Secular Constitutionalism in Singapore: Between Equality and Hierarchy
Oxford Journal of Law and Religion, 2016
Posted: 29 Mar 2018
Date Written: 2016
The Singapore constitution has often been described and analysed as secular but in a qualified manner. This, I argue, is because commentators have applied the dominant paradigm of secular constitutionalism as (institutional) separation in examining Singapore’s constitutional practice. Singapore defies this constitutional model because of its close entanglement with religion. In this article, I apply two different analytical models to better capture and evaluate Singapore’s secular constitution. Specifically, I argue that the political discourse in Singapore has centred upon the ideal of neutrality and equal treatment of all religions. This conforms to a model that I call secular constitutionalism as equality. However, the legal jurisprudence shows a divergent approach whereby secular law, norms, and authority are prioritized, often lexically, over religious ones.
Keywords: Constitutional law; comparative constitutional law; law and religion, comparative state and religion
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