Monday, November 05, 2007

Dr Thio and her religion

On Friday Nov 2 2007, there was a special article on Straits Times about Dr Thio Li-ann entitled "A fiery NMP gets her baptism of fire". Let me quote a few portions of the article that I found rather disconcerting.

On why she thinks religion should have a part to play in public policymaking:
"Every public policy issue has a moral basis and religion does influence the morality of many people. People could argue atheism influences morality as well, so we're going to go back to the whole issue of which morality. I am tired of arguing "Thou shalt not legislate morality". That is a red herring. As all laws are based on morality of some sort, the question really is: What morality should we legislate?"

According to her "S377A is immoral" and "Repealing 377A is the first step of a radical, political agenda which will subvert social immorality, the common good and undermine our liberties!"

Now let's look at Section 377 Act again: Any male person who, in public or private, commits, or abets the commission of, or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of, any act of gross indecency with another male person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 2 years. Gross indecency is a broad term which, from a review of past cases in Singapore, has been applied to mutual masturbation, genital contact, or even lewd behaviour without direct physical contact.

My greatest concern here is one of the thought that we have a NMP here, who's openly supporting the integration of her religion with the country's affairs. The key operative here is "her religion". We should be aware that Dr Thio is evangelical Christian, and she's very openly so. But when she starts asserting her religious morals as basis for a country's laws, something is very wrong here. Does she remember what's in the Singapore's pledge? "We the citizen of Singapore, pledge ourselves as one united people. Regardless of race, language or religion." But here, she's making the country take a stand on what is fundamentally based on what she thinks her religion thinks is morally correct or not. She asks "what morality should we legislate?" Is she suggesting that morality based on her religion is exclusively all-encompassing for use as a standard for all other religions too? So if christian faith should be the one to determine how laws are to be made, would the day come when every household should remove their "idols" because it would be "against the morally correct laws" to do so even if you are not a christian? I think our NMP here have to realise that to incorporate religion into public law making, she cannot just use her own religion as a standard, but also that of others. By using her religion to influence policy making, would that be considered "an act which could cause discord amongst other races/religious groups" and thus be at the risk of breaking the "sedition act"? (Sedition Act - any act, speech, words, publication or other thing shall not be deemed to be seditious by reason only that it has a tendency to point out, with a view to their removal, any matters producing or having a tendency to produce feelings of ill-will and enmity between different races or classes of the population of Singapore ). I as a buddhist, is finding it an act of ill-will that a christian is using her religion to set government laws that might be deemed unconstitutional or against our national pledge. Can I sue her for sedition then?

Ok here are some more questions:
1) Dr Thio is tired of the argument of "Thou shalt not legislate morality". But christianity does not have a monopoly on what is deemed as proper morals. Abortion is not moral according to Christianity, does it mean that you are going to enacting a law against it? What if non-christian Singaporeans disagree with you?

2) Oddly, S377A is specifically targeting male homosexuals, not the females. But the biggest problem with s377A, is that it criminalizes any indecent sexual act between 2 males specifically, when the indecency act which does not specify it to be any of any gender should be sufficient to cover the grounds. The specific criminalizing of male gays in the s377A is what causes the outrage. The act in itself then appears to be discriminatory in nature. And when Dr Thio rails against the homosexuals and their immorality, wouldn't that make her behavior to be one of discriminatory nature as well?

3) Given the indecency act covers what needs to be covered morally(regardless of religion), wouldn't 377A be redundant as it seeks to re-emphasize the same point but in a discriminatory angle against a minority homosexual group whom are males?

A NMP who argues well, doesn't mean she argues right. And I can only wish that readers and the general public on the whole can see the truth from well-packaged deliveries. Here's my hope that people can learn to see things not by the cover of the book, but through the substance of the text written.


Anonymous said...

hey - awesome post. You nailed it!

James Chia said...

"A NMP who argues well, doesn't mean she argues right."

I agree so much with this statement that she, being a law lecturer, can argue well but that doesn't mean she's correct all the time. I think it's wrong for her to link her religion with the repeal 377A.

Alan Wong said...

I think the NMP is equally dishonest when she makes no mention that her prejudiced views on homosexuals are actually based to a large extent on her own religious beliefs.

Instead she choses the unsubstantiated view that the majority does not condone homosexuality because it is against public morality, which is highly hypocritical at the very least, to many Christian gays.

Anonymous said...

why don't you elaborate on which ten commandments you have an issue with or which you don't?irrespective of your background, you may surprise yourself to find how much you have in common with those values if rightly interpreted?

Yee-wei Chai said...

anonymous 9:47:
You know what? You may surprise yourself to find how much you have in common with those values in the 8 fold path and the 4 noble truths from buddism too, irrespective of your background. And so does some truths and laws within the Islam and Hindu faiths.

But the fact of the matter is that not one religion has a monopoly on what is moralistic or not, and our public policies should not be be influenced or dictated by any particular religion. Especially given the multicultural background of our country. Fairness is the key here and to set laws that will be fair to all sans discrimination, religion and state should be kept separated.