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Section 377A should be retained until adequate safeguards around areas of social vulnerability are enacted: Churches alliance

The Alliance of Pentecostal and Charismatic Churches of Singapore also "strongly cautioned against removing the moral marker" established in Section 377A of the Penal Code.

Section 377A should be retained until adequate safeguards around areas of social vulnerability are enacted: Churches alliance

The traditional light-up for the Pink Dot event in 2019 spelled out a call to repeal Section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalises sex between men. (Photo: Cindy Co)

SINGAPORE: The Alliance of Pentecostal and Charismatic Churches of Singapore (APCCS) said on Friday (Aug 19) that it supports the retention of Section 377A and continues to "strongly caution against removing the moral marker established" in the law. 

It added that Section 377A should be retained until adequate safeguards around the "many areas of social vulnerability" are enacted.

Section 377A of the Penal Code criminalises sex between men. Earlier this year, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said the Government is considering "the best way forward" on the section of the law.

The APCCS said in a statement on Friday: "The law in its current form, which includes the political promise of non-enforcement, poses no threat of criminalisation to homosexual men while simultaneously providing the necessary safeguards to public morality, standing as a bulwark against LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) activism seeking to normalise homosexuality, among their other demands."

It added that "unmitigated repeal" of the section of the law facilitates the progress of "a brand of intolerant and aggressive LGBT activism that seeks to impose its ideology upon Singapore society". 

Formed in 2018, APCCS has 84 member churches, including some churches whose senior pastors are on its Board.

CANNOT AGREE WITH REMOVAL OF SECTION 377A: APCCS

In its statement, the alliance said it supports the retention of Section 377A and "cannot in good conscience" agree with the removal of the section of the law. 

"Unless and until adequate safeguards around the many areas of social vulnerability are enacted, and there is confidence that public life will be protected from LGBT activism that seeks to normalise homosexuality in our culture, Section 377A should be retained," said the APCCS.

"We ask for concrete assurances that the concerns we have raised have been taken seriously and will be accounted for."

The alliance also said that if the matter is to be put to a parliamentary vote, the party whip should be lifted so that Members of Parliament (MPs) will be able to vote "according to the feedback they have received from the ground".

A party whip ensures there are sufficient members in Parliament to support the party's position, and that MPs vote according to the party's line. 

"Recognising that there are people of all faiths in Parliament, they should also be able to vote with freedom of conscience," said the alliance. 

MARRIAGE

The APCCS also affirmed the Government's efforts to safeguard marriage and urged that the "best way forward" would be to entrench the definition of marriage in the Singapore Constitution as a union between a man and a woman.

"This articulation of the Government’s current position would be a reflection of how stable marriages and families are objectively critical foundations of a strong and flourishing Singapore," it said.

"In our view, constitutional protections to stave off legal challenges to marriage which fall short of enshrining marriage, are insufficient safeguards for such an essential social institution. Insufficient protection renders marriage vulnerable to the persistence of activists to redefine marriage."

Singapore's current legal position on marriage is defined under Section 12 of the Women's Charter as being between a man and a woman; same-sex marriages are considered void.

Mr Shanmugam said last month that the Government is looking at how it can safeguard the current legal position on marriage against challenges in courts, while it considers the next steps for Section 377A.

The APCCS said a repeal of Section 377A without enshrining the definition of marriage "signals a shift in values" and a "step towards the liberalisation of the moral landscape in Singapore".

"Beyond safeguarding marriage, we call for the affirmation of social values that contribute to upholding public morality in both word and deed," said the alliance.

"We must proactively preserve and protect the innocence of children, who are growing up in an increasingly sexualised world that prematurely exposes them to ideas which require higher levels of physical and emotional maturity to handle."

It reiterated its appreciation of the Government for actively engaging stakeholders and hoped that it will continue to do so until they "collectively arrive at a position".

"We caution against rushing this process before demonstrating that concrete and adequate safeguards have been enacted to address the vulnerabilities created by any move on Section 377A," said the APCCS.

"While we caution against normalising homosexuality in Singapore, we empathise and reach out to those with same-sex attraction," it added.

On the other hand, the Catholic Archbishop of Singapore William Goh said the decision whether to repeal Section 377A or not lies with the Government.

He added that the Church is neutral on the matter, so long as the rights of Catholics are protected.

Archbishop Goh, who was giving an interview to Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao, acknowledged that many people do not regard the existence of LGBT people as a problem. 

They could lead their own lives, and Catholics also do not want to see them as sinners, he was quoted as saying.

Source: CNA/lk(mi)

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