Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods – Causes, Consequences and Countermeasures

The NCCS submitted its proposals to the Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods – Causes, Consequences and Countermeasures on 6 March 2018

NCCS was invited by the Select Committee to send two representatives to the public hearing on 14 March 2018. Representing NCCS were the General Secretary, Rev Dr Ngoei Foong Nghian and Dr Roland Chia, Ethos Institute’s Theological and Research Advisor.

The following is the NCCS’ submission to the Select Committee

Statement to the Press regarding City Harvest Church Police Case, 26 June 2012

National Council of Churches of Singapore
Public Statement
(For immediate Release)

Statement to the Press regarding CHC Police Case
26 June 2012

Greetings from NCCS!

The following is the statement released by Bishop Terry Kee, President of NCCS.

The National Council of Singapore is saddened to hear of the arrest of Pastor Kong Hee and four other individuals connected with the City Harvest Church for alleged criminal breach of trust and falsification of accounts of the said church.

We appreciate the clarification by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Home Affair that the charges filed by CAD are against the five individuals and not the City Harvest Church (CHC) itself.

Members of the Christian community are united in disapproving any misuse of public or institutional funds, including money raised by or given to churches. Dishonesty in financial matters is clearly contrary to the teaching of the church.

As this is now before the court, it is important that we avoid speculation or pre- judgement into this matter and allow the legal process to take its course.

We call upon the Christian community to pray for every person connected to City Harvest Church that they may not lose faith in God who loves them and promises to be with them through it all , as they go through this difficult time.

We also seek the understanding of fellow Singaporeans not to react against the church or churches in Singapore.

Yours,

Terry

Through the office of
Elder Richard Chong
Executive Secretary
National Council of Churches of Singapore
B1-27 The Adelphi,
1 Coleman Street ,Singapore 179803
Tel: 63368177 Fax: 63368178
Email: richard@nccs.org.sg

Casinos, 4 Dec 2010

National Council of Churches of Singapore
Official Statement

 

Casinos

A Statement Prepared by the National Council of Churches of Singapore

 

Introduction

The Singapore Government has announced that it is exploring the feasibility of developing an “integrated entertainment resort, which may also include a casino.”  The National Council of Churches of Singapore, as a responsible Christian community which is also interested in the socio-economic and moral well-being of the wider society, would like to express our concern regarding the possible inclusion of a casino in the proposed entertainment complex.

 

We want to begin by affirming that it is desirable to hold fast to the good values and virtues which our society has nurtured and taught through the efforts of the various faith communities, associations, clans, and educational institutions, often with the support of our government’s policies. Our concern is that these hard-earned values and virtues like thrift, industry, generosity, and fairness, should not be unravelled by projects or policies which could subvert them and thus impoverish our society instead of enhancing it.

 

Our Stand

We speak against the building of a casino in Singapore for these reasons:

 

  1. Casinos undermine virtues.
    • They tend to compromise the moral values and virtues required by a society to flourish as a nation marked by excellence in human achievements and good character.
    • Gamblers are inclined to put their trust in luck and chance, often motivated by greed and the mistaken belief that money can be easily obtained without hard-work and social responsibility.
    • Apart from jeopardizing hard-work and social responsibility, a gambling culture, accentuated by the presence of a casino would signal that time-tested virtues shared by people of different faiths, such as honesty, compassion, prudence, integrity, neighbourly love, trustworthiness, and social justice, are no longer of primary concern to Singapore.
  2. Casinos will introduce more social ills.
    • Casinos may generate high financial yields. Those who will benefit most from such profits will be the casino operators, their shareholders and the government that collects tax.  However, revenue from casino collected by the government will be outweighed by the economic and social costs incurred in combatting crimes and the attendant social ills associated with, and attracted by, a gambling culture.
    • The downside of looking only for high yields, with little regard for social ills, is that such riches will be financed not only by gamblers who might be able to afford their losses but worse still by people who cannot, but are nevertheless tragically trapped in their gambling habits.
    • Losers will not advertise their losses. Invariably they will suffer in silence. That is not the only tragedy. The rippling effect of losses will mean that the losers’ families will have to bear the brunt of their foolish indulgence in gambling. In some well-publicized cases, the loser may conspire to cheat and defraud others to feed his gambling addictions.  The end result, sadly, is that the social fabric that sustains a prosperous and peaceful society will be further frayed.
  3. It is not in our national interest to have a casino
    • In the interest of Singapore’s long-term future, if a casino is built, what are we saying about the kind of a society we want Singapore to become and to excel in? A country which may pride itself on having the best entertainment resort with gambling facilities is unlikely to be a wholesome family-friendly society, which our government seeks to advance. It is unlikely that a country known for its gambling culture and access to casino facilities will be a desirable place for any responsible family, nourished by time-tested virtues, to settle in, take root and flourish. This would negate the effort to attract and retain talents and even ordinary people of good character, so vital to the continued well-being and prosperity of Singapore.
    • It has been said that certain controls can be introduced to ensure that not every Singaporean will be permitted to enter the casino, if one is built. But that option is weak. Besides the social fallout and the negative impact created by a new “qualifying and non-qualifying” class of local gamblers, Singapore’s hard-earned international reputation as a safe, just and corruption-free country that cares for poor and vulnerable people, will be tarnished when Singapore takes on a new tag as a country now targeting and preying on the wallets of gambling tourists, not all of whom are rich.
    • Furthermore, a great country should be one that will protect the interests of not just its citizens. What makes a country great and commendable is its willingness to provide similar protection to overseas visitors. There is nothing commendable about making money from gullible local gamblers or tourists who spend their money in casinos even if they choose to gamble on their own free will.
    • Singapore is not so poor and desperate that we have to depend on revenues derived from casinos and gambling to increase our GDP and to finance social projects. Even if we are poor, we should be a people of dignity and moral courage. There are other ethically sound and responsible ways of generating incomes, attracting businesses and drawing tourists which the government can tap on and promote without compromising our moral standards.

Our Commitment

The National Council of Churches, with members from different social backgrounds, as responsible people who are interested in the well-being of our society – especially those who are vulnerable – will continue to contribute to the building of a compassionate, just, prosperous, peaceful and flourishing Singapore. And we can do this, with God’s help and with the cooperative efforts of other concerned and ethically responsible Singaporeans of different faiths, without relying on casinos to generate income or subsidize social projects.

 

Life Sciences, 4 Dec 2010

National Council of Churches of Singapore
Official Statement

 

The Life Sciences: A Christian Perspective

A Statement Prepared by the National Council of Churches of Singapore

Science and the Christian Faith

The twentieth century has often been dubbed the ‘Bio-Tech Century’ because of the phenomenal advancements in the life sciences and the technologies associated with them. From the mapping of the human genome to the successful cloning of a mammal and the harvesting of human stem cells, these advances raises important issues and concerns because their impact on the future of human beings is still largely unknown. The Church cannot ignore these developments in culture because her mission to proclaim the Gospel can never be divorced from her sensitive and responsible engagement with that culture.

The best of Christian tradition supports the development of science because the scientific enterprise is viewed as an exercise of stewardship – a responsibility entrusted upon human beings by their Creator. Scientific knowledge and advancement may be seen as instantiations of the providential grace of God, and scientific activity, when conducted responsibly and with integrity, can bring glory to God, who by his grace has made such activity possible. But like all human endeavours, the scientific quest is also tainted by human sinfulness, which result in its perversion. History affords us with many examples of how science, instead of bringing about the alleviation of suffering, has in fact been responsible for it. Science can be conducted in an inhumane manner even if its goals are noble. This theological perspective on science prevents us from absolutising it and establishes the basis for envisioning the ethical parameters that must govern scientific activity.

This document presents a Christian perspective on the following three branches of the life sciences:

“Genetically-modified food

“The Human Genome Project

“Cloning and Human Stem Cell Research

Genetically-Modified Food

Genetically-modified food refers to food obtained or prepared from crops and animals whose genes have been intentionally modified by scientists in a laboratory. While the prudential application of biotechnology to animal and crops should not be stopped, GM food does present several issues of concern. The first has to do with the environment.  God has given to human beings the responsibility of taking care of the environment, and this responsibility must be extended to the need to exercise caution in the genetic engineering animals and crops. While farmers have for a long time practised selections and hybridisations, the difference between ‘old’ and ‘new’ biotechnologies is essentially that in the new biotechnology, the ‘transgenic element’ is introduced. It is therefore imperative that GM plants and chemical products be extensively and rigorously tested before it is introduced for large-scale farming. The distinction between ‘the absence of evidence’ and the ‘evidence of absence’ is important. Just because there is no known or perceived evidence that certain GM food and products can cause illness or upset the ecosystem does not mean that the evidence is absent because some evidence may take a longer time to detect. GM food producers must see it as their responsibility to protect bio-diversity and care for the environment.

The second concern is justice. The acquisition, production and marketing of GM food may be motivated by the search for profitability, while neglecting wider social interests and the common good. Guidelines should be issued and implemented by properly instituted authorities to ensure greater accountability and the just management and marketing of GM technology and GM food.

Human Genome Project

The Human Genome Project (HGP) which began in 1988 has the goal of mapping ands sequencing the human DNA. Once this is completed the position of human genes will be unveiled, and the order of the four pairs – the A, T, G, and C nucleotides – that form the DNA molecule will be known. It is envisaged that the several thousand genes suspected of being responsible for inherited diseases will be identified and the way for the treatment through gene therapy prepared. This new knowledge will have implications in every dimension of life – philosophical, legal, social and ethical.

While genetic research should be encouraged, genetic determinism and other forms of scientific and philosophical reductionism must be rejected. This is because the view that human beings are nothing more than genetic-neurological-hormonal processing machines is inimical to the Biblical concept of man. According to the Christian understanding, human beings are created in the image of God, capable of freedom and relationship. The Christian Tradition also presents the relationship between freedom and responsibility by insisting on the moral character of human action. Made in God’s image, man is therefore not only a free, rational, cultural being, he is responsible being who stands before God and before his neighbour. Concerning genetic technology, the statements that were made in the section ‘Science and the Christian Faith’ apply. Genetic technology can be seen as God’s gift to man, and should be used for the alleviation of human suffering. But because genetic science in the hands of sinners can be exploitative and destructive, the questions of abuse and distributive justice must constantly be addressed.

Cloning and Stem Cell Research

Biological science made a significant breakthrough in July 1996 when embryologists at the Roslin Institute succeeded into cloning a lamb from cells taken from a matured sheep. This milestone in biotechnology has resulted in great hopes as well as anxieties. In November 1998, another significant breakthrough occurred when the first human embryonic stem cells were isolated and cultured. Scientists became hopeful that the human embryonic stem cell research would lead to the cure of diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. These two distinct but related developments have resulted in much controversies and debate in medical ethics.

The Christian response to human cloning and embryonic stem cell research must go beyond pragmatic and even therapeutic considerations. Although the cloning a human being does not tantamount to reproducing the same person, questions regarding safety, and the commodification of human beings, with its attending psychological and social implications must be raised and given serious consideration. The replacement of sexual procreation with an asexual reproduction process is dehumanising because it severs the link between sexuality, love and procreation and is abstracted from the familial context. With regard to embryonic stem cell research, the issue centres on the status of the embryo. The Christian Tradition maintains that human life begins at conception, and that the embryo from its earliest stage of life is a human being and deserves the same respect and protection as other human beings. The ethical concerns surrounding embryonic stem cell research far outweighs the therapeutic potentials that such research holds. The use of embryos for experimentation that results in their destruction must never be countenanced by society.

Donation of Human Eggs for Research, 4 Dec 2010

National Council of Churches of Singapore
Official Statement

 

Response to the Bioethics Advisory Committee’s Consultation Paper entitled, ‘Donation of Human Eggs for Research’

A Statement Prepared by the National Council of Churches of Singapore

The National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS) is grateful to the Bioethics Advisory Committee (BAC) for the opportunity to respond to the consultation entitled, Donation of Human Eggs For Research. It is encouraged by and welcomes the BAC’s attempt to promote public discussion and consultation on this important issue. In this response, the NCCS wishes to address the two fundamental issues presented by the paper, namely, (1) should women be allowed to donate their eggs for research? and (2) should there be payment for donating eggs for research?

DONATION OF HUMAN EGGS FOR RESEARCH

Although the focus of this consultation paper is egg donation and the welfare of donors and not the ethical implications of the research itself, the NCCS must reiterate its position on embryonic stem cell research (ESCR). This is because the view taken by the NCCS regarding such research has direct bearing on its position regarding egg donation.

The NCCS maintains that ESCR, which involves the destruction of human embryos, should be prohibited. This is because human life begins at conception, and the human embryo, regardless of its age, is worthy of the respect and dignity accorded to all human beings. The NCCS therefore rejects the distinction between embryo and pre-embryo as academic and arbitrary because it fails to take seriously the ontological status of the being in question. In similar vein, the NCCS rejects the distinction between therapeutic and reproductive cloning because the cloning process is the same in both ‘types’. The only difference is the intended use of the manufactured embryo. For the same reasons, the NCCS maintains that the creation of human embryos through parthenogenesis should be prohibited. Although some ethicists have argued that this method of manufacturing embryos poses less ethical problems because the parthenote is not considered a human person, the NCCS finds this line of argument untenable.  The primary reason as to why procuring eggs from women for the manufacturing of embryos for research should be prohibited is that such research results in the destruction of human beings.

There are other reasons why women should not donate their eggs for research. The procedure that is currently employed to obtain eggs from donors involves considerable risks. Some of these risks are discussed on page 9 of the consultation paper. One of the main health risks associated with egg donation is that donors may develop a condition called ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome (OHSS). While according to the paper, ‘the risk of egg retrieval is relatively low’, it does continue to be a serious problem for specialists working in the field of infertility. As Annick Delvigne and Serge Rosenberg have pointed out, ‘as this is an iatrogenic complication of a non-vital treatment with a potentially fatal outcome, the syndrome remains a serious problem for specialist dealing with infertility’.  The former Chief Medical Officer at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Dr Suzanne Parisan, describes other risks associated with OHSS:

OHSS carried an increased risk of clotting disorders, kidney damage, and ovarian twisting. Ovarian stimulation in general has been associated with serious life threatening pulmonary conditions in FDA trials including thromboembolic events, pulmonary embolism, pulmonary infarction, cerebral vascular accident (stroke) and arterial occlusion with loss of limb or death.

The common drug used on egg donors is LupronTM (leuprolide acetate). A range of side effects associated with this drug has been reported to the FDA.  This is not mentioned in the consultation paper, but such information is important for a closer assessment of the risks of egg donation. Such information is also vital for healthy women who are considering donating their eggs for research. The hormones used to stimulate ovaries to produce eggs such as gonadotropins, human chorionic gonadotropin therapy and gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists are known to produce adverse side effects ranging from headaches to organ damage.

Alongside these risks human embryonic stem cells have enjoyed little success in clinical trials. Even in animal models of disease they not only have a lacklustre success but have also in fact carried significant risks including immune rejection and tumour formation. Thus in its December 2006 response to the British Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority’s (HFEA) consultation paper on ‘Donating Eggs for Research: Safeguarding Donors’, the Scottish Council of Human Bioethics states that ‘[T]he potential value of research on embryo is over-stated. Although the reasons given to justify embryo research are usually that it will lead to cures of various serious disorders, any benefits are, at best, likely to be in the distant future and there are grave doubts that “cures” will ever be realised using these techniques’.

Principle 16 of the Declaration of Helsinki states that ‘Every medical research project involving human subjects should be preceded by careful assessment of predictable risks and burdens in comparison with foreseeable benefits to the subject or to others’. Although it is not always easy to compute the risk-benefit ratio, it may be argued that in this case the ratio is not favourable. The NCCS therefore maintains that a woman should not be subjected to such a risky procedure that has no benefit to her and very doubtful benefit to others.

Additionally and importantly, it must be pointed out that while the potential outcomes of research on human embryonic stem cells have been overstated, those of adult stem cells have been grossly understated. It is important to note that adult stem cells, which include stem cells taken from umbilical cords, have already been used successfully in human therapies for years, including the treatment of spinal cord injury, leukaemia, and Krabble’s Leukodystrophy. To date, however, no therapies in humans using embryonic stem cells have been successfully carried out.

PAYMENT FOR HUMAN EGG DONATION

The position of the NCCS regarding egg donation for research has, in a sense, made the question concerning payment for egg donation less relevant. However, because the question of financial incentives for donors is not only restricted to women who donate their eggs, the NCCS would like to state that it categorically opposes any inducement of or payment to tissue and organ donors. The NCCS therefore fully agrees with the statement of the 1998 HFEA consultation on the Implementation of Withdrawal of Payments to Donors which maintains: ‘In order to ensure beyond doubt that donors were not motivated by financial gain, it would be necessary to abolish all payments and benefits (other than necessary expenses)’.

At the outset it must be pointed out that the term ‘commercial egg donation’ is an oxymoron. As Thomas Murray has argued, ‘Despite the repeated reference to “donors” of both ovum and sperm, paying individuals for their biological products makes them vendors, not donors’.  While critics may be right to point out that gametes are not strictly speaking the ‘product’ of donors and receiving payment for them therefore do not make them vendors, there can be no side-stepping the issue that such a practice would result in the commodification and commercialisation of tissues and body parts. The buying and selling of human tissues would lead to the increased objectification of the human body, where the concept of the ‘body-as-self’ is replaced with the ‘body-as-property’. This shift in perspective, which Murray tries to point out with his metaphor of the vendor, will no doubt encourage people to view individual humans as saleable commodities and this would surely compromise and degrade human dignity.

How we perceive the body is profoundly important because it will influence the policies that we put in place in securing important and valued body tissues. In recent history, the human body is not simply a subject of observation and study, but an object of manipulation. Biomedical science and technology has in the past quarter century found many revolutionary lifesaving potentials of the body in medicine as new life is created through reproductive technologies, and lives are sustained through organ and tissue transplant. In addition, biomedical science also seeks to preserve life through research on tissues and cells. The image of the body as property has become more prominent now more than ever before. But there is a need to ask whether it is appropriate to see the human body through the conceptual lens of ‘property’, and examine what radical changes are introduced to our sense of self-identity when this paradigm is embraced uncritically.

Yet, there is widespread if often inarticulate unease in society about the very idea of offering parts of the human body for sale at the right price. The sense of repugnance, which is firmly rooted in our collective psyche and moral sensibility, must not be taken lightly. This is because it reveals a resistance to the view that the human body is just a natural object that can be used at our disposal. We realise the need to increase the supply of organs for life-saving transplantations, and we know that doing so exacts a cost. By insisting that organs must be given freely and must not be bought and sold we are finding a way to live with this cost. We know that by allowing organs to be bought and sold we could possibly increase their supply and save many more lives. But we have resisted this approach because we know that by doing this we would make the body or parts of the body simply natural objects, at our disposal if the price is right. There is, of course, nothing degrading about buying and selling, and there is a sense in which commerce can enhance human life. But life itself must never be viewed as a commodity. Our sense of repugnance is therefore rooted in the belief that some things are simply not for sale. In our society, we recognise that public offices and criminal justice may never be bought or sold. To this list we must include the human body.

The NCCS therefore supports the position expressed in para 48 of the consultation paper that the donation of tissues ‘should be outright gifts and there should be no financial incentives, although reasonable reimbursement of expenses incurred should be allowed’. The NCCS is therefore in broad agreement with the principles delineated in para 48 of the consultation paper (and other documents such as Human Tissue Research and Section 13 of the Human Cloning and Other Prohibition Practises Act [Cap 131B, 2005 Rev Ed]). The NCCS therefore recommends that this policy be retained because it is founded on sound ethical principles. These principles are articulated in other major guidelines, particularly those issued by the European Union and the Council of Europe, for example the Additional Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine Concerning Transplantation or Organs and Tissues of Human Origin (ETS No. 186),   alluded to in the consultation paper.

Terms like ‘compensation’ and ‘payment’ commonly used in such documents are often ambiguous and fluid and must be therefore carefully defined. The compensations or payments that a donor might receive must be such that they can never be perceived as financial incentives to donate. These payments must only serve to compensate for loss of earnings or other justifiable expenses so that the donor will not suffer from any financial disadvantage due to the donation. Any form of payment that exceeds reasonable compensation must be deemed unethical. In similar vein, any benefits in kind such as reduction of fertility treatment costs for donors would be unethical. The NCCS therefore does not support ‘egg sharing’ in which a woman undergoing fertility treatment is induced either by reduced fees or a shorter waiting time to donate her excess eggs for research. Such a practice would tantamount to the commercialisation of human bodily parts by obtaining financial gains or comparable advantages.