Zheng Huifen (left) with BHA chief Andrew Copson while on a visit to the UK
I’m Huifen and I’m currently the treasurer for HumanistSG. Before this I was Vice-President, but gave that up to take up the role of treasurer, as this is one of the 3 crucial roles which the Society must have. Unfortunately we didn’t manage to find anyone who wanted to be the treasurer last year!
I see myself as the intellectual driver behind HumanistSG. I’m a lawyer by training and it’s my job to keep the Society on the right side of the line. We play in an interesting space due to Singapore’s strict laws about religious harmony. There are many constraints on what we can and can’t say as a society. This means that we are less vocal about certain issues than we would like – we take a “softly softly” approach and always present a very fact based argument. Other humanist or atheists groups in the US or UK can rally the troops with emotional arguments or even suing the government for violating the separation between church and state – we can’t do this in Singapore.
Huifen (far right) at a CENS academic conference organised by Nanyang Technological University.
A primary part of my job, as the de facto legal advisor, is to vet what the Society says externally. Most if not all the letters we send to the media are edited by me. I’m also the de facto spokesperson and public face because I’m really diplomatic and present our points of view in the politest way possible.
Some people are put off by atheist or humanist groups because they see these groups as being only for angry ex-religious people or dominated by middle aged men. I want to shape the perception of HumanistSG away from that. We are here to preserve and protect the secular space in Singapore and advocate for the greater use of logic and evidence in decision making, both by individuals and in terms of public policy. HumanistSG is not here to “fight” the religious – we are here to present the point of view of the non-religious community in Singapore, which stands at 18.5% of the population and growing. We also want to serve the needs of the non-religious with our social events and the increasing celebrant services now on offer.
I would like to hand the baton over to someone who is passionate about advocacy and willing to learn how to navigate the sensitive parameters we have in Singapore. I am also looking for an assistant treasurer, someone who is comfortable with money and trustworthy.
At World Humanist Day 2015:
Giving talks at HumanistSG on charity giving and legal boundaries of religious discourse: