Secular Constitutionalism in Singapore: Between Equality and Hierarchy

Oxford Journal of Law and Religion, 2016

Posted: 29 Mar 2018

See all articles by Jaclyn L. Neo

Jaclyn L. Neo

National University of Singapore (NUS) - Faculty of Law; National University of Singapore (NUS) - Centre for Asian Legal Studies (CALS); National University of Singapore (NUS) - Centre for International Law

Date Written: 2016

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Neo, Jaclyn L, Secular Constitutionalism in Singapore: Between Equality and Hierarchy (2016). Oxford Journal of Law and Religion, 2016, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3144393

Jaclyn L Neo (Contact Author)

National University of Singapore (NUS) - Faculty of Law ( email )

469G Bukit Timah Road
Eu Tong Sen Building
Singapore, 259776
Singapore

National University of Singapore (NUS) - Centre for Asian Legal Studies (CALS) ( email )

469G Bukit Timah Road
Singapore

National University of Singapore (NUS) - Centre for International Law ( email )

Block B, #02-01
469 Bukit Timah Road
Singapore, 259776
Singapore

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