Preserve definition of marriage, protect religious freedoms: Church leaders respond to 377A repeal
Salt&Light // August 21, 2022, 10:44 pm
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong speaking at the National Day Rally, 21 August 2022.
At the National Day Rally on Sunday (21 August), Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that Section 377A – the law that penalises sex between men – will be repealed, but the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman will be given additional Constitutional protection from legal challenge.
Various Church and denominational bodies have released statements in response to the announcement. Read excerpts (edited for length) of their responses here:
NATIONAL COUNCIL OF CHURCHES OF SINGAPORE (NCCS)
We appreciate the Government’s assurance that, in repealing s377A, it will uphold and safeguard the institution of marriage.
In this regard, we appeal to the government to directly express a definition of marriage in the Constitution and declare that only such marriages will be recognised in Singapore.
In our view, this move achieves a more robust safeguard than the alternative of including a constitutional provision that references the relevant provisions of the Women’s Charter or Interpretation Act and shields them from constitutional challenge.
We see no basis for any further liberalisation of policies or content for the downstream government institutions or statutory boards in light of the repeal of s377A (e.g. public housing, education, adoption rules, advertising standards, film classification etc. as mentioned by PM Lee).
“We are concerned that the repeal of s377A will lead to a beginning and intensification of the contention and advocacy for domestic partnership arrangements or civil unions to be instituted and legalised in Singapore.”
While agreeing that the Government’s move in safeguarding the current legal position on marriage prevents the position from being challenged in the courts, we are concerned that the repeal of s377A will lead to a beginning and intensification of the contention and advocacy for domestic partnership arrangements or civil unions to be instituted and legalised in Singapore, on the same argument of guaranteeing constitutional rights for all citizens regardless of their sexual orientation.
We seek the Government’s further clarification on this matter.
Finally, with the repeal of s377A, we seek the Government’s assurance that the religious freedom of churches will be protected as we continue to teach against same-sex sexual acts and highlight such acts, along with other sexual acts like adultery, fornication, or premarital sex, as sins that go against the clear teaching of the Bible.
Pastors, Christian teachers and workers who uphold the clear teaching of Scripture on this matter should be protected from charges of “hate speech” and the like.
To that end, we urge the Government to (1) limit hate speech laws to incitement to use of force or violence, and (2) defend a robust interpretation of religious freedom under the provision of the Constitution (Article 15(1)). Pastors and counselors offering a distinctively Christian approach in their counseling should also be protected and free to choose from a variety of counseling or therapy strategies, and not be compelled to adopt solely “LGBTQ+-affirmingonly” strategies.
Lastly, we are concerned that with the repeal of s377A, there will be an intensification of the celebration of LGBTQ+ culture especially in companies or corporations that support LGBTQ+ activism. Christian individuals in such situations will face an even greater amount of pressure (as compared to the situation where s377A is retained) to support or participate in the LGBTQ+ activism, or risk facing “reverse discrimination”.
Therefore, even as the Government is working toward enshrining in law the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices, we urge the Government to make provisions to allow individuals to report cases of “reverse discrimination” in relation to not supporting LGBTQ+ activism that they might have observed or experienced at the workplace.
In conclusion, we recognise that public views on sexuality matters remain contentious and highly sensitive, and they have a potential to divide society. In order that we remain as one people, we call on the church to maintain the social cohesion that we have enjoyed in Singapore throughout the decades, even as our views on this issue may differ.
Most of all, we call on all our pastors, Christian teachers and workers to uphold the clear truth of Scripture on this matter, but yet to articulate and minister this truth with love and compassion, as our Lord himself did.
May we, as God’s church, the body of Christ, affirm the dignity of every human person created in his image. May we be that refuge, journeying alongside those who experience same-sex attraction and who desire to live in obedience to God, which includes conforming ourselves to his good word on sexuality.
ALLIANCE OF PENTECOSTAL AND CHARISMATIC CHURCHES OF SINGAPORE (APCCS)
APCCS welcomes Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s assurances that the government will continue to uphold families as the basic building blocks of society, and keep its policies on family and marriage unchanged in an effort to maintain prevailing norms and social values of society.
(But) the decision to remove a moral marker as weighty as S377A signals a rewriting of acceptable sexual relationships, and celebrates homosexuality as being characteristic of a mainstream social environment.
“APCCS reiterates its call for the government to consider carefully the extensive downstream impact the repeal brings upon policies touching on marriage, families, education, housing, and more.”
“The repeal is an extremely regrettable decision which will have a profound impact on the culture that our children and future generations of Singaporeans will live in. However, we also recognise that the government seeks to bring about a balance among many differing viewpoints on this matter,” said Rev Yang Tuck Yoong, Chairman of APCCS.
Following the decision to repeal 377A, the Alliance reiterates its call for the government to consider carefully the extensive downstream impact the repeal brings upon policies touching on marriage, families, education, housing, and more.
“In particular, we strongly urge the government to entrench the definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman in the Singapore Constitution. That would be the most prudent way forward,” Rev Yang continued.
It also reiterates that should the matter is to be put to a parliamentary vote, the party whip should be lifted as part of due democratic process in multi-religious Singapore, so that MPs will be able to represent the voice of all people, including the religious, and vote according to the feedback they have received from the ground.
Click here for the full APCCS statement.
We are thankful that the Government has been open to our concerns and has been in continual dialogue with us. We are heartened to hear from Prime Minister that the Government “will uphold and safeguard the institution of marriage”, with the definition of marriage being between male and female.
As a matter of biblical principle, the Church cannot support the repeal of Section 377A. Our request is that any such move be accompanied by new constitutional protections and safeguards that are better, stronger, and collectively more strategic and more effective than Section 377A per se.
(a) For example: By Law and Policy, strengthen the definition of marriage as heterosexual, establishing this core moral value as the norm, the model for natural procreation, and the stable foundation to bring up the next generation for the long term good and continuity of our nation.
(b) For example: By Law and Policy, protect and preserve the right of the Church to profess, practise and propagate our biblical convictions regarding gender, sexual morality, heterosexual marriage, traditional family structure and parenting — without harassment from any third party.
(c) For example: By Law and Policy, protect the young and vulnerable in our society from the undesirable LGBTQ influence. That the promotion and indoctrination of LGBTQ ideologies in schools, tertiary institutions, and universities will not be allowed. That the blatant flaunting of the LGBTQ agenda, lifestyle and culture through public media will be curtailed or otherwise restricted to the adult audience.
Click here for the full LoveSingapore statement.
ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHDIOCESE OF SINGAPORE
With regards to the repeal of S377A, we do not seek to criminalise the LGBTQ, for they too are children of God and loved by Him.
However, we seek protection of the family and marriage according to natural law; and our rights to teach and practise them unhindered. We must not allow reverse discrimination to take place against those who believe in marriage as defined between a man and a woman.
“We must not allow reverse discrimination to take place against those who believe in marriage as defined between a man and a woman.”
To ensure that this protection is not challenged easily, it is thus necessary that it be enshrined and defined in our Constitution before S377A is removed.
Otherwise, we will be taking a slippery road of no return, weakening the fabric of a strong society which is founded on the bedrock of holistic families and marriages.
We take comfort that this safeguard will be looked at seriously in Parliament as assured by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
THE METHODIST CHURCH IN SINGAPORE
We in The Methodist Church in Singapore trust that this decision was not taken lightly. As we transition, we will continue to engage, represent, and advise the authorities and parties involved so that we can emerge a better society devoid of harboured hatred and mutual misunderstandings.
“We also look forward to continue in the religious freedom we enjoy to teach our faith in our churches and schools without interference, repercussions, or drawing offence from others.”
We pray for unity in our country; we have seen such decisions divide and destroy other societies. It is not our desire to draw battle-lines in the shifting sand, but to participate lovingly whilst clinging to the Rock of our Salvation. It is our hope that open, constructive dialogue will lead us to a uniquely Singaporean outcome.
It is encouraging to know that marriages will still be between a man and a woman and we are reassured that this will never change for the sake of future generations.
We also look forward to continue in the religious freedom we enjoy to teach our faith in our churches and schools without interference, repercussions, or drawing offence from others.
Our congregants will be reminded to love God by loving our neighbours, whatever creed they identify with, and to accept all who would love and follow Christ warmly into our churches. As one of our rites reminds us, we love Christ and seek to live in peace with our neighbour.
EVANGELICAL ALLIANCE OF SINGAPORE (EAS)
EAS welcomes the Government’s assurances that it will continue to uphold and safeguard the institution of marriage and its definition as a heterosexual union. We strongly urge the Government to enshrine this definition of marriage into our Singapore Constitution to shield it from future legal challenges.
We would like to seek explicit assurances from the Government that the churches in Singapore have the right to teach biblical principles freely.
Additionally, we advocate for stronger safeguards on policies relating to marriage and families comprehensively, such as those on adoption, education, public housing and media before the repealing of S377A, so as to avoid negative social consequences.
As Evangelicals who adhere to the teachings of the Holy Bible, we affirm that marriage is an institution created by God in which one man and one woman enter into an exclusive relationship for life. Marriage is the only form of partnership approved by God for sexual relations and same-sex sexual practices are incompatible with His will as revealed in Scripture.
We do not accept that holding these theological and ethical views on biblical grounds is in itself homophobic. As such, we would like to seek explicit assurances from the Government that the churches in Singapore have the right to teach these biblical principles freely.
Finally, we encourage evangelical congregations to be communities of grace in which those who experience same-sex attraction and seek to live faithfully in accordance with biblical teachings are welcomed and affirmed. Such Christians need churches which are safe spaces for mutual encouragement and support as we help each other grow together into maturity in Christ.
ASSEMBLIES OF GOD SINGAPORE
We are disappointed with the decision to repeal as it reveals a shift in attitudes that some people in Singapore have toward modernity, and a shift of their values.
The repeal of 377A is only the tip of the iceberg. There are known generational repercussions and long-lasting impact of this alternative lifestyle that now threatens our nation’s social fabric.
Going forward, the Singapore government has an uphill task to enshrine marriage in our constitution and laws so that future shifts of popular cultures will not lead to the dilution of Singapore’s uniqueness of being a first-world nation with strong stable family values.
Our founding fathers did not make laws based on popularity, but upon the shared value that families form the fabric of Singapore’s society.
The church will continue to be a moral compass in our dialogues with government leaders. The way God intends marriages and families to be has and will not change even as social norms evolve.
The Assemblies of God churches will continue to advocate for strong and godly marriages and families. God’s Word is clear. Our stance is clear. Within our community of faith, we remain committed to upholding and promoting traditional family values that are the building blocks of our nation.
The church will continue to be a support system for families in need – providing guidance for couples and parents, and grounded influence for children and youths based on biblical principles and values.
We will continue to be in prayer for our nation and leaders, just as the Bible commands us to. May God grant them the wisdom and courage to make the right decisions as they lead Singapore into the future.
CHURCH OF OUR SAVIOUR (VICAR DANIEL WEE)
While most of us would have preferred that S377A be retained, along with added measures to bolster the Women’s Charter and other institutions, we also need to keep a broader perspective of what is at stake.
This is not just a religious matter either, although as Christians we are guided in our conservative viewpoints. What we are looking at is a social and civil fight over the eventual shape of our society.
We should understand that LGBT issues are only part of a larger and more important cultural battle that is being waged today. When we look at the West, we can see the results of that cultural conflict. Racial divides, economic divides, gender divides, political divides, and so on result in polarising society at all levels and making everyone a victim or the victimiser.
“We hold on to our call to be faithful witnesses of the Gospel even as we seek the welfare of the city that God has placed us in.”
If unchecked, our society can easily fall prey to the same cultural forces that are tearing apart Western society and the church will not be spared. The LGBT fight is just one skirmish along a very big frontline in this culture war.
There is much to do as we move forward from this point.
We can take this repeal as a wake-up call to many Christians and conservatives, making us aware that the social compact under our late Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew has changed to one where the citizenry of Singapore cannot afford to remain the “silent majority”.
We need to become active participants in the social-political discourse of our nation and engage our representatives in parliament.
As Christians, this repeal should not discourage us. We hold on to our call to be faithful witnesses of the Gospel even as we seek the welfare of the city that God has placed us in. Even though parts of society will keep pushing for a different vision of Singapore, we need to be the faithful quorum of even just five righteous men in the city.
We will need to educate ourselves better on this cultural war to build better defences. In particular, we will need to help the younger generation understand the LGBT issues within the broader cultural shift. There is a lot more work and prayer ahead of us. Pray that we can come up with effective countermeasures to the expected push for greater normalisation of the LGBT and other woke cultural values in Singapore.
Our position on marriage and family, and on the LGBT issue, has not changed. It will not change, and it cannot change because it is biblically based. Our efforts to witness to our society, on the other hand, will have to continually adapt to changing circumstances and is not cast in stone.
For today, we are reminded that our faith is not in man. The words of the Lord to Jehoshaphat when he was faced with overwhelming adversity is relevant for us today:
Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. (2 Chronicles 20:15b)
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