Singapore’s recent adoption of liberal causes—from stem cell research to gay rights and gambling—is leading to conflict with its increasingly influential Christian community, although it is unlikely to lead to American-style culture wars, writes Peter T. C. Chang in the journal Religion, State and Society (June).
Since the early 1990s, Singapore’s one-party government has been taking on more liberal stance on controversial issues, such as becoming a center of biotechnology and stem cell research (luring American scientists facing restrictions on such techniques in their home country), leading to criticism particularly from the evangelical community.
But the country has pragmatically adopted these measures in the hope of competing in the global market, while carefully avoiding open conflict with Singapore’s conservative majority. While church–state relations have been strained by the government’s “cultural experimentation,” the soft authoritarian approach of the state that restricts the public sphere has prevented a polarized situation where conservative and liberal activists are pitted against each other.
For instance, the government has steered a middle course on gay rights, opening venues for homosexuals while curbing gay activism. The government itself has cautioned against the “culture wars” of “extreme liberals and extreme conservatives”, as found in the United States.
(Religion, State and Society, http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/crss20)