May 20th, 2010

State’s decisions a threat to secular society

Two recent moves by the Singapore government appear to favour one system of values over others in our pluralistic nation. This, says CONSTANCE SINGAM, could subvert the very nature of our secular society.

Indian economist Amartya Sen in his book Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny argues that we are becoming increasingly divided along lines of religion and culture, ignoring the many other ways in which people see themselves, from class and professions to morals and politics.

“Our shared humanity”, he writes, “gets savagely challenged when the manifold divisions in the world are unified into one allegedly dominant system of classification – in terms of religion, or community, or culture, or nation, or civilization.”

Our humanity here in Singapore is in danger of being ‘savagely challenged’ by two recent developments.

First of these was MOE’s choice of vendors to teach sex education in schools. Four of the six approved are known to be part of conservative Christian groups.

Then there was the National Art Commission’s decision to cut the funding of theatre group Wild Rice because, the Commission said, it would not fund “projects which are incompatible with the core values promoted by the government…”.

It seems to me that the State, which had declared its determination to protect the secular nature of our society, is privileging one system of values over other value systems and in so doing is in danger of subverting the very nature of a secular society.

What do we mean when we talk of a secular society?

The British philosopher Stephen Law, editor of the Royal Institute of Philosophy journal Think, defines a secular society as, roughly, one that is neutral between different views about religion.

He writes: “It protects freedoms: the freedom to believe or not believe, worship or not worship. It is founded on basic principles framed independently of any particular religious, or indeed, atheist, point of view: principles to which we ought to be able to sign up whether we are religious or not.

“Because you live in a secular society, your right … is protected from those atheists, and those of differing religious views, that might want to take that freedom from you.”

It follows then that one of the responsibilities of a secular state is to maintain the neutrality of all public space. These spaces include institutions of a public nature, such as schools, government offices and government-linked companies.

The choice of conservative Christian groups to teach sex education in schools is a curious choice for the government of a secular society.  It is like letting a fox loose in the chicken coop!

The anxieties and fears about social breakdown, marital instability, and teenage pregnancies are real. They should be acknowledged and addressed.

But repression of alternative views and values does not work and has not worked to counter these social problems. Compromising the values of a secular society with political enforcement of conservative values, especially religious conservative values, has to be challenged.

49 Comments ...

  1. mosquitobitten

    If by secular values you mean liberal values then Singapore does not proscribe to them. It is liberal values that need to be challenged as they weaken the moral fabric of society.

    #1142
    • jayet

      Liberal doesn’t always mean it’s immoral nor amoral. Morality in your eyes doesn’t always imply that it’s fair and moral for others who do not share the same believe as you do. So I do not share the same sentiments, does that mean I am being immoral in your eyes? What is morality if you ended up judging others through your own eyes?

      #1252
  2. Ramlah Ramadan

    The news has to go out. Non-Christian parents should be informed that the sex education in schools is being taught by conservative Christian vendors. And we should be given the choice to exclude our children from such potential sites of religious indoctrination. I do not want my children to learn what the Bible has to say about their bodies and their sexuality.

    #1143
  3. Amina Majeed

    Secular values allows for open-mindedness and allows for intelligent choices to be made by human beings. It is not about being Christian or non-Christian, it is about encompassing all ideas, values, giving each the time of day and then making your own personal choice about them. People need to make choices in their own lives, nothing should be forced on them. Even when somebody says they are doing it for your own good, you must decide “what your own good is”. Build your own life and be open to everything and then choose. That’s being secular.

    #1144
  4. Damien C

    As a participant myself of sex-education in an MOE run college, I must say that I was slightly appalled by the fact that a pastor was conducting my workshop. It was indeed a lot of focus on the family…but I guess it was no different from what was taught since my primary school days, focusing mainly on abstinence, the quality of relationships, etc, no mention of any way of life should be the way to take. Of course they did not mention anything about homosexuality, neither for nor against. But as a person who is somewhat more ‘liberal’ in values and principles, I did not feel that the workshop preached certain values endorsed by any specific religious group or interest group in society. I thought that it was factual and objective. Just not in line with today’s youth culture. Not the right approach. Does not smack of any religious ‘indoctrination’ of any sort. This coming from a non-religious person. Isolated case or not, I cannot say. But I’ve also been through another sex-ed program in the same college that advocated the use of reason, logic and personal discretion to come to a conclusion on homosexuality…so I guess it varies.

    Personally, I believe that there should always be a debate as to the different values that Singaporean society should adopt. We should ultimately be progressive, but at the right pace for our society. Education is therefore critical in this, because the education of the youths would help encourage this debate that would ultimately benefit our society. Running away from progressive values at first sight will only serve to weaken the moral fabric of Singapore. Any strengthening of the fabric can only come when we actively engage these ideas.

    #1147
  5. Kee Yat

    I am bitterly disappointed but not one bit surprised. Ever since the progressive sex education offered by AWARE was deemed to be pro-homosexuality and inappropriate, MOE has declared its conservative pro-family stance. Being myopic and narrow minded, policies and decision makers in MOE aimed only to appease angry parents who were worried that their children would become homosexuals after attending AWARE’s sex education! How laughable indeed!

    #1153
  6. chong

    It is already, near imposssible to guarantee moral superiority (subtle or otherwise) will not be exerted over students – by any religious educator of ANY persuasion.

    So, awarding the job to more educators from a certain religious group is a sign of even greater denial or worse, hypocrisy – that certain religious people are more capable of teaching sex education?

    Even if MOE wants to say this majority -ratio is just coincidence, then it must not shirk the responsibility of coming up with a definitive lesson plan that must be strictly adhered to, by all.

    For now, the argument that MOE does not have preferred vendors, is hogwash.

    I fully agree with AWARE that MOE’s decision does not respect or uphold secularism.

    #1155
  7. Adelynn Tan

    Dear Mosquitobitten,

    I subscribe to certain ‘liberal’ values, as do a lot of my friends, and we are all Singaporeans. So for whom do you speak when you say “Singapore does not proscribe (sic) to them”?

    And by the way, the word “proscribe” means “to denounce or condemn”. It does not mean “to support”, which is i think what you intended. Ironically by accidentally saying “Singapore does not condemn liberal values”, you have made a statement which I hope will one day become a reality in this country. Thank you.

    #1159
  8. lap

    Dear mosquitobitten,

    I’m curious what your understanding of ‘liberal values’ really is, and what you consider the ‘moral fabric’ of Singapore society. Remember that the ‘moralities’ often prescribed by different religions for example are not the same across the board. In some countries, it is morally correct to stone someone to death for adultery, and in others to consider someone who is homosexual a deviant criminal.

    #1164
  9. mosquitobitten

    yep, wrong word. Try to talk fancy and that is what you get.

    You cannot re-brand progressive liberal values as secular in an attempt to take the sting out of them, and sneak them into education programmes under the radar. I am non-christian and secular and was appalled at how off-centre the programme was. I hope the bible is never mentioned in the new programme, and I expect it won’t, but I rather have the system err on the side of conservatism than open the door to radical and ultimately erroneous thinking.
    I think the christians can be trusted to do at least that.

    #1173
  10. Russell

    I have two young children (2-1/s and 3-1/2) that will be entering the system soon. And I am worried for them. Having conservative Christian groups teach morality is a no-no. We live in a modern complicated world. Moral decisions require analytical thinking, consideration of various options and weighing various principles that may conflict in concrete situations. It is not about following commands or trying to twist or interpret commands written down by people a long time ago who had no idea of the situation in the modern world.

    #1175
  11. Secular values

    to Russell and many others who are worried about the Christianisation of our children: please yourselves take a dispassionate and objective assessment of what “religious values” may be taught to our kids.

    No to promiscuous sex — you have an objection to that??? Are you so “liberal” that you would encourage your teen daughter or son to be sleeping around, possibly bringing home partners in your home to “get it on” under your roof?

    No to extra-marital sex — you also have an objection to that??? And if you say yes to that, perhaps it’s only courteous for your spouse to be aware of your position and supportive too. Do recall that the recent uproar about all these dubious hotels in residential areas were not from any particular religious group.

    No to non-consensual sex aka rape — you also have an objection to that??? So you are fine and dandy for your child to feel pressured into having sex?? Or worse, fine for your child to pressure another child to have sex with him/her???

    No to underaged sex — whether you have an objection or not, it’s still illegal so no need for your views anyway. If you feel, as former AG Walter Woon has mentioned, that it might have to be allowed if the kids are “in love”, then please go petition your MP or write to the Minister.

    Are you an atheist who agrees with any of the above “no” teachings?

    So then is religion really relevant in this debate?

    The fact that mostly religious groups are providing these teachings is actually very sad. Do so few care about our children and their life values but religious groups?

    Mosques also conduct such lessons so it’s another religious group that cares about these life values.

    At the end of the day, if you are fearful of your child learning about his/her bodily changes, hormonal cycles, emotional needs, peer pressure, psychological advances, sexual reproduction, fertility, STDs, how to say no, gender difference, etc etc be a responsible parent and teach him/her yourself.

    Just please don’t say to him/her at age 16 “Don’t have sex ah!” once in his/her whole life, without further explanation. No one is denying you the right to transmit your own values to your children, with or without religious implications. Opt out by all means, but please don’t leave your children rudderless, blown by the current fashion of the day. That’s the main reason the MOE embarked on this sex ed programme — too many parents were abdicating their responsibility.

    #1177
  12. […] article first appeared on AWARE.  We thank Constance Singam for allowing us to re-publish this on […]

    #1179
  13. Ronald

    Below are a few quotes from the Bible for everyone to mull on:

    Leviticus 20:13 “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”

    Leviticus 20:9 “For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death; he hath cursed his father or his mother, his blood shall be upon him.”

    Deuteronomy 13:6-9 “If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of they bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers; Namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth; Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him; But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him of all the people.”

    These are not the values that we hold. But at one time, presumably because they are in the Bible, they were the moral values held by certain society. IT clearly shows ideas of morality are not static. They change with time, though certain fundamental values do exist. But how to define those values? In a pluralistic society, those values cannot be taught by “teachers” from one group. Those values must be debated upon intelligently, and not be arbitrarily imposed by any pariticular group.

    Liberal values today, might become conservative values tomorrow.

    All that is necessary to turn a good man to evil is to give him a set of dogmas and the belief that in carrying out actions according to that set of dogmas, he is performing good.

    #1180
  14. Jonathan

    BTW, even for biblical scholars, quoting Leviticus is very weak (which doesn’t stop the loonies from doing it regularly). It is part of a set of laws that most Christians do not consider binding.

    This is a good reading of the matter:

    http://geneva.rutgers.edu/src/mine/homosexuality.txt

    #1181
  15. Russell

    Corrected/edited version of my reply…

    To “Secular values”

    You missed the point. The issue is that I do not want morality taught from a religious viewpoint. The examples you gave is a red herring – thrown in to confuse and obfuscate rather than clarify. (The Taliban shares most of your opinion too – does it follow that you condone the recent attempted bombing in New York Times Square?)

    The main issue is that if my children, from attending such courses, get the impression that:

    a) Religious authorities are the (sole or major) source of moral values (the news of many teachers trying to spread their religion in schools even when teaching other subjects do not make me confident that those sex-ed packages from conservative religious groups will be purely secular.)

    b) Moral decisions are based purely on following commands. (Moral decisions are complex and are made in the real world. Issues like abortion, WHEN should have one have sex, permarital sex,the encessity of using protection, homosexuality, harvesting eggs for stem cells research etc are not issues I would leave to those seep in ancient moral paradigms – the same paradigm that condone slavery, death or homosexuals, the blasphemers.)

    I trust you see that as a parent, I have a RIGHT to ensure that my children are not brainwashed by fundamentalists and conservatives.

    #1183
  16. Pi Co Yip

    “Fox loose in the chicken coop”?

    I don’t agree with that characterization of Christians. Christians are more like sheep. Sheep and chickens… nothing to get into a big funk over.

    #1184
  17. Secular values

    To Russell: Your Taliban example is syllogistic but I hear you and applaud you for wanting to teach your children your own morality. Or at least I think you do because you haven’t actually said you were going to teach them, just that you didn’t want others teaching them.

    If every parent were involved like you and took the time to impart good moral values, I don’t think we’d even be having this discussion now. It’s just tough for those kids who come from families who are silent on morality and leave their kids to “work it out” for themselves. Or lead immoral values themselves and thereby teach their children accordingly.

    I wish you well in your journey of parenthood — it’s tough but someone has to do it!

    #1185
  18. Uztadz Ali

    I would like to teach the Islamic interpretation of sex education. Why should Malay students denied an Islamic discourse on the subject. My belief is that Christian teachings are opposite to Islamic ones at the core.

    4 out of 6 vendors are Christian groups, this is to me a form of silent evangelism in secular classes in which they are Muslims. This is not fair and smack of a pro Christian government.

    I defend our rights as Muslims to have our views represented in government contracts involving provision of sex education which Islam has 1500 years of intellectual resources about it.

    #1187
  19. skypink

    Russell

    We do live in a complex society where there are no simple solutions. However, it does not mean that being religious means that people subscribe blindly to what their religion says.

    People who are interested to think will continue to think and question no matter what their religion is. They are unlikely to blindly agree to whatever the govt/mosque/church/temple says without giving it some thought.

    However, people who are not interested in thinking (whether they are religious, atheists, liberals, etc), are unlikely to think no matter what ideas/arguments you throw at them.

    So, whichever side of the fence you sit on, you still need to think. It’s not good to blindly subscribe to the values of any religion, but it’s equally bad to blindly subscribe to any values that come from secular sources.

    Anyhow, I am encouraged that there are parents like you who want to be actively involved in shaping your children’s character and thinking. If nothing else, your children will be led to think.

    #1188
  20. Uztadz Ali

    These are excerpted verses of the quran about sex education

    O women of beievers,
    lower your gaze,
    cover your bosoms..
    cover yourself except face and hands..

    marry one two, three or four but if you cannot give equal treatment to all 4 …
    just marry one…

    god created love among you…

    he provided you a wife for you for solace and comfort..

    in the character of the prophet will you find a good example..

    your wives are your sowing fields, sow (invest in ) them as you see fit…

    Oh my people (says Prophet Lut) do not embarass me (by harassing my 2 men angel guests)..

    if you like… my daughters are for your choosing, why do you displease God (by committing your homosexual acts) etc. etc.

    Islam says an unequivocal no-no to homosexual acts.

    You can still be a Muslim if you are have homosexual tendencies. You have to seek counselling to provent you from acting on your hs urges thereby commiting sins.

    To prevent homosexual tendencies or lesbian tendencies, there is a saying of the prophet that the great pleasures of this world is three: having big houses, having fast vehicles, having a pious wife.

    …that encourages us to provide separate rooms for boys and girls, and spacious rooms for individual privacy so that girls (or boys) do not sleep together, and to exchange their idle pursuits with godly thoughts…

    embrace jihad in their life (to busy themselves so they dont have time to be a homosexual or become sex crazed)

    and to hasten marriage if need be. so that they remain hetergoneous sexually.

    (prophet saying goes like this..3 things you must hasten 1) burial 2) marriage 3) prayers..)

    So much for now.

    Thank you for giving space to the always forgotten uztaz who is always conveniently sidelined from national debate that always involve the 15% Muslims in Singapore.

    Islam forbids real entry fornification. Foreplay is encouraged before sex. Sex is permissible pleasure only between husband and wife.

    Dating is not allowed. ..for every two, an unmarried man and woman..there is a third (ie satan) (Prophet saying).

    And most signifiact is the popular Quranic verse

    …do not inch yourself to zina.
    (premarital or extra marital sex)

    meaning do not get into a situation when you are attracted to immoral sex …so from no sex to doing sex,

    there is 1001 ways for you to get yourself into doing it (eg watch porno, be in loose company with opposite sex, cyber chats, dating agencies etc)

    For marriage only one look at a woman is allowed, that also must be accompanied by her trusted guardian (muhrim)

    #1190
  21. Tania De Rozario

    It is appalling that 4 out of 6 groups approved by the MOE to teach sex ed are conservative religious groups.

    I agree with Ramlah Ramadan. Secular individuals who are concerned that conservative vendors might be infiltrating schools in a bid to perpetuate religious ideologies regarding sex and sexuality should be pro-active, and pull their kids out of the programmes.

    Even better, write to the MOE and request for the criteria under which the current groups were selected. If a multi-cultural and diverse Singapore is what the government is aiming for, this should be reflected in the way we communicate “values” to our kids.

    Sex and sexuality are topics too weighted with “moral” baggage to be taught -primarily- by religious organisations of -any- branch. What we want is a society of eventual adults who understand both the physical and emotional dynamics of sex, who are aware of and respect differing views of it, who are able to make responsible, informed decisions about their bodies based on all available options, who are able to articulate their thoughts and emotions regarding sex and sexuality, and are able to come to their own conclusions without bearing the weight of religious or cultural stigma.

    #1193
  22. Bernie Leong

    It is appalling that religious groups are allowed to teach sex education at all.
    Why should children be indoctrinated by teachings based on heaven and hell, fear of punishment, farming societies, submission of women, and guilt, instead of sex education based on real experience, rational findings, and shared responsibility and humanity?

    I would like to have my children taught exclusively by secular providers, doctors, and social workers, about sex education, contraception, making mature choices, and healthy relationships.

    #1196
  23. Russell

    Uztadz Ali,

    I respect your right to believe but your posting is an example why I do not want to have a religious based sex-ed for my children. While, I am sure, we agree on some things like the undesirability of early teenage sex, there are many things we disagree on.

    For instance, I think to teach women that they are to “lower their gaze” when talking to men or cover their faces promotes gender inequality. I have two daughters, one almost an adult and another 2-1/2 year old, and I want them to grow up to be the equal of anyone – male or female.

    On homosexuality, I have friends who are homosexuals and while I do not share their sexual orientation, they are, in general, like my heterosexual friends, caring thoughtful people. A person’s sexual orientation does not make them bad or good. I do not want my children growing up thinking just because some people have a different sexual orientation, they are ‘evil’ or ‘inferior’ in any way.

    #1197
  24. earthwoman

    Uztaz Ali,
    I am a Muslim. Your selected quotations from the Quran are misleading and your own interpretations given in parentheses even more misleading. References to gender are not so straight forward. What is clear is that modesty is prescribed for both men and women so men too are expected to lower their gaze! As far as I have read about it, the Quran neither condones or condemn homosexuality nor does it insists on punishment, it is for God to decide.

    #1202
    • Uztadz Ali

      earthwoman,

      I agree controlled gaze is for both gender.

      You are wrong on homosexuality.

      This act is cursed by God.

      In Surah Lut, the country was rained with stones for homosexual activities. This is God;s wrath and it is not a condonement.

      If your genes give you homosexuality tendencies, you can control it and does not not act on your urges, you can then capable of being nice and being a Muslim and a good neigbour.

      I agree it is for him to judge. As long you do not commit homosexual acts, Islamic law cannot reach you.

      #1233
    • Uztadz Ali

      earthwoman,

      homosexual acts are sins. Homosexual love is another matter that is love between men is okay since this is unseen and positive if promotes the Islamic course as long as your love of God is overiding, it will moderate your awe for other lusts.

      For your reflection from wikipedia
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_topics_and_Islam

      #1248
  25. Anj

    I don’t understand: what exactly is “liberal values”? Having education for women is “liberal” at some point. This word “liberal” has a moving benchmark.

    … maybe one day education will be taken away from women so that they can stay at home and be “good” wives. Good for the nation now, isn’t it?

    #1203
  26. Jogh

    I’m totally not comfortable with MOE’s decision and I’m sure there are many parents who share my concern. We certainly prefer non-religious affiliated groups in multi-religious and secular Singapore. How are we going to monitor what kind of “conservative” values are being communicated and taught by those fundamentalist Christian folks? I remember newspaper reports not too long ago of how some individuals station outside schools to evangelise to school children, even to the point of harassment. Now we are actually inviting fundamentalist groups to teach sex education and trust that they will not go overboard in moments of religious zeal? We will have to depend on some smart kid to come home to tell us what happens in sex education class, but kids are often very suggestible. I hope MOE will install safeguards such as putting in some form of supervision to make sure our kids are not misguided by any group with vested interests. Otherwise, it will be like what the author Singham said: to let a fox loose in a chicken coop.

    #1205
  27. HanMing

    Thank you for speaking up for secular society. Every person in society plays their part, be it in paying taxes and GST or performing National Service.

    A far-sighted government will not favour anyone group just like parents who deem all their children to be of equal importance.

    Lets not go down the path of Thailand where one section of the population feel discriminated against.

    Thank you.

    #1210
  28. thomas wong

    Why is everybody blaming religion in their arguments against the governments direction in sex education? It is not about religion or Christianity – it is about the self and social responsibility in living our lives. ALL religions, not just Christianity, teaches us to lead a life that is not sinful and be responsible not just to oneself but to all those around him or her – and that includes the other affected parties, their loved ones and the innocent victims. Can anyone tells me which religion teaches or encourages us to have free sex,to “kill” innocent victims through abortions,to take drugs and commit adultery? Can Ms Singham tells me what her reaction will be if her children comes home and tell her they have committed any of the aforementioned sins? Can we justify those sinful abuses on grounds of self fulfillment and liberal viewpoints? Indeed, we don’t live in this world alone. Whatever we do, it affects others in our midst. So let’s not be selfish and think only of ourself and our fulfillment.

    Do not begrudge the fact that 4 of the organisations chosen by the government happened to be Christian led organisations. Perhaps, because they are more prepared in this respect or that they give greater priorities to sex education rather than just religious fanaticism.Have any one of those who fear that their children will be “converted” to Christianity ever check on the contents and method of delivery by those organisations. I am sure the government had done that and found that they are “secular” rather than “religious” teachings. Please do not jump to any conclusion and wave your protest flag.

    I am sure if your children has been brought up in the virtues and knowledge of your chosen religion, they would not be so easily influenced by other religions.

    Let’s be thankful that our government has been very pro-active in helping families to teach their children about sex education, which SHOULD be the responsibility of the parents!

    Just look at the degradations in other parts of the world, the so-called liberal societies.Do you want that for your children and yourself?

    #1213
    • Uztadz Ali

      thomas,

      I do no agree that sex education should be taught by Christians is a secular class.

      Sex education is extremely im portant area of religion because it is through procreational activities that a good Muslim comes from.

      If I were the MOE I would revert back to the old policy of teaching IRK to Muslims in schools, teaching Christianity to Christians, Buddhist studies etc.

      Islam is the only religion that teaches you how to enter the toilet, wash yourself daily (great detail on the various bath to perform), bath after sex, foreplay before sex, rear entry is forbidden, no sex during menses, coughing after urinating, handwahing, nose washing (during ablution), how to look at a girl, how to date etc., how to approach Christians and nion Muslims alike.

      “..O believers… invite others in the way of your religion with good wisdom and intelligence and debate with them wisely…

      I am not convinced about the transparency of selection of vendors to offer sex education.

      The best method is to allow each adherent sex education be managed and taught by their own kind.

      If a Muslim wants to be taught by a Christian organisation, then their parents shuld be consulted and MUIS should provide a choice.

      If MUIS can accreditate religious teachers to teach Islam, then MUIS being a government body shoudlk do likewise to organisations to teach Muslim children in secular classroom.

      Christian groups must be forewarned about the potential danger of transgressing cultural bombs..as seen across the causeway because the last few years have seen a rise in the number of sieged Muslim scenario.

      It is said that the Muslim post Sept 11 is like a body of fire. All it takes is a spark from elsewhere to ignite it.

      Why take the risk?

      Sex education is a major aspect of a Muslim education because proper sex (in all its forms, biology, sociology, population politics, poverty, economics, culture etc) contributes to being a good Muslim.

      So Muslims should not be denied in secular schools to choose their own vendor. MUIS would be failing if they do not have any expertise or resources in such an important area of religion. I wonder whether there is a Muslim representative in the MOE selection committee.

      If MOE does not have the expertise they can source this in Singapore or elsewhere for better Islamic sex education providers.

      Islam position is clear and unequivocal. No sex before before marriage.

      #1246
  29. Bignas

    Secular means “Secular”… is there another way to define what it is?… What has conservatism and liberal views got to do with it?

    Singapore is a secular state. . Any religious group, ideas, thinking(s) infringement of that precious secular idea is a dangerous thing.

    Let me point you some examples…

    (1) Remember that bank executive, whose name this organization should know, used mostly organizations with specific religious inclination for its promotional, PR, community projects. All done in the name of that bank.

    (2) When the last batch of new Singapore MP made their maiden speech in parliament. One MP, wearing a huge cross across her neck, started talking about God’s LOVE. Effectively hijacking and turning the parliamentary bench into a pulpit.

    (3) One MP and even a Minister came out openly to defend a certain movie director, so called their “Religious brother” even before they understood what a fraud this guy is… in the name of a religion’s charity?

    Religion is a very very dangerous thing… whether you agree with the bank executive, the MP who preaches God’s love from the bench or the Minister who defended a serial skirt-chaser.. is not the point. The point is that corporation(s) and even parliament can be hijacked for religious causes and even Minister can get his head muddled up because of his religious inclination .. serve notice on us on the need to defend Singapore secular state.

    #1214
  30. So it comes down to this:

    How can we be sure that our politicians really mean what they say when they tell us about the secular nature of Singapore, if various ministries can willy-nilly enact blatantly religious programmes that are favoured by only a minority of Christians?

    #1215
  31. Vanessa Chee Lian Kiam

    Dear Aware.

    Whatever I wish to say has been said by the BP.

    I have nothing further to add.

    Do have a very nice day

    #1220
  32. Zhuang Jin Shi

    AWARE, if you have not written in to the MOE, please do so, now, reflecting AWARE’s concerns which are well articulated in Constance Singham’s essay.

    Perhaps AWARE might consider teaching its own sex education to parents (and children) who prescribe to secular approaches to the subject – in AWARE’s or rented premises – for a small fee to sustain the programme. This is to create a needed facility for parents and their children who reject the MOE’s choice of Christian-biased proselytism.

    #1221
  33. kokakoala

    To Secular values:

    Nowhere did Russell state that he approved of promiscuous sex, extra-marital sex, non-consensual sex, or underaged sex. Your argument is classic strawman.

    What I believe he spoke against is the oversimplification of teaching the complex interplay of morality and sex, which, if anything to go by, your strawman arguments are clearly an illustration of.

    This black and white thinking is what I’m very concerned about. The “abstinence only” message is proven to be ineffective, yet some people think this is sufficient to arm our youth with in their struggle against peer pressure and hormonal assaults.

    #1223
  34. kokakoala

    I will address the four examples you brought up – while I’m not offering any solutions, this should suffice to show what I meant by oversimplifications.

    1) No to promiscuous sex – I’m guessing you mean “sleeping around”, but you’re conflating the issue with teenage sex. Teens can be monogamous too, and if I were a parent, and I judge they’re mature enough to deal with it, I’d rather have them at home than going backstreet.

    2) No to extra-marital sex – The target group of MOE sexual education is obviously too young to marry, so I don’t see why you dragged extra-marital sex in. If what you mean is premarital sex, see #1.

    3) No to consensual sex – I agree with you. In fact, we need to educate kids more on how to resist peer pressure on having sex when they don’t wish to.

    4) No to underaged sex – define “underaged”. If you have any knowledge of the law in different countries, you’ll see that it is arbitary. Countries such as Saudi Arabia do not even have one. Interestingly, the Vatican State set the legal age of consent at 12, the lowest in Europe. Do note that in Singapore, under Women’s Charter S.140(i) which is often cited for underage sex, there is a clause stating “except by way of marriage”, implying that girls below 16 can get married.

    Question: Are you a religious fundamentalist who can’t see the complexity of these issues?

    #1226
    • Uztadz Ali

      Muslim scholars, christian scholars, buddhist scholars and others should come together and decide on their common agreements about sex education and then provide either same religion teacher or multi-religion teachingteam with clear markers what you cannot teach.

      A beter policy will be to his his own.

      That is the drawback of a secular society – a man-made system that cannot pass the test of time or multi-religionism that it claimed it can overcome.

      No man is a vacuum.

      When he interacts his values fill up.

      If you want to teach sex education to others ask yourself these questions.

      Am I a Christian/Muslim first?

      Can I make my values disappear when I teach?

      Am I being fair to impressionable minds?

      A Muslim comes up and ask”…your priest is celibate..” Is this good?

      Teaching sex education is unlike teaching Maths and Physics or teaching sex positions for that matter.

      It is about transmitting the correct philosophy at the bloom of man or womanhood.

      You overteach it becomes proselytising and if you underteach you teach how to become a good prostitute.

      #1247
    • thomas wong

      To you kokakoala, no I am not a religious fanatic.I am also not simplifying the complexity of sex education.

      Everyone seems to be talking about religion vs sex education as if different religions have different ideals about morality and having sex. What difference does it make whether the underlying philosophy of those organisations are Christian, Muslim or others.Can we ensure no religious value pervades such teachings? It’s the same question you should be asking a gynecologist if he can look at a naked woman with objectivity and restraint and just do his job!

      Have anyone of you sat in those classes? Are they religious teachings or just plain SEX education? If it has been religious, why didn’t the students complain to their parents or principals? I’m sure the organisation will be kicked out by the Education Ministry instantaneously.

      In any religion, whether you’re a Christian, Muslim of Buddhist, there are always the fundamentalists, so please do not take specific examples of what happened in Parliament and AWARE to argue your case.That’s unfair and narrow minded.

      To each his own religion when teaching sex education – it was suggested. Sure, that’s the best.Perhaps, each school should re-arrange their classes according to the students’ religion during sex education. In effect, you are implying there is no such thing as “secular sex education” but only “religious” one.So why the argument?

      Let me reiterate, teach your own children – that’s the best policy. Don’t keep depending on others to do the job for you.

      #1261
  35. kokakoala

    A small mistake in my comment above, as it seem I can’t edit anymore:

    2) *Most of the* target group of MOE sexual education…

    #1227
  36. Figuring how faith fits into this world, & other stuff

    […] former President of AWARE, borrowed from British Philosopher Stephen Law, for her article "State’s Decisions a Threat to Secular Society" (20 May 2010).  Attempting to define what a secular society is about, Stephan Law […]

    #1237
  37. The Butcher

    I will personally like to meet anyone with a meat cleaver if they want to teach my daughter that virginity is but a state of mind.

    #1279
    • Sad

      To: ‘The Butcher”…First of all… I felt sorry for you.. because I do not think you even understand what you are talking about… and I presume you are a father and not a mother…. judging from your out-burst….

      I hope you do not die of a broken-heart when your daughter grows up.

      #1301
  38. althea

    with respect to Ms Singham’s article, i’d just like to highlight some issues:-

    (i) shouldn’t groups selected to teach sexuality classes be picked on the strengths and merits of the courses? so, if as Ms Singham suggests, the Christian-linked groups should be precluded from being in the running to do so simply because they are linked to the religions, even though they may teach (and would be obligated indeed by moe to remain secular) nothing but common sense, then wouldnt the state have been discriminating against the groups on the basis of their religious affiliations and hence not have remained secular?

    (ii) one cannot be entirely clear if nac’s decision not to fund wild rice could be directly linked to its perceived promotion of “certain values”. it was never ascertained what those “certain values” are and one cannot extrapolate it and arbitrarily associate it with homosexuality or pro-family values. in any case, there are many arts groups out there and given that wild rice is one of the more established ones, would it be inconceivable to give limited funding to upstarts? further, even if the nac withholds funding on account of the “incompatible” values (again one must find out for sure what such values are), would it not make sense for the sake of consistency in policies? because unless AWARE is willing to give its limited fundings to chauvinist groups that discriminate against women, or even donate some to the church which it consistently disagress with, it is all mere talk not backed up with action. it’s expecting one standard for the govt and another for itself

    shouting louder doesnt make one’s view right or true. if i scream loudly to the world that i may believe AWARE is a peace-loving, female-rights promoting, all-encompassing group that does not discriminate against any group, including Christians, it doesn’t make me right and it certainly doesnt make what i scream at true, although i wish, for the sake of AWARE and Singapore, that it were

    #1286
    • You are or You are not

      Thanks althea

      I think first of all, you must recognised the FACT (#1) that we are talking about MOE’s Sexuality program for public schools that have childrens from different religions background (and yes including atheists).

      Secondly, you also must recognised that (FACT #2) that any religious affiliated sexuality program will contain aspect of views that will differ from those that have no-religious affiliation. We are not even talking about content here, we are talking about principles and foundations of the program. There is nothing ‘Common Sense’ about sexuality education. To give you an example.. Sexuality program can be approach from a purely biological point … or you can throw in so-called-moral-values into the wok and guess what?… the dish can be as different as hokkien mee and char-kway-teow! Parents who want public schools to teach their childrens moral-values are either not-fit to be parents or simply lazy!

      Thirdly, the need to be SECULAR is a YES or NO answer. Either you are or you are not! Singapore, the government and the state machineries, including MOE is secular… it should NOT have any form of religious affiliated public program. The public, the parents can have their childrens attend classes in church, temple or mosque to get their preferred version of sexuality education…just not in a public school.

      Is it so hard for everyone, including MOE, to understand that we DO NOT WANT any religious affiliated program in our public schools… WE ARE SECULAR!

      #1302
  39. Edmund

    The 6 groups selected by the Ministry of Education (MOE) to provide sexuality education to the children in Singapore should be praised and not criticized by Constance Singam. Her views and preference to introduce alternative immoral lifestyles confirms the hidden liberal agenda that AWARE was pursuing, and – based on her current rant – continue to pursue despite having one full year to reflect on their faulty sexual education program.

    Encouraging a secular society doesn’t require our government to include immoral and obscene elements into our society. In order for a society to grow, strong societal bonds and family life must be encouraged. Homosexual unions will not produce one single human life and – in her own words – “Humanity is challenged indeed!” as long as AWARE continues to promote these forms of unnatural lifestyles!!

    It would not matter how many conservative Christian groups were selected by MOE but it will matter how many groups that adheres to the conservative core values of Singapore are selected. I would suspect Ms Singam will complain even if no Christian groups were selected and there were merely a line-up of 6 conservative groups, just as she will praise MOE if they happen to select 6 liberal Christian groups. There is no repression of alternative views by our level-headed Government; they only repressed alternative IMMORAL views and rightly so, especially where young Singaporean children are concerned.

    Ms Singam’s gripe is not with Christianity but with conservatism, which is a major setback to her after having silently champion her liberal ideologies through AWARE for years. She is merely using Christianity and Secularism to confuse Singaporeans into rejecting established moral lifestyles and accepting immoral lifestyles. AWARE will better serve Singapore by purging undesirable elements from their society.

    #1321
  40. Sloo

    Ad mentioned elsewhere I take issue with the fact that the ministry selected a vendor whose members were reorted to have harrssrd school children outside their school as reported by the new paper last year. What does this say about the ministry and govt and all their proclamations about being secular?
    U can shout all u like abt the merits of conservative values but in this instance the obvious bias shown for the Christian fundamentalists is shocking and unacceptable .

    #1335
  41. Weekly Roundup: Week 22 « The Singapore Daily

    […] “It is like letting a fox loose in the chicken coop!” Constance Singam […]

    #1353