What limits to ‘religious liberty’?

What is the place of religion in society? Two recent news stories from the US pointed to this question. Both by themselves had little significance for Singapore, but nonetheless gave food for thought.

The first, Republican horrified to discover that Christianity is not the only religion, was about Valarie Hodges, a state legislator in Louisiana, changing her position with respect to a proposed law that would enable school fee vouchers, provided by the state government, to be tendered at mission schools. At first, she fully supported the law, assuming that religiously-run schools only comprised Christian schools. Then, she was aghast to learn that in line with the secular underpinnings of the US, other religiously-run schools would be equally eligible under the program, in particular, a Muslim school that had applied for inclusion.

“We need to insure that it does not open the door to fund radical Islam schools. There are a thousand Muslim schools that have sprung up recently. I do not support using public funds for teaching Islam anywhere here in Louisiana,” the article quoted her as saying.

To say there are a thousand such schools is probably a wild exaggeration.

The law eventually passed, “opening the door for for god knows how many non-Valarie Hodge’s-religion schools that might interfere with her vision of America as a sort of Christian Saudi Arabia,” concluded the article on jezebel.com.

The second story, Alabama pastor holds ‘Whites only’ conference, tells of a church organising a meeting to whom only Whites are welcome, according to the flyer being distributed. WECT news reported that the flyer circulated by the Church of God’s Chosen (Christian Identity Ministries)  informed interested parties that the three-day conference would end with a “Sacred Christian Cross Lighting Ceremony”, invoking images of the Ku Klux Klan.

The conference organiser, William C. Collier, says that his is not a hate group but adds that he believes “the white race is God’s chosen people.”

In response to the uproar, the founder of the church, Mel Lewis, said that objectors are showing disrespect for religious liberty.

* * * * *

‘Religion’ spans a whole gamut of different things. While I am no believer, I can plainly see that to many people it is extremely meaningful, in the way it provides guidance, comfort and a call to do good in this life. Most organised religions also provide a sense of community, which many people value. The outcome of these often takes the form of concern for humanity and charitable work, a benefit few in society would quarrel with.

Problems arise when community leads on to assertive identity, and gets worse when that identity is cast as under siege. In many ways, this is almost a natural progression. Groups tend to throw up leaders, and unless leaders are watchful of themselves, they may become a little intoxicated with power. The corrupting influence of power can be seen in the desire to expand the reach of that power, and what better lever is there than appeal to group identity? This then comes full circle, when followers themselves feel the adrenalin rush of crusading identity.

Should little voices within the group question the direction it is taking, or should enthusiasm flag, it is common to resort to the rhetoric of threat to conserve unity and spur action. But to speak of being persecuted or threatened is to suggest that some party out there is the threat or persecutor; this does nothing for cordial relations with other faiths.

In any case, as group solidarity is promoted, interaction with those outside the faith is reduced. Moreover, there is a risk of circular reasoning within its internal discourse and the congregation becoming an echo chamber. The kind of mischaracteristion of other faiths, non-believers and motley others, and the erasure of the very presence of others from one’s field of vision, so exemplified by Louisiana’s Valarie Hodges, becomes all too common.

This sets the stage for conflict, since no society can ever be that homogenous that everyone belongs, with the same fervour, to the same creed. It is worse when a religious group is big enough to set its sights on capturing the state; for ambitions of power naturally progresses to seizure of the pinnacle of power – the state and its monopoly of violence.

* * * * *

Assuming a state is not yet captured by a religion, and the people in that state want to keep it secular, where are lines to be drawn?

Immediately, I am reminded of a small debate in the comments trail of this blog not too long ago, about its very definition. I am surprised that this is being debated, for the meaning is clear. Secularism is the principle that religious dictates and assumptions should be excluded from civil affairs, which includes politics and law. That being the case, what degree of attempted encroachment needs to be resisted?

There is no clear answer here, for the practice of secularism varies from place to place. At one end there is something I’d call “Please feel free to walk all over me” secularism; at the other end, a more robust form. In the former, the democratic principle that the majority should get what they want, even if they bring their religious beliefs into the public domain, is given precedence. The result is that under the guise of democracy, a state can incorporate many ideas originating from a particular religion into civil law and governance, e.g. on divorce (or banning of it) and the teaching of creationism in schools. The robust form of secularism  is self-evidently the opposite. It is more vigilant about attempts to inject religious ideas into the civil state.

Singapore seems schizophrenic to me. Drawing heavily from the People’s Action Party’s struggles against UMNO in Kuala Lumpur in the 1960s, and the more recent “War against terror” rhetoric, our secularism is very robust against Islam, but is shockingly “Please walk all over me” with respect to conservative Christianity. Examples that quickly come to mind include our hopelessly archaic sexuality education objectives, keeping Section 377A of the Penal Code, and the censorious attitude to sex and bodies on the part of regulators.

Granted, sex-phobia is not exclusively grounded in religion; it is cultural too. To link the behaviour of Singapore authorities (which tends to the prohibitive or restrictive when confronted with sexual expression, with no consideration for the right to freedom of expression) to religious lobbying alone would not be entirely accurate. But neither can it be denied that the conservative lobbies of the Abrahamic religions continue to breathe life into censorship through their interventions. To that extent, they are guilty of encroaching upon a secular state that should otherwise be giving due regard to the right to freedom of expression, and to the rights of other segments of society who do not subscribe to these religious positions on sex, nudity and the human form.

* * * * *

Robustness in state secularism can (should?) go beyond just protecting the state from encroachment. Religious groups may well circulate and promote certain ideas within themselves that are inimical to the broader social good, even if those ideas are not meant to bind the state into any course of action. The example of the church in Alabama, referenced above, raises this question. Should a religion be allowed to promote racial superiority? Wouldn’t it bring in train external costs that the rest of society has to bear to solve the social problems it causes? If a state has every right to interfere with the smoking habit on account of external costs and injury to others, why not step in when a religious group preaches something as injurious to others?

Related questions:  Should a religion be allowed to promote contempt for empirical knowledge and the scientific method, e.g. by badmouthing evolution? Should a religion be permitted to re-organise the minds and police the behaviour of its adherents, such that they open their wallets and donate far more money to the church than might be sensible?

In examining this question, we are likely to come up against the “human right” of freedom of religion. I have put “human right” in quotation  marks, because the more I think about it, the more I feel it is nonsense. Or at least, very badly phrased. There may be a human right to the freedom of conscience, such that any deliberate manipulation of someone else’s mind to alter his fundamental beliefs, should be banned. These fundamental beliefs will no doubt often include beliefs in the divine just as it includes atheist convictions.

But “freedom of religion” twists the concept beyond recognition, chiefly because “religion” can mean so many things, from private faith to community celebration, to indoctrination of the young and impressionable, political lobbying and multi-million dollar business ventures by churches. Those at the front end of the list may meet few objections from others and cause no concern to society, but why should some of the things at the latter end enjoy the immunity from interference implied by “human right”?

When a church founder like Mel Lewis describes his racist conference as a matter protected by his freedom of religion, we have to stop and think. What if another religious group promotes the notion that the right age for girls to get married is 12 and never later than 15? Do we stand aside and do nothing? Should the state keep its hands tied?

What if yet another religious group promotes the idea that people of homosexual orientation are “sinners” and should be discriminated against legally and socially –  how different is that from a church that says [insert racial group here] are an inferior race and can be enslaved/exploited, or that [insert a faith group here] are terrorists?

Shouldn’t a robust, socially-responsible secularism step in? Why flinch just because someone waves the “freedom of religion” flag? Singapore may claim to be secular, but my experience is that it is not conscientious or robust enough.

41 Responses to “What limits to ‘religious liberty’?”


  1. 1 Poker Player 13 July 2012 at 23:45

    Should a Jain state then assert the same superiority or privileged world-view over meat-eating vivisection-happy secular groups under its jurisdiction?

    • 2 Poker Player 14 July 2012 at 01:01

      To press home the point, where do you draw the line in this Jain state?

      1) Passage of laws that prohibit the consumption of meat and the laboratory testing of animals.

      2) Passage of laws to prevent the promotion of any view that condones the consumption of meat and any discussion over the scientific value of animal testing.

      • 3 ricardo 15 July 2012 at 14:38

        Nearly as bad as the passage of laws prohibiting cannibalism. And the promotion of dogs, cats & dolphins as nutritious & tasty food.

        There is a lot more to this particular Jain custom than mere religious dogma. In this case, I’ll uphold the Jain view as superior to yus (us) hypocritcal carnivores.

      • 4 Poker Player 15 July 2012 at 16:14

        Developing your point (which I was trying to trigger).

        So, if there is a privileged world-view – whether secular or not – from which we can judge the rightness or wrongness of human actions, it is not a fixed one.

        If it is not a fixed one, who can claim to posses it?

        If no one can claim to posses it, the power that comes from being given the right to pass judgements in its name should be as modest as possible.

  2. 5 Poker Player 14 July 2012 at 00:07

    Quoting Stanley Fish (out of context):

    …valuing process over substance is the essence of liberalism, a form of thought and political organization that begins with a strong sense of the intractability of disputes at the level of belief and proceeds to turn everything it can into a question of procedure: Were all voices heard? Was the decision made on neutral grounds and without taking into considerations matters of race, gender, economic status, ethnicity, etc.? (Sounds good, doesn’t it?) Kant showed the way when he observed that “men have different views on the empirical ends of happiness . . . and their will cannot be brought under any common principle . . . harmonizing with the freedom of everyone.’”

    The solution? Remove beliefs from the political agenda — we’re not going to vote on them or distribute goods on their basis — and come up with a formula for keeping them at bay while respecting the rights of citizens to have them. Kant again: “In order to organize a group of rational beings who together require universal laws . . . but of whom each separate individual is inclined to exempt himself from them, the constitution must be designed in such a way that the public conduct of the citizens will be the same as if they did not have such evil attitudes.” And how do you do that? By making it a requirement that laws neither reflect the ideological view point of one party nor marginalize and/or stigmatize the ideological viewpoint of some other party. Only pass laws to which persons of any viewpoint could assent: “No one can put anyone else under a legal obligation without submitting simultaneously to a law which requires that he can himself be put under the same kind of obligation by the other person.”

    • 6 Poker Player 14 July 2012 at 00:10

      IOW. There should be no privileged point of view. If there is no privileged point of view, there is no basis for deciding what people can or cannot say to each other. The business of government becomes a pragmatic one of preventing cruelty in its most modest and restrained sense.

      • 7 Ian 14 July 2012 at 16:38

        there is a privileged point of view, the secularist(or w/e that means) views are privileged, as all religions will be playing in its field when making policies.

        So… they’d call it the atheist point of view for it does not invoke supernatural beings or ancient scriptures to rationalise or make laws.

      • 8 yawningbread 14 July 2012 at 23:38

        I think we should take care not to confuse secularism with atheism.

      • 9 Ian 14 July 2012 at 23:57

        Both rationalise things in the same way, therefore it is not hard to tell that religious groups will jump at it and say “you are endorsing atheism”.

      • 10 yawningbread 15 July 2012 at 09:58

        But I hope you’re not suggesting that because some folks misapprehend (or choose to conflate) the two, we should therefore abide by that conflation and chuck out secularism.

      • 11 Poker Player 15 July 2012 at 03:39

        @Ian

        Secularism is privileged in the same way that a group of strong willed peers will choose the most weak-willed among them as leader if one is required.

        No problem there. (Indian secularism is like that – a very religious country that had to choose a system for itself chose secularism because it had no other realistic option).

        The real problem is –

        over what areas of life should a secular state have power over and how much.

  3. 12 Natureschild 14 July 2012 at 00:14

    Excellent article… food for thought for S’poreans esp political & religious leaders re. ‘religious liberty’ in multi-racial, multi-faith, secular S’pore.
    Secular Singapore? Are we truly secular?
    Many government policies and practices do not reflect “a robust, socially-responsible secularism”.

  4. 13 M_L 14 July 2012 at 04:38

    The problem with religious freedom is that it’s all pretty an structured in the register of human rights, but it only takes one or a few self-proclaimed advocates of the matter to blow it out of proportion. There is a VAST misunderstanding of the definition of “religious freedom” amongst many when it comes to the point of being confronted or cornered. And since religion is somewhat a “soft issue”, it carries the flexibility to easily broaden its area of influence or turn its members’ rights into entitlements (I’m trying to avoid saying religion has a right in general meaning).
    And it seems like people most often flinch at the popular arguments that science needs religion as a moral instance, for not everything that may be possible may be right to do. Of course it should include ethics, but not religion. And that’s one of the points where secularism should kick into mind.
    I believe most Singaporeans are very spiritual themselves, even without practicing any religion. That, paired with the fact that they heavily avoid treading on others toes or being pointed out as a possible violater of whatever right, they’d rather accept the person’s call for religios freedom before speaking out their critical thought.

    • 14 octopi 14 July 2012 at 20:42

      The big complication here is that the average person needs moral guidance. Now, a tenet of secularity is that the state does not provide moral guidance. It provides laws. When the state starts talking about morals, people left and right will kaopeh.

      So who provides the moral education? Schools? Schools are part of the state. Families? But families are not a national institution (except maybe the famiLee) Some families are better than it than others. Different communities have different values. How do you bind people together? How do you build community when you aren’t going to talk about moral values? Where are the shared values? In computer science people talk about a common platform or an industrial standard, without which there cannot be an internet. Where is the common platform for the moral guidance aspect? The best we can hope for is a patchwork.

      In the end you will have permanent anarchy, the left has a set of values, the right has a set of values, and both sides will forever be screaming at each other and struggling for ascendency.

      The issue is that there is a vacuum here. In the absence of a national institution with the moral aspect, if the religious organisations being the only people in town providing this moral guidance, it’s not surprising that they have become so important in Singapore society.

      • 15 Poker Player 15 July 2012 at 03:23

        The big complication here is that the average person needs moral guidance. Now, a tenet of secularity is that the state does not provide moral guidance.

        Do non-secular states provide “moral guidance” then?

        If yes, you need to think of some actual countries – we know the obvious examples – which will then trigger serious questioning about whether “moral guidance” is the appropriate term to use.

        If no, then what connection are you making between secularism mentioned near the start of your comment, and the issues you describe in the rest?

        Last point – general one – not in response to any specific comment. When you describe secularism, don’t restrict yourself to the usual suspects US, France etc, where it was a reaction against the power of the church. Think India. There secularism was the only option – a country with a majority of Hindus and and where Muslims were once the ruling class over vast areas.

      • 16 yawningbread 15 July 2012 at 09:56

        I can think of two extremely important values (call it “moral” guidance if you wish) that a secular state provides that no religious state will ever be able to provide (at least not to the same degree) – tolerance of diversity and respect for empirical facts. It’s hard to imagine modern society as possible without these two.

      • 17 octopi 15 July 2012 at 14:20

        Secularism prescribes some values as yawning bread mentioned. But certainly not to the same extent that a church would provide. Tolerance for diversity and respect for empiricism are not spiritual virtues. This is necessary as pointed out but not sufficient. My contention is that people are looking for more than just that.

        The question that I raised is not whether the state should provide this “moral guidance”, as poker player misunderstood. The question is that some entity or body should provide it. My point is not that there is anything wrong with secularism. But that the current situation, where it is mainly only either the state, or some religious body providing this moral guidance is dysfunctional and to a lesser or greater degree conflict between the state and religion is inevitable.

        Why shouldn’t it be some NGO? It could be some “humanist” organisation, except that I dislike the association with atheism. (Sorry, Mr Humanist of the year). It could be a forum chaired by a community organiser or whatever.

        Unfortunately the record of New Age cults is pretty bad: even though most of them are harmless, your Jim Jones and your David Koreshes have given these religious “start-ups” a very bad name.

        To be sure there are a lot of NGOs out there who do a lot of voluntary work for the underprivileged. But it stops there, and you don’t have people delivering sermons or this “moral guidance”.

        The first purpose of “moral guidance” is to get people on the same page with each other. One thing a church can provide is an environment where people speak the same moral language as each other. As a society, the very minimum we need are some shared values that people can agree on. But this is almost never achieved. Then you have liberals and conservatives screaming at each other because they are working with incompatible moral architectures. You have tribes that don’t discuss issues with each other, and think that each other’s values are abhorrent. And furthermore, wear this abhorrence of each other’s values as a badge of pride.

        The second purpose is that some people simply have to be led around like that.

        No matter how this “moral guidance” is tainted by association with highly dysfunctional religious organisations. It is a fallacious argument that just because Muslims and Hindus have been killing each other in the past, that suddenly it is possible for all men in a society to live without this “moral guidance”. Those who can should not simply assume that everybody is capable of doing it.

      • 18 Poker Player 15 July 2012 at 15:01

        The question that I raised is not whether the state should provide this “moral guidance”, as poker player misunderstood.

        Then what point were you making saying this:

        a tenet of secularity is that the state does not provide moral guidance

        The question is that some entity or body should provide it. My point is not that there is anything wrong with secularism. But that the current situation, where it is mainly only either the state, or some religious body providing this moral guidance is dysfunctional and to a lesser or greater degree conflict between the state and religion is inevitable.

        So, what is the connection with secularism?

      • 19 Poker Player 15 July 2012 at 15:08

        the question that I raised is not whether the state should provide this “moral guidance”, as poker player misunderstood.

        Then what point were you making saying this:

        a tenet of secularity is that the state does not provide moral guidance

        Later you say:

        The question is that some entity or body should provide it. My point is not that there is anything wrong with secularism. But that the current situation, where it is mainly only either the state, or some religious body providing this moral guidance is dysfunctional and to a lesser or greater degree conflict between the state and religion is inevitable.

        So, what is the connection with secularism?

      • 20 octopi 15 July 2012 at 15:33

        The point is that in a secular state, secularism always co-exists with religious organisations in society. The tension between religion and secularism is permanent flux and there is no resolution, only management of problems.

    • 21 Poker Player 15 July 2012 at 21:31

      So the point is a banality.

      • 22 octopi 16 July 2012 at 01:14

        You seem to have a perverse level of interest in my banal comments.

      • 23 octopi 16 July 2012 at 01:28

        “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”

        Arthur Schopenhauer

      • 24 octopi 16 July 2012 at 01:44

        The point is not a banality, actually. First, there is no solution that will permanently remove the tension between religious practice and banality. Second, the issue of balancing tolerance of religions and stemming the excessses of religions is something that exists in a secular state. With a non- secular state, you can simply come down hard on the other religion that you don’t like – there’s no obligation to treat it fairly.

      • 25 octopi 16 July 2012 at 03:10

        And third, secularism, because it does minimal preaching and falls short of providing the spiritual teachings of religion, creates a vacuum into which organised religion comes in. Therefore in a way the presence of organised religion is a result of secularism, and therefore secularism results in the confrontation with religion.(In contrast to atheist states like in the old communist bloc where the practice of religion is discouraged)

      • 26 Poker Player 16 July 2012 at 12:38

        “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”

        Arthur Schopenhauer

        Fourth, it becomes comment padding.

      • 27 Poker Player 16 July 2012 at 13:20

        And third, secularism, because it does minimal preaching and falls short of providing the spiritual teachings of religion, creates a vacuum into which organised religion comes in. Therefore in a way the presence of organised religion is a result of secularism, and therefore secularism results in the confrontation with religion.(In contrast to atheist states like in the old communist bloc where the practice of religion is discouraged)

        Come again?

      • 28 Poker Player 16 July 2012 at 13:30

        <The point is not a banality, actually. First, there is no solution that will permanently remove the tension between religious practice and banality. Second, the issue of balancing tolerance of religions and stemming the excessses of religions is something that exists in a secular state. With a non- secular state, you can simply come down hard on the other religion that you don’t like – there’s no obligation to treat it fairly.

        I agree the bolded section is not a banality! But why “simply”!? What happens to non-secular countries that do that? (I like how you use the word “permanently” for the first part of your comment but not for the latter part).

  5. 29 yuen 14 July 2012 at 05:51

    “freedom of religion” is just one that requires “conscientious or robust” monitoring; e.g. many people are practising “freedom to litter” these days, with impunity; remember the “community work order” scheme where litter bugs were forced to do street cleaning? I dont recall that law being enforced for many years; I understand that some offenders actually regard CWO as a badge of honour, instead of being deterred by being made a public spectacle

    of course, “freedom of religion” misuse requires especial vigilance because religion involves organization, e.g., when Kong Hee was charged in court, a number of supporters turned up and some tried to obstruct reporters and photographers from getting close to him; it is not clear whether they were encouraged to do this by their leaders, but there is the potential for serious disturbance in future events

  6. 31 visitor 14 July 2012 at 13:37

    Alex. I found your discussion of secularism and religion interesting. I have a couple of links I would like to share with you, its written by a Malaysian Chinese about the role of religion in public life. Some of his articles specifically wrote about Malaysia and while others are more in general terms.

    http://www.infernalramblings.com/search/?cx=partner-pub-4890160630594814%3Ax1512t-evtn&cof=FORID%3A10&ie=ISO-8859-1&q=theocracy&sa=Search&siteurl=www.infernalramblings.com%2Farticles%2FMalaysian_Politics%2F224%2F&ref=&ss=1017j150381j9

  7. 32 SN 14 July 2012 at 15:21

    Hi Alex,

    I don’t think you give religionists enough of a fair shake. As citizens of a secular state, they are free to agitate for their religious-inspired beliefs so long as the arguments they bring to bear on the matter are non-religious in orientation. To demand otherwise, we would strip them of their rights as citizens. So even if the campaign against the A&F advertisement may be religiously inspired, it’s fair game so long as public reason is invoked – interests of public decency rather than the Holy Book says so.

    The contradiction between religious beliefs and the gamut of civil rights is where the rubber hits the road. The appeal to religious freedom to justify say, racial discrimination, torture, or harm, is surely beyond the pale. Of course there are grey areas, religion-sanctioned polygamy being one: the Supreme Court in British Columbia had to adjudicate on a case recently. I am not sure how MUIS operates on this score within the framework of the Singaporean state.

    Lastly, I don’t think one can distinguish between secularism in the manner which you have. Secularism ‘thick’ or ‘thin’ has nothing to do, I think, with the admission of religious-based arguments into the public sphere. That goes against the grain of secularism. Rather, the distinctions that you have drawn pertain to the nature and scope of participation of religious organisations in civil society. In this regard, Singaporean secularism is rather thin. In contrast, the French are more guarded about their secularism given their political history.

    Regards.

  8. 33 octopi 14 July 2012 at 20:24

    There’s no real way to keep religion out of the picture. They are like weeds. You pull them out and uproot them when they grow too big. You have to keep on waiting for them to cross the line, and then you can move in on them.

    Religion will never die, unfortunately. People have been predicting the death of religion since the 1960s or beyond, but they were all wrong. You can keep them from fighting each other, that’s about it.

    It’s very easy to say, “keep religion out of politics”. In practice it is almost impossible. Politicians will bring their value system into their politics. A conservative christian anti-gay person will push against liberty for gay people, but there’s no way you can say that it’s because he’s religious. The only way is sunlight: you have to keep on digging them up, exposing them to the media, and get people talking about them. Then this guy appeals to other people who get drawn to his ideas because they appeal to their own religion-influence morals. At no time does religion expicitly enter the picture, but also at no time can you say religion has nothing to do with it.

    So what we have is a state of permanent conflict, a conflict that most of the time is managed and kept down.

    Unfortunately, the siege mentality is totally prevalent in Christianity and Islam. The symbol of Islam is the crescent, reminding us all that this more than 1000 years old religion is a “new” religion that somehow still has to defend itself against enemies. And the symbol of the cross is an even more blatant homage to the existential threat.

  9. 34 artemov 14 July 2012 at 22:27

    I too is a devout believer in the Flying Spaghetti Monster. There is many more of us out there.

  10. 36 Anon j22W 15 July 2012 at 20:09

    I agree that Singapore errs too much on the protection of “religious harmony” and does not do nearly enough to protect others who are encroached upon by those practising such religion. A glaring example which takes place several times a year – the burning of papers in large drums or even larger metal cages close to people’s living quarters. There is no dispute in the science that the smoke is carcinogenic and it is also a given that anyone who finds this smoke entering their home would find it extremely uncomfortably and irritating, especially those sensitive or asthma prone individuals as well as young children and the elderly. Yet, it is openly allowed by the Town Councils for reasons that continue to escape me.

    Surely freedom of religion is no excuse to cause smoke to enter another person’s home? When smoke enters one’s own home it is no longer an issue of religion, it becomes an issue relating to public health, smoke irritation and annoyance irregardless of whether the smoke originates from a religious or non religious activity. Same too for noise pollution such as that generated by the getai’s in close vicinity to living quarters.

    And for those who say “Tolerate for a short time, can?”, why is it that those inflicting the pain are not required or need not tolerate any inconvenience to their activities such as being asked to relocate the burning to non residential areas? In other words, it is totally a one way street as far as tolerance is concerned for these people. Others are asked to “tolerate” but they are not asked to do anything to mitigate the severe inconvenience and irritation they cause.

  11. 38 Tsumujikaze no Soujutsu 16 July 2012 at 14:52

    I think the biggest problem in SG here lies far more into society itself than religion. Despite the very real fact that we’re entering a closet liberalization (no offence intended on this term), people will still jump upon any signs of shenanigans so as to speak.

    For the US, its actually far more complicated. The whole secular vs Church-State-merger has been a major contentious issue. Firstly, barring the Native Americans themselves, the Puritans were the first settlers to step foot upon the American soil.

    Secondly, religion has been heavily politicized in the US for donkey years in running. The part on the white race is God’s chosen has never been something legit in Christian teachings. Rather when we take a look at how the American Civil War had panned out, it’s pretty much of a no-brainer that Robert E.Lee and Stonewall Jackson must be rolling in their graves for good. When people invoked the “Lost Cause” on all things Confederate South, the scariest portion lies in the very fact that very few people actually knows what this means. i.e. a self-consolation mechanism by the losers of the Civil War.

    So will this have an impact on the longer run here? Its very hard to say because if there’s anything to go by, religion will surely take a back seat compared to the overall social stigma if we’re talking about potential justifications.

  12. 40 yawningbread 16 July 2012 at 17:45

    Enough. I am stopping the exchange between Poker Player and Octopi. No more comments on this thread from these two will be permitted here.

  13. 41 ricardo 15 July 2012 at 10:20

    (this bit in brackets off forum, Mr. Au. Why my previous post is not off-topic)

    The point I am trying to make is that Singapore is at best John Rawls’

    “decent” society .. which differ from liberal peoples … in that they might have state religions and deny adherents of minority faiths the right to hold positions of power within the state, and might organize political participation via consultation hierarchies rather than elections.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Rawls

    Just substitute ‘party’ for ‘religions’. Despite PM Lee’s assurances, I’m not even sure about ‘consultation’.

    There is the unthinking Faith that the PAP engenders in 60% of the electorate which is guarded as above. The PAP witholds not only positions of influence, but via the Min. of Love, Freedom of Assembly, for those not of the Faith (opposition parties, and Unbelievers). An extensive hierarchy from multi-million Dignified Ministers to rank & file in the People’s Association, all fully indoctinated fedayeen with hate for those not of the FAith. Control by the Min. of Truth of all traditional public media and their attempts to control any new ones.

    It’s difficult, if not impossible, to see any difference between this and religious interference in secular matters.

    The PAP will of course enlist and tolerate venomous religions if it aids their cause. Otherwise, the Min. of Love will step in as in 1987. This may be my most relevant comment.

    The full fundamentalist Faith, exemplified by our Lord LKY, is Rawl’s “outlaw state”, violating human rights for personal & political ends under the guise of “benevolent absolutisms”.


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For an update of the case against me, please see AGC versus me, the 2013 round.

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