SINGAPORE: The government has stressed the need to maintain a clear line between politics and religion in Singapore.
Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean said the separation of religion and politics is a long established principle in Singapore.
He was responding to a question from Nominated MP Laurence Lien who wanted an update on the government’s stance on what it means to keep religion and politics separate.
Mr Teo said: "Our politics and policies must serve all Singaporeans, regardless of race, language or religion. The government must not take sides with any religious group when making policies.
"If politicians use the religion card for their own political purpose and agenda, and seek to sway voters through religious appeals, it will sow the seeds of division in our society, and undermine the inter—religious and social harmony we have painstakingly built."
Mr Teo noted that a citizen who belongs to a particular religion will often be guided by his religious beliefs and personal conscience.
However, he should always be mindful of the sensitivities of living in a multi—religious society and the bounds of the law.
To guard against the dangers of mixing politics and religion, parliament enacted the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act in 1990.
Mr Teo said should any individual or group seek to embroil any religious group or use a religious office to further its political agenda, the government will take firm action.
Mr Teo said he understands and respects that religious groups have deeply—held views which they wish to express and to be given due consideration.
However, he said there are established formal and informal channels for them to do so.
Recently, Singapore’s Archbishop Nicholas Chia was involved in an exchange of words with activist group Function 8.
This was over a letter he sent to the group on the Internal Security Act.
Mr Teo confirmed that the Archbishop had intended the letter as a private communication to Function 8, but had later decided to withdraw the letter upon reflection as he was concerned it could be used in a manner that he did not intend and possibly harm social harmony.
"Those who know Archbishop Chia and the type of person he is and his contributions to Singapore over the decades will certainly know he’s not one who would endanger social harmony in Singapore. The position he took in withdrawing the letter was consistent with his words and deeds throughout his leadership of the Catholic Church and as a respected religious leader in Singapore," said Mr Teo.
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