A Jehovah's Witness who refused to sing the national anthem or recite the national pledge has gone to court to try to win back his teaching position.
Peter Nappalli, 37, was fired from his tenured post teaching English and mathematics at a vocational institute in 1994. He argued Monday that Singapore's Constitution protects his religious freedom.In Singapore, the Jehovah's Witness version of the Bible and other literature is banned, proselytizing is prohibited, and police can raid homes to break up Bible studies of three or more people.
It is legal to be a Jehovah's Witness, under a constitutional clause guaranteeing the right to profess and practice religion, but there are many restrictions under other laws.
Jehovah's Witness adherents such as Nappalli run into trouble when they obey the tenets of their faith by refusing to do military service, pledge allegiance to the flag or sing the national anthem.
Nappalli had served a three-year prison term for refusing to take part in military service that is required of all Singaporean males. He lost his teaching job after 10 years when the school began enforcing a requirement for students and faculty to recite the pledge and sing the anthem at assemblies.
At the trial, Nappalli said he was aware of the laws when he took the job in 1984, but he felt the constitution would take precedence.
For years, Nappalli stood silently during the assemblies. But in 1991, he was warned of disciplinary action if he did not begin singing and reciting the pledge. Three years later he was fired.