Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Separation of Church and State In One Sentence

If you want to understand the Principle of the Separation of Church and State, you only need to understand one profound sentence found in the 1987 Philippine Constitution's Bill of Rights:
Taken at face value "the exercise of civil and political rights" covers the entire moral universe that every citizen exists in under the present Constitution. That no religious test shall be required, for the exercise of citizen's rights, clearly defines the relationship between Religion and Government in the form of a PROHIBITION against applying any THEOLOGY to determine whether to allow the exercise of a civil or poliitcal right, such as the right to vote or be elected into office. Indeed all of our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (which 1987 calls "security"), all of our civil and political rights may be exercised freely without any requirement to pass some religious test or judgment from Theology--only the Morality represented by the Constitution itself.

The Principle at the very heart of Separation of Church and State is, in my opinion, much easier to see through the lens of the No Religious Test clause, than for example through the Non-Establishment clause. ("No law shall be passed respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.")

In the No Religious Test clause we see clearly defined the relationship between Theology and Morality under the Constitution: namely: NONE.  The Constitution is all Morality but no Theology.


Jun Bautista said...

Hi Dean,

The no religious test clause is a corollary of the free exercise of religion and non-establishment of religion clauses of the Constitution. The imposition of a religious test in effect results in the establishment (or favoring)by the government of religion (or one religion over another) and violation of every person's right to exercise his/her preferred religion or not to exercise any religion at all. For an interesting case study of the religious test issue, see Torcaso v. Watkins, 367 US 488 (1961).

GabbyD said...

the comelec cites the civil code, which tasks the government to enforce/safeguard morality.

morality may come from religion, so they cite religion to safeguard morality.

is there a fundamental contradiction between the civil code and the no religious test stipulation?

Jun Bautista said...

Religious morality, as opposed to secular morality, cannot be a basis for any governmental action. When the law speaks of or refer to something as immoral, it is not talking about morality as defined by religion or something based on a particular religious belief or tenet, but something that is prohibited because it is detrimental to society in general.

Dean Jorge Bocobo said...

It's more than a corollary Jun since it was in the original US Constitution--before the Nonestablishment Clause were put in with the First Amendment!

I would say it is even more fundamental than nonestablishment, because it actually lays out the philosophical basis for "secular morality" as the morality of the Constitution itself, as opposed to religious theology of any kind being the basis of morality as far as the State is concerned.

GabbyD said...


that just pushes it back one step.

how does the govt determine what is moral, or secularly moral?

what does detrimental mean?

to make sense of these, you need a guide -- what is the guide?

Rank Merida said...

The guide, hmmm. Take your pick:
1. Bible
2. Quran
3. Book of Mormons
4. Code of Kalantiaw

Just be sure to cherry pick.


Jun Bautista said...


The prohibition against religious test is found in Article VI of the US Constitution, but it was not intended as a protection of religious freedom for the general public, rather as a prohibition on the government in requiring a religious test oath before the elected officials enumerated therein can hold public office. The establishment and free exercise clauses of the first amendment established broader restrictions vs. intrusion of religion in gov't. and greater protection to exercise one's religious beliefs, respectively.

Jun Bautista said...


Secular or public morality is determined by law. When gambling, for example, is outlawed that law establishes a guide for public morals concerning gambling. Another example are laws prohibiting prostitution. These laws, among many other laws, lay down what are public morals.

The Comelec, on the other hand, applied religious morals in making a determination on Ladlad's fitness to be registered as a party list by using the Bible and the Quran.

Detrimental means damaging or harmful.

GabbyD said...


so unless its explicitly written down as a law, an action is moral?

there is a universe of actions that arent written into the books, and say these actions might be immoral for some -- these people cannot rely on govt to enforce morality, or their version of it? or some kind of community enforcement of morals? that govt isnt free to determine morality in cases where the law is silent?

i'm having trouble believing that laws capture 100% of all moral actions that people might believe in now and in the future.

hence, i wonder if there is

Marcus Aurelius said...

I really really like the formulation of "all Morality but no Theology".

There has always been tension in all societies about how far the religious should go in enacting their morality into law.

If someone wants to promulgate their religious views into law I would say more power to them -- but they had better be ready to discuss the issue in non-religious terms.

There are a couple of issues that I take, but since I am unable to justify those particular positions in non-religious terms I avoid pushing those positions and will generally stay out of the politics of them. I will vote based according to my religious beliefs but will not be vocal solely on my religious beliefs.

The religious test clause as far as I know has never been contentious in our society but certainly the same can not be said of separation.

Jun Bautista said...


I am not saying all that is moral are only those written into laws; not at all. When I say the guide in determining what is public and secular morals is the law, I say it in relation to or in contradistinction with religious morals. We are trying to distinguish between public morals, as they are enforced by the government, and religious morals as they are propagated by religious groups.