Church leaders air concerns on Madonna concert to Shanmugam

Church leaders air concerns on Madonna concert to Shanmugam

Among the concerns raised: The possibility of the pop star using lyrics and stage props that might offend Christians.

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SINGAPORE: The topic of Madonna's upcoming concert in Singapore was raised at a meeting between Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam and leaders from Protestant churches on Tuesday (Feb 23), Channel NewsAsia understands.

The meeting had been scheduled before the controversy surrounding Madonna's concert had erupted, Channel NewsAsia understands. The meeting is part of Mr Shanmugam’s regular engagement with religious leaders of various faiths. A similar engagement session was held with mosque leaders a few weeks ago.

Various Christian denominations were represented by the eight pastors at the meeting, which took place on Tuesday afternoon. According to sources familiar with the discussions, among the concerns aired were the possibility of the pop star using lyrics and stage props that might offend Christians in her concert on Feb 28, which has been rated R18 by the Media Development Authority of Singapore.

Channel NewsAsia understands that Mr Shanmugam reiterated the Government’s position that any attacks or denigration of any religion is not tolerated, and that there are clear laws setting this out.

The Catholic church was not represented at the meeting. The Roman Archdiocese of Singapore had issued an online statement on Feb 20 denouncing Madonna's "blasphemous music and even props".

Archbishop William Goh had made the Catholic Church's "grave concerns" known to various ministries and statutory boards and was given assurance on restrictions in place to ensure that religiously-offensive content will be banned, according to the Catholic church.

On Tuesday, a spokesman said the Archbishop’s instructions were not new, but were stated again to remind Catholics of the need to be true to their faith. “For those who have already purchased their tickets, they should act according to their informed conscience,” he said.

Concert organiser Live Nation Lushington last Friday clarified that Madonna would not perform her controversial song, Holy Water, at the Singapore leg of her Rebel Heart Tour, after an investor said that an "amended" version would be performed.

MDA had stated previously that Madonna would not be allowed to perform the segment because it contained "religiously-sensitive content which breach our guidelines".

The regulator reiterated on Feb 19 that the concert organiser has agreed to comply with the terms of the license, which states that the concert should not contain content or materials which offend any race or religion, and that the performance overall must fall within the guidelines of the R18 rating.


Meanwhile, several Christian and Catholic organisations contacted by TODAY expressed support for the Catholic Church’s stand.

Faith Community Baptist Church’s Pastor Lawrence Khong said he had written a letter to Archbishop Goh to express his “full support” for its statement. In his letter, Mr Khong, who is also the chairman of LoveSingapore, a network of about 100 churches, said Archbishop Goh has given his “flock sound counsel on the right response to ‘anti-Christian and immoral values promoted by the secular world’”.

Echoing Mr Khong’s sentiments was Reverend Dr Ngoei Foong Nghian, general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS), who pointed out that the NCCS had already communicated its concerns with the authorities regarding Madonna’s concert in December.

The NCCS said that it had received several assurances that the concert performances would not be used as a platform for profanities against any religion or religious symbols that represent the various faiths in Singapore.

Stressing that it is ultimately up to the public to decide if they would attend the concert, the Reverend added: “It is our hope that the authorities will be cautious with performers who are not sensitive to racial and religious issues when they apply to hold concerts in Singapore.”

In 2012, the NCCS had also voiced concerns over pop superstar Lady Gaga’s concert here, pointing to the profanity and blasphemous content of her performances.

But some Madonna fans have come to the singer’s defence, saying her provocative antics are part of her artistic expression, and have nothing to do with disrespecting the Catholic faith.

Film-maker and performer Megan Barker, who is a Roman Catholic, said: “I agree that some of her material is provocative and if you are offended by it, don’t go and don’t play her music to your children. But it’s 2016, and I believe in freedom of expression, whether it’s talking about sex or religion, we should be able to sing, paint and openly discuss these topics.”

Source: CNA/TODAY/dl/jo