I can think of no better recent example of a culpable violation of the Principle of Separation of Church and State than this Resolution by the Manila City Council banning the Da Vinci film and so it is worth a careful Commentary.
Perhaps the most widespread misconception about the Constitutional Principle of the Separation of Church and State, is that it refers to the actions of religious believers and their leaders. You find lots of otherwise intelligent and knowledgeable people claiming that this principle is violated when priests or bishops meddle in politics. The truth is, this principle is addressed entirely to the State, and like virtually the entire Constitution, it is a carefully calibrated set of double prohibitions on the government and its officials regarding what they may or may not do with respect to "Religion." Here it is in the Bill of Rights:
Art III Section 5. No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed. No religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil or political rights.It is crystal clear from the last line that in fact, the religious affiliation of any person engaged in the exercise of civil and political rights cannot be used as a test of whether such exercise is legitimate or not. For example, the Catholic Bishops may be seen to be meddling in political affairs far from their expertise, when they issue pastoral letters on burning issues of the day, but the Constitution does not forbid them from doing so. Indeed, I believe Catholic Archbishops may run for public office. Once elected however, as government officials, they may no longer pursue the full "freedom of religion."
What it does forbid is for the government to either promote or prohibit "Religion." Look at the first sentence, specifically at the two words "Religion" and "thereof." I think the key to really understanding the rhetorical heart of the Principle of Separation of Church and State, is to realize that these two words refer to one and exactly the same thing!
A law which is clearly unconstitutional because the State establishes or promotes religious acts, beliefs or expressions, would also be unconstitutional if the law were to forbid or prohibit such religious act or expression. For example, it would be unconstitutional for the State to require that all citizens worship as members of the El Shaddai. But it would be equally unconstitutional for the State to forbid people from joining El Shaddai.
No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
How compact and economical a principle!
Under this remarkable principle of neutrality, if some act or practice by the public is forbidden by the State, and we want to know if such policy is unconstitutional, we need only to ask whether we think that REQUIRING the public to undertake such acts or practices is unconstitutional. For if the answer is YES, then, almost certainly, forbidding that same act or practice would be unconstitutional by parity of reasoning in the first sentence of Section 5. For example, if the government passes a law requiring citizens to pray the Litany to the Virgin Mary whenever they visit Luneta Park, that would be unconstitutional if we think it would be unconstitutional to FORBID praying the Litany at Luneta Park.
Likewise, if the Manila City Council were to REQUIRE citizens to watch the Da Vinci Code movie, that would seem to be an unconstitutional requirement say on devout Catholics who might be disgusted with the movie and its premises that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married and had children. Likewise, it would be unconstitutional to FORBID citizens from watching the Da Vinci Code movie on grounds that it might shake their faith. This is clearly a case of religious discrimination, since it applies to all citizens and not all citizens are Catholics. Moreover, it seeks to make showing the movie illegal on purely religious grounds, a case of the State protecting Religion from secular fantabulists like Dan Brown, Ron Howard, Tom Hanks, and Leonardo da Vinci.
As such, Manila's councilors are guilty of a culpable violation of the Constitution and ought to be so charged. But the Executive Secretary has also called for a banning of the movie, even if the Bishops haven't. I seem to recall that just a few months after seizing political power from Joseph Estrada in 2001, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo sided with the Bishops in calling for the X rating on a movie entitled Toro, by Joey Reyes. The Taliban control the Palace too, I see.
But the most amazing admission comes from Vice Mayor "Mullah Omar" Danilo Lacuna who claimed on ABSCBN New's noon time show that they were concerned we could have a situation like the Danish Mohammed Cartoon controversy. Well, I guess in fact we do have such a situation. Except that the Manila City Council is playing the role of rioting Islamist mobs decrying blasphemy and passing illegal, unconstitutional Resolutions.
If the Manila City Council is right, however, we should begin to see large demonic bacchanals as the previously devout members of the faith emerge from the hypnotic brainwashing in the cinema houses now believing that Jesus Christ was a -- gasp -- married man with children. I suppose priests and nuns will dispense with the their vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, should they be so unfortunate as to transgress the Manila City Fathers' wise and prudent establishment of a ban on a clearly heretic and apostatic expression of unbelief in the Catholic Religion.
But no, I don't think we are going to see crazed excommunicated Catholics running around rioting and calling for the beheading of Tom Hanks. However, the City Council should get a cut of the resulting windfall from movie theatre owners.