Friday, November 14, 2008

Religious Affliliation of our MPs

I had written previously in passing on the possibly increasingly evangelical Christian character of our Parliament. Given my most recent rant on Focus on the Family and its relationship with DBS, it is timely to revisit this topic.

Let me first state outright that this post will be purely factual. I will present only data.

I will make no comments or opinions of a religious or anti-religious nature. I will also state from the outset that I disavow in this post the notion that the religious affiliation of any Member of Parliament in any way impugns their impartiality or decision-making ability as a legislator.

I repeat, this post will only present data. Data on Members of Parliament was sourced directly from the Parliament of Singapore website.

*There are 12 Muslims, 10 Buddhists, 13 No Religion, 17 No Information available, 21 Christians, 7 Roman Catholics, 1 Presbyterian, and 3 Others (comprising 1 Sikh, 1 Hindu and 1 Taoist), for a total of 84 elected MPs.

*Free thinkers have been classified as under Nil religion.

*1 MP self-identified as a Buddhist/Taoism and was classified as a Buddhist.

*Without exception, all 'No Info' MPs hold cabinet level appointments. Biographical information on religious affiliation was in general not available from the Singapore Cabinet website, with 3 exceptions: a Buddhist, a Roman Catholic and a Muslim (inferred from his committee appointment in an association for Muslim professionals).

*NMPs have limited legislative power and are subject to appointment by the President on recommendation of a Selection Committee chaired by the Speaker of the House. They are not elected to office, not officially affiliated to any political party and do not represent any constituents.

*There are 2 Hindus, 2 No Religion, 3 Christians and 2 Roman Catholics for a total of 9 NMPs.

*Free thinkers have been classified as under Nil religion.

As a comparison, data on the religious affiliation of Singapore residents (2000) was obtained from the Department of Statistics website.

Testing the hypothesis that the distribution of religious affiliations in Parliament is similar to that of the general population of Singapore residents can be done with standard statistical tests (e.g. Pearson's chi-square test). Unfortunately, the paucity of data on the religious affiliation of cabinet ministers precludes this option. In addition, it can be argued that MPs are largely drawn from the "elite" of society and are hence not representative of the Singapore population. It can be argued that it is hence irrelevant to discuss whether the religious affiliation of MPs should reflect that of the general population.

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