repealed. He said: “For us, we are neutral as long as our rights are protected. That’s all. We don’t want to criminalize people.”
He was referring to the rights of the Catholic Church to maintain its position on marriage as a union between a man and a woman, and that the family unit includes a father, a mother and their children.
Several other religious leaders expressed similar positions.
Taoist Federation President Tan Thiam Lye told the Straits Times when asked, “We do not oppose or support the repeal (of Section 377A).”
Chairman of the Sikh Advisory Council Malminderjit Singh said repealing Section 377A would be a pragmatic move as the law has not been enforced.
But he added that from the perspective of the Sikh faith, this should be balanced with reinforcing the concept of marriage and family unity as being between a man and a woman.
Earlier this year, Singapore’s top Islamic leader, Mufti Nazirudin Mohd Nasir, said in an interview with the Straits Times that the LGBT issue is a very complex issue, but there is also a need for more hard work and moving faster towards a solution, as people expect religious leaders to provide guidance on the issue.
Although Islam’s position on homosexuality is clear – that it is not permitted – many of the religion’s values are rooted in compassion, kindness and inclusiveness, even in dealing with prohibitions against religion, said Dr. Nazirudin.
He urged the community not to reject Muslims who do not practice certain aspects of the religion, but rather to find a constructive way to coexist while reminding each other to uphold the faith.
The 2020 census found that among Singapore residents aged 15 and over, 31.1% identified as Buddhist, 8.8% as Taoist, 15.6% as Muslim and 5% as Hindu. Those who identified as Christian made up 18.9%, of which 36%, or 6.7% of the resident population, are Catholic.
The Alliance of Pentecostal and Charismatic Churches in Singapore has warned against deleting Section 377A, describing it as “a marker for many social and moral considerations”.
In a statement last Friday, he warned that repealing the law, “without putting in place a ban of equal weight,” would have far-reaching negative social consequences, such as rewriting standards for acceptable sexual relationships.
It would also spur “a brand of intolerant and aggressive LGBT activism that seeks to impose its ideology on Singaporean society,” the alliance said.
He called on the government to put in place further “clear, unambiguous moral markers of the values we want to promote and protect”.
Religious groups have also expressed concern that any repeal could encourage and embolden LGBT activists to push for recognition of same-sex marriages, and called for greater protection of marriage.
Last month, around 1,200 people, including Christian and Muslim leaders, attended a private rally called Protect Singapore Townhall to discuss the impact of a repeal and demanded safeguards to protect marriage, family, children and freedom of conscience.
About a week later, Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam noted that most people wanted the current stance on marriage to be maintained, and said the government was considering how best to to strike a balance between dealing with the law and safeguarding the current legal position on marriage. marriage against court challenges.
Archbishop Goh, in the interview with The Straits Times and Lianhe Zaobao, also said he hopes people will respect the rights of the Catholic Church to maintain its position on marriage and family.
Christians and Catholics fear the repeal of Section 377A because they fear it will lead to a situation, like in the West, where people are unable to practice what they believe and cannot even say that a same-sex relationship is wrong, he said.
“But we have to tell our children: for us, this is not acceptable. So we must have the right to continue teaching (this) in our Catholic schools, for that matter.”
He added that the Catholic Church’s argument is not against repealing the law.
“We’re just saying we must have the freedom to continue to teach what we believe, to practice what we also teach.”
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.