SINGAPORE – The decision on whether to do away with a law that criminalises sex between men is one for the Government to take, and the Catholic Church here takes a neutral position on repealing Section 377A of the Penal Code, said Archbishop of Singapore William Goh.
As long as the rights of the church and the religious are protected, and they can continue to teach what they believe is right, the church will not oppose any repeal of Section 377A, he added in a recent interview.
The issue of whether the law should be changed or repealed resurfaced after the Court of Appeal ruled in February that it will stay on the books but cannot be used to prosecute men for gay sex.
The head of the Roman Catholic Church was among religious leaders, Singaporeans and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) groups Cabinet ministers have engaged in recent weeks as the Government considers the best way forward on the law.
Religious and LGBT groups have seen this as signalling imminent policy change, and issued statements to state their position.
Responding to questions about the matter, Archbishop Goh emphasised that whether the law should be repealed is for the Government to decide. He said: “For us, we are neutral so long as our rights are protected. That’s all. We don’t want to criminalise people.”
He was referring to the Catholic Church’s rights to maintain its position on marriage as a union between a man and a woman, and that the family unit comprises a father, mother and their children.
Several other religious leaders have stated similar positions.
Taoist Federation chairman Tan Thiam Lye told The Straits Times when asked: “We neither oppose nor support repeal (of Section 377A).”
Sikh Advisory Board chairman Malminderjit Singh said repealing Section 377A will be a pragmatic move, since the law has not been enforced.
But he added that from the point of view of the Sikh faith, this should be balanced with the strengthening of the concept of marriage and a family unit as being between a man and a woman.
Earlier this year, Singapore’s top Islamic leader, Mufti Nazirudin Mohd Nasir, said in an interview with The Straits Times that the LGBT issue is a very complex matter, but there was also a need to work harder and move faster towards some resolution, as people expect religious leaders to provide guidance on the matter.
Although Islam’s position on homosexuality is clear – that it is not permissible – many values in the religion are rooted in compassion, kindness and inclusivity, even in dealing with prohibitions in religion, Dr Nazirudin had said.
He urged the community not to reject Muslims who do not practise certain aspects of the religion, but instead to find a constructive way of coexisting while reminding one another to uphold the faith.