How To Distinguish Between A Sin And A Crime

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In his latest piece on repealing Section 377A , Professor Tommy Koh asserted that there is a difference between a sin and a crime. He also made the following points in his article:

  1. There is scientific evidence that homosexuality is a “normal and natural variation of human sexuality” and is not a mental disorder.
  2. Section 377A should be repealed because it is an “antiquated law” which has no scientific basis
  3. Singapore is a secular state; hence, Christian and Muslim leaders should not impose their religious views on everyone and pressure the Government into criminalising homosexuality.
  4. The Court of Appeal should overturn its 2014 decision where it ruled that S377A is constitutional.

While his arguments are convincing, there are some points which should be further examined. First, how does one distinguish between a sin and a crime. Stealing is both a sin and a crime but adultery is considered a sin but not a crime. How then does the state decide what is a sin and what is a crime. Prof Koh’s argument that there is a difference between a sin and a crime could potentially open a can of worms.

Prof Koh also said that Singapore is a secular state and hence our laws should not be based on religious doctrines. Laws are a form of moral code; they are based on the ethics of what is right and wrong. Ethics are often derived from or influenced by religious doctrines. Hence, it is not possible to completely remove the influence that religion has on our laws, even in a secular state.

The repeal of S377A is a decision that must be considered carefully as there are too many parties with conflicting interests. It may not be as simple as Prof Koh has argued above. Homosexuality is a contentious issue even in the liberal west. In a largely conservative society like Singapore, it is even more contentious and should be handled with great care.

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