Sunday, March 30, 2008

Only the State Can Violate Separation of Church and State

OR: Why Rep. Danilo Suarez Is An Ignorant Hick From the Land of Coconuts

I think that government officials who don't understand Separation of Church and State should be disqualified from public office until they admit that it is a proper and sacred subset of Freedom of Speech--nothing more, nothing less! The Catholic Church is NON-GOVERNMENT ORGANIZATION (NGO) that is given the widest latitude to teach and believe in their religion, no matter how silly or profound it is, on which account it is further forbidden that their civil or political rights be suppressed.

Holy Communion from Lingayen Archbishop Oscar Cruz's blog (first Bishop blogrolled on Philippine Commentary years ago, even if I disagree with him a lot, because I learn the most from those who disagree!) Today I rise in his defense. I encourage the most dedicated anti-gambling crusader in the Philippines to expose the complicity of the Pagcor in the political and financial subordination of the Philippine Catholic Church hierarchy to that Ministry of Vice and Immorality.

ABSCBN has the news on Archbishop Oscar Cruz :
Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz said "public sinners" should not be given the Holy Sacrament of Communion including, he said, President Arroyo. "I would not give communion to somebody receiving communion in public whom I know is a public sinner. I am sorry. I could be wrong and may God forgive me but I cannot do it," Cruz said. "It’s like throwing the body and blood of Christ into the garbage," Cruz said.
Lawmakers want Bishop sanctioned: Arroyo loyalist Rep. Danilo Suarez (Quezon province, land of the coconuts) wants to complain to the Vatican and urges the CBCP to sanction Cruz for "lying in public" --
"The CBCP should consider that lying, especially when committed by priests or Church officials, is a grave sin that should merit Cruz the very action he threatened the President and her family with – a denial of Holy Communion, Suarez said. He lamented that Cruz has been mixing politics with religion in violation of the constitutional provision on the separation of the church and the state."
It appears that Rep. Danilo Suarez is spreading falsehoods of his own. In the first place, the Separation of Church and State is a prohibition ONLY ON THE STATE against interfering in any way with the exercise of freedom of religion, a subspecie of the freedom of speech. Separation of Church and State CANNOT be violated by Churches or Churchmen because such violation can only be committed by the State or its agents, like Danilo Suarez.

I do hereby accuse one Rep. Danilo Suarez of ignorance, and a culpable attempt to violate this sacred provision in the Bill of Rights of the 1987 Constitution:
Bill of Rights Article 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.
Danilo Suarez and his patroness, the whole Congress, Judiciary, army and police altogether CANNOT cause the sanction of Archbishop Oscar Cruz for a plainly partisan political purpose. No more than they can cause the suppression of rallies, editorials or blogs that call them the spadeful of graft and corruption and obsequious banality that they are, in my humble frickin' opinion.

Now since we are talking about LYING IN PUBLIC, there is an important point of principle that needs clarification. It is the concept of the Public's Right to the Truth, the subject of much controversy really since Edsa Dos (the biggest LIE of all!

The word "TRUTH" is found exactly twice in the 1987 Constitution:
PREAMBLE: We, the sovereign Filipino people, imploring the aid of Almighty God, in order to build a just and humane society, and establish a Government that shall embody our ideals and aspirations, promote the common good, conserve and develop our patrimony, and secure to ourselves and our posterity, the blessings of independence and democracy under the rule of law and a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality, and peace, do ordain and promulgate this Constitution.
The second occurrence of the word "TRUTH" is not in the Bill of Rights but in the special section on Social Justice and Human Rights under the powers of the Commission on Human Rights which is empowered to:
ART. XIII Sec. 17 (8) Grant immunity from prosecution to any person whose testimony or whose possession of documents or other evidence is necessary or convenient to determine the truth in any investigation conducted by it or under its authority.
More attention ought to be paid to the latter provision of the Philippine Constitution, which to me is actually nothing less than the most solid Constitutional basis for a comprehensive
WHISTLE-BLOWER protection law.

Previous Post: There is no right to the truth under Freedom of Religion

Today is the 35th anniversary of the infamous Supreme Court Decision, Javellana v. Executive Secretary which basically legitimated the Fascist Dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos My post in 2006 was Javellana at 33.


Equalizer said...

"There are those who believe that those who use the names of bishops and the church in vain should be excommunicated for the serious damage that they have caused."Serge Remonde

DJB Rizalist said...

"God is dead." ... Nietsche
"Nietsche is dead."...God

blackshama said...

We are quite sure that Nietsche is dead. God may not exist at all but may be a product of Darwinian natural selection.

The Church may violate the separation of church and state. If the Church requires a religious test for the exercise of citizenship and its duties or public office then it violates the principle.

An example,the Iglesia ni Cristo violates the principle. It commands its faithful to vote as a block and in doing so requires a religious test for the exercise of citizenship duties. If Erano Manalo would not excommunicate his flock for doing otherwise then he recognizes the primacy of conscience. Conscience is needed in exercising the duty of casting a ballot. Manalo et al constrains individual conscience by the threat of excommunication and in doing so violates the separation of Church and State.

In England Church and State are one. The Monarch is required a religious test. He/she has to be a communicant of the Church of England.

The conscience of the Monarch or her heir is constrained. The Prince of Wales early in his career once considered marrying a Catholic but was advised by the government not to do so.

DJB Rizalist said...

I disagree. If people submit to any church's discipline and laws, that is their personal choice. We must defend their religious freedom to do so. But no church can "pass a law" the way Congress can pass a law.

Separation of Church and State as a Constitutional principle restricts the State alone.

Now is the church a "democratic" society? (any church?)

Most assuredly not. But neither is a newspaper or a corporation or an NGO.

Internally the church is imperial and feudal. Democracy can, must live with that.

But as no church may wield state power, only the state can break the principle.

The Catholic Church is no different than INC, btw, in its insistence upon a set of beliefs that you either believe or you don't belong. Both exercise some kind of mental control and compulsion upon weaker minds, but that is also allowed by democracy.

DJB Rizalist said...

Let me put it another way...

When INC compels its members to vote for a particular candidate under pain of religious sanction, that is not any different from what political parties also do, under pain of political or social sanction.

But if you say that is a violation of the principle of religious freedom, then we are forced to make such associations and policies ILLEGAL.

We would then be forced to suppress the exercise of civil and political rights based on the fact that RELIGION is being used as the criterion for the choice of church leaders.

THAT would be imposing a "religious test" (our concept of religion that is) on their exercise of civil and political rights.

This is the major misconception people have about the principle.

It applies ONLY to the state!

blackshama said...


You may be right (legally) but please remember the principle of separation of Church and State was formulated by the US founding fathers as a reaction to the Established Church of England and the various religious establishments of the colonies.

The Founding Fathers of the United States opted for the disestablishment of religion.

The question is who needs more protection, Church or State?

We can only answer that question if the Church has been disestablished.

Now can you say that the Church in the Philippines has been disestablished? Unless you and I can answer with a confident "yes" then I will contend that Religion can violate the separation principle.

The writing of the defective 1987 Constitution is an example that religion is still established in the country. President Corazon Aquino selected some clerics to be constitutional commissioners ON THE BASIS that they were MEMBERS of a RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATION. The Iglesia Ni Cristo to its credit refused. Now why should clerics sit in a political body? Isn't the church lacking in competent faithful laypeople? (I don't have any problem with Father Bernas though, he is a legal scholar)

Another example of religious establishment: Gloria appointed a bishop to chair a government panel to evaluate a mining firm's operations in Albay. Now what does a Catholic Bishop know about mining and environment science? A science professional should have chaired that panel.

Freedom of Religion should not intefere with the State's function to provide for the commonweal.

Example: Catholic religious celebrations shut down national roads. Catholic icons occupying prominent space in government offices!

Worse having a "belen" in front of the secular University of the Philippines" administration building!

Protestants and other non-Catholic groups are guilty of the same thing.If there is one thing to credit the Iglesia Ni Cristo is when its Bishop decided not to have its celebrations on Commonwealth Avenue since it out Quezon City in a gridlock. Can we say that of the Roman Catholic Church?, Jesus Is Lord?,El Shaddai?

If freedom of religion is to be protected then the State can legislate that a prayer space can be provided in government offices with the proviso that the government won't spend a peso for that.

No politician in our history has publicly demonstrated the constitutional provision on church and state separation except Manuel L Quezon. He was never publicly photographed in any religious service of any sect while President. He refused to attend the Catholic Eucharistic Conference saying that this would violate the principle. The Catholic Taliban of the time as you say heaped a lot libel on Quezon.

DJB Rizalist said...


Formally speaking, the Catholic Church was never disestablished, but the ratification of the 1935 Constitution might qualify as the establishment of Separation of Church and State as a principle.

Many of the examples you give are definitely violation of the principle that the state must not use religion or religious affiliation as a test of any individual's worthinesst to exercise civil and political rights.

But this is a principle of absolute neutrality, much like the principle of nondiscrimination based on skin color.

That means that JUST BECAUSE someone is a Bishop or a minister, that is no reason to exclude him from civil service.

Fr. Bernas was eminently qualified as a civilian lawyer to be in the Concom. So we ought not imply that Cory's choice of him was a violation.

The other bishop may however be politically and ideologically motivated and useful to gMA, on top of being possibly incompetent. But for all you know he is actually a petrochemical engineer, but what are the chances eh?

So it is whenever the State or its agents make some official act, that is not neutral wrt religious affiliation that the principle can be violated.

The earlier point merely stresses that truly, this law is a restriction on the State and what it can do because of, or inspite of some religious connection.

BTW I've written extensively about the violation of this principle in the matter of public education where we find that the Curriculum and Deped's Philippine Educational Learning Competencies documents are written proof of Establishment of Religion!

DJB Rizalist said...

I should add in the case of Fr. Bernas that it would have been an equally grievous violation of the principle if he had been appointed ONLY BECAUSE he was priest, as if he were not appointed JUST BECAUSE he was.

As it was, he was appointed, I think rightly, because he is a competent Constitutionalist, regardles of his err, habits.