SG CIVIL SOCIETY: CALL FOR COMPASSION, DIALOGUE AND MUTUAL UNDERSTANDING ON LGBTQ ISSUES

1.We refer to the Straits Times report on “Religious teacher launches ‘wear white’ online campaign” (20 June 2014). We note with regret that this recent controversy is a sign of a “culture war” that has taken root in Singapore. This will pose a significant challenge in building a harmonious society that thrives on diversity.

2. We, the undersigned, affirm the principles which Singapore rests upon. These principles are found in the Singapore pledge: to build a democratic society, based on justice and equality.

3. No individual or group in a democracy should impinge on others in an unjust manner. Our freedom to fully express ourselves according to our conscience must come with the reciprocal responsibility to accord the same freedom to other people. This holds true even if these others hold beliefs that deeply contradict our own. No individual or group should therefore be vilified, condemned, or subjected to harassment or abuse – physical or otherwise – or suffer any other form of reprisal simply for taking a position, taking part or identifying with a range of LGBTQ issues.

4. We strongly call for the idea of equality as citizens before the law to be upheld. This means that all forms of discrimination on the basis of one’s sexual orientation are incompatible with the progressive value of equality that this nation rests upon. Equal citizenship also entails that majoritarianism (the idea that the majority has a right to impose its views and values on the minority) must be kept in check. A just and harmonious society can only be achieved when the majority does not infringe upon and discriminate against any minority, including sexual minorities.

5. The LGBTQ issue has often been portrayed as a conflict between “religious” versus “secular” values. We are troubled by this false dichotomy. We note that numerous religious leaders and organisations, in Singapore and around the world, have expressed support for LGBTQ equality. Religion is equally capable of upholding and supporting universal values such as democracy, justice and equality. In fact, these values form the ethical structure of many religions, including that of the major religions in Singapore. We urge that these values serve as a bridge when discussing issues on LGBTQ across the religious and non-religious spectrum. We call for enlightened religious leaders to make a stand in upholding these values in public discourse.

6. We are concerned about the continuous dehumanizing portrayals of members of the LGBTQ community. They have been subjected to a range of abuses, from discrimination and ostracisation, to verbal and physical attacks. Lately, a worrying trend has emerged on social media with voices calling for gays and lesbians to be targeted for public shaming and harassment. Such extreme views can only emerge from a deeply homophobic atmosphere where homosexuality is pathologised as a “disease” to be cured or exterminated. There is a need, therefore, to increase public awareness on the plight of the LGBTQ community and their lived realities, as well as greater public education on issues pertaining to homosexuality.

7. With these considerations in mind, we call for greater dialogues across all spectrums of views, with the common goal of achieving greater understanding and tolerance. The basis for such dialogues should lie in compassion and knowledge, rather than ignorance, hatred and prejudice. We believe that only through such dialogues can we overcome bigotry and ignorance, and forge a harmonious society that respects and upholds the dignity of every human being. For religionists, we call for these values to be manifested when responding to LGBTQ issues. Religion, after all, is a wellspring for compassion, justice and wisdom for all humankind, and we would do well to strive for such aspirations.

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