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International Coalition for Religious Freedom's Report

Singapore has a population of just under 3.4 million people comprised of 76.4 percent Chinese, 14.9 percent Malay, 6.4 percent Indian and 2.3 percent other ethnic groups. The major religions are Buddhist, Islam, Christian, Hindu, Sikh, Taoist and Confucianist.

Article 15 of the 1963 Constitution for the Republic of Singapore recognizes the right of individuals to profess and practice their religion and the rights of religious groups to manage their own affairs, establish religious and charitable institutions, and acquire and hold property.

There is no state religion but the government provides some financial assistance to build and maintain mosques and Indian and Chinese temples. The guarantee of religious freedom expressed in the constitution is severely restricted by several government laws and by government policy. According to the 1997 US State Department Report on Religious Freedom, all religions must register with the government and are subject to strict government scrutiny. The 1996 and 1997 US State Department reports say that the government uses the Societies Act to restrict the activities of religious groups. The Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act declares illegal any involvement of religious groups and officials in political activity which the government deems to be inappropriate. The law prohibits judicial review of possible rights violations arising from the act or its enforcement.

New religious movements and other religious groups, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses in particular, have suffered from religious discrimination by the authorities. The Jehovah’s Witnesses were banned in 1972 because they refuse to perform military service, salute the flag or swear oaths of allegiance to the state. In 1995, 70 suspected Jehovah’s Witnesses were arrested and publications were seized. Twenty-eight of those arrested were found guilty of holding a meeting of a “banned society.” Each of the convicted persons was fined between $500 and $2,000. In 1996, one of them, a 72-year-old woman, was arrested and fined $500 for possession of banned Witnesses material. She served seven days in jail after refusing to pay the fine.

The Unification Church was duly registered with the government of Singapore on October 10, 1980. On April 2, 1982, the government deregistered the church.Church members have experienced harassment and discrimination by the government since that time. The government has declared the church to be a dangerous sect and it is not allowed to hold meetings or teach the Divine Principle (the teaching of the Unification Church). The Ministry of Education has gone so far as to issue statements warning educational institutions not to purchase subscriptions to The World and I, a secular, scholarly monthly magazine published by The Washington Times Corporation, because it was founded by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon. In 1995, police raided a gathering of parents and relatives of Unification Church members in a hotel. Three people were held for questioning. When they refused to sign statements prepared by the police, they were summoned to court and fined $300. The government of Singapore has been particularly harsh towards members of the Unification Church who have married spouses from another country. In several cases, families have been broken up and the government has deported women and children who are married to citizens of Singapore who are members. Furthermore, scholars who have expressed an interest in attending international conferences sponsored by organizations founded by or affiliated with Rev. Moon have been harassed by the government.