ST Online Forum: Intolerance of alternate lifestyles will create rifts (Jul 21)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

July 21, 2007
Intolerance of alternate lifestyles will create rifts

I REFER to the debate on the validity of using religious beliefs to justify
the criminalisation of homosexual acts.

Everyone has the right to his or her own religious and moral views. However,
in a multi-religious society like Singapore that is founded on secular
principles, no one should attempt to impose his or her private religious
beliefs onto others. This includes questions of morality.

To illustrate this principle, allow me to refer to Christian teachings. In
the Christian Bible, it is unequivocally written that the worship of other
gods is a sinful act. Thus, most Christians would believe that the adherents
of other religions are mistaken and are worshipping false gods. Yet, they
would be unjustified in campaigning for the criminalisation of other
religions, because ours is a secular society, not a theocracy. Indeed, all
Christians recognise this and do not attempt to prevent other people from
following their religion.

The same should apply to homosexual acts. As a Christian, one can privately
believe that homosexual acts are sinful. One can teach one's children that
it is an immoral act. But one should not attempt to force everyone to adhere
to one's own religiously- based moral beliefs.

If one really wants to advocate the criminalisation of homosexual acts, then
one should use secular reasoning to justify one's stance, rather than treat
it as self-evident that gay acts are immoral and unacceptable (the latter of
which seems to be the tack many letter-writers to the forum have taken).

Our sense of morality should govern our own actions. As long as other
people's actions do not affect us, we have no right to demand that they
adhere to our moral sensibilities.

We can believe that they are wrong, we can attempt to persuade them of the
error of their actions, but we should not try to restrict their liberties to
suit our own beliefs.

Such a course is one of intolerance and tyranny, and would serve to create
rifts between the diverse peoples of Singapore.

Thus, just as we allow everyone to follow his or her own religious beliefs
even if we sincerely think they are wrong, we should also allow everyone to
pursue his or her own preferred lifestyle even if we believe it to be
immoral, as long as the pursuit of the said lifestyle does not cause
demonstrable harm to third parties.

Daniel Gaw Wai Ming