The 1987 Philippines Constitution's Bill of Rights Article III Section 5 defines the Principle of the Separation of Church and State in three key provisions:
No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. (Nonestablishment Clause)
The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed. (Freedom of Religion clause).
No religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil or political rights. (No Test clause)
In SPP 09-228 the Comelec denied a petition to run in the 2010 Party List elections from Ateneo Professor Danton Remoto, and the Ang Ladlad LGBT Party, (a sectoral organization of self-described Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgender persons) on the ground of IMMORALITY. A Petition for Certiorari has been filed before the Supreme Court assailing the Comelec resolution.
Everybody should care about this case because it is about what the State can and cannot do to anybody under the Constitution.
Based on commonly accepted statistics, the chances are that you, dear Reader, would not identify yourself as a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person (although the chances that you might identify as LGBT--are not necessarily imponderable or even small.) Of course there are no official statistics since these categories are not part of the population census, which goes as far as distinguishing males and females but not sexual preferences or personal practices.
Nevertheless, anybody who is not a hermit knows of, works, lives with, or is related to someone who is homosexual. In every historical epoch and every civilization, homosexuals have constituted some fraction of the human population. In Philippine society, some of our most famous personalities in show biz and politics are homosexuals (both male and female). Recently the Comelec Chairman Jose Melo even claimed that homosexuals are well represented in the Congress--which might've been a better excuse for disqualifying Ang Ladlad--by claiming they do not represent a marginalized sector of society!
The SEPARATION of CHURCH and STATE is a favorite topic of mine.
Nowhere else does the Law approach the wit of Poetry than when it defines the relationship between Government and Organized Religion in the Nonestablishment clause; between Theology and Morality in the No Religious Test clause; and upholds a Freedom of Religion so broad it protects the pious and devout's Freedom OF Religious Profession and Worship with dedication equal to that of the Atheists' Freedom FROM Religion.
The American roots of 1987 are quite obvious in the corresponding US Constitution of 1787.
The No Religious Test clause of the United States Constitution is found in Article VI, section 3 where it appears in the context of qualifications for public office:
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but, no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.This principle evidently predates the so-called Establishment Clause in the US First Amendment (Bill of Rights, Freedom of Religion, Speech and of the Press)--
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Several things are immediately noteworthy in comparing US and RP formulations:
(1) Both Constitutions define Separation of Church and State as a series of PROHIBITIONS upon the State regarding what it can and cannot do with regard to religion.
(2) Freedom of Religion is inextricably linked to Freedom of Speech and Expression and is indeed a proper subset of that much larger body of personal and common liberty guaranteed by both Constitutions.
(3) The No Religious Test provision of the US Constitution, which largely applies to the qualifications for government officials, is vastly expanded under the 1987 Philippine Constitution to cover "the exercise of civil and political rights". This much stronger principle amounts to a No Theology Clause and is the inspiration for this blog's motto that "Democracy is all Morality but no Theology."
Separation of Church and State has lately figured prominently in three fresh controversies.
The first involves Danton Remoto and the Ang Ladlad LGBT Party of "Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgenders" which has been denied participation in the Party List system of representation in Comelec Resolution SPP 09-228 "on moral grounds".
What are these "moral grounds"?
First, Comelec cites Ang Ladlad's own description and definition of its LGBT membership and their sexual orientation as
"a person's capacity for profound emotional, affectional and sexual attraction to, and intimate and sexual relations with, individuals of a different qender, of the same gender, or more than one gender."Comelec asserts that,
"This definition of the LGBT sector makes it crystal clear that petitioner tolerates immorality which offends religious beliefs."Comelec finds that the Petitioner maintains IMMORAL BELIEFS whose offensiveness to religious beliefs Comelec demonstrates by quoting from the Christian Bible and the Islamic Q'uran passages that condemn to "fire and brimstone" various forms of homosexuality.
In a Comment from the Comelec's own Legal Dept,
"The 'ANG LADLAD' apparently advocates sexual immorality as indicated in the Petition's par. 6F: 'Consensual partnerships or relationships by gays and
(2) serve no other purpose but to satisfy the market for violence, lust or pornography; (3) offend any race or religion; (4) tend to abet traffic in and use of prohibited drugs; and (5) are contrary to law, public order, morals and good customs, established policies, lawful orders, decrees and edicts;
(3) Those who shall sell, give away or exhibit films, prints, engravings, sculpture or literature which are offensive to morals. (As amended by PD Nos. 960 and 969)."
Next, Comelec finds that Ang Ladlad Party has been UNTRUTHFUL,
"Petitioner should be denied accreditation not only for advocating immoral doctrines but likewise for not being truthful when it said that it "or any of its nominees/party-list representatives have not violated or failed to comply with laws, rules, or regulations relating to the elections".
But the resolution does not mention which laws, rules or regulations relating to elections the Petitioner has not complied with.
Third, and most seriously , the Comelec rules that allowing Ang Ladlad LGBT to participate in the Party List elections would result in spiritual and moral degradation of the Youth by exposing them to an immoral and corrupting environment:
Furthermore, should this Commission grant the petition, we will be exposing our youth to an environment that does not conform to the teachings of our faith. Lehman Strauss, a famous bible teacher and writer in the U.S.A said in one article that ''older practicing homosexuals are a threat to the youth"11. As an agency of the government, ours too is the State's avowed duty under Section 1312, Article II of the Constitution to protect our youth from moral and spiritual degradation.Commentary:
We are not condemning the LGBT, but we cannot compromise the well-being of the greater number of our people, especially the youth.
COMELEC has opened a Pandora's Box of Trouble by declaring as IMMORAL the doctrines, emotional preferences and sexual practices of the Ang Ladlad Party of self-described lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members.
Surely its own ruling obligates Comelec to ensure that NOBODY else filing a COC is guilty of the same immoral doctrines, emotional preferences and sexual practices it has condemned in Ang Ladlad's LGBTs. Moreover, I don't see how they could look the other way at heterosexual immoralities, infidelities, indiscretions of individuals and party lists.
In effect, SPP 09-228, the Resolution denying Ang Ladlad accreditation, imposes novel standards of SEXUAL MORALITY that must be met by all candidates--local, provincial and national -- to participate in the 2010 elections.
It would be grossly discriminatory to apply the new Morality Test only to Ang Ladlad. So I think the Comelec en banc will see the wisdom of reversing this Resolution and accredite Ang Ladlad.
The conclusions of Comelec about the immoral beliefs and practices of the Ang Ladlad Party were quite clearly reached as the result of applying RELIGIOUS TESTS to the perceived lifestyles and beliefs of the LGBT community (which Comelec's Chairman Melo claims is a large subset of the population well-represented even in Congress!).
A justifiable suspicion that Comelec has GRAVELY ABUSED ITS DISCRETION in this case arises now that such RELIGIOUS TESTS have resulted in the denial of civil and political rights to participate in the Party List system of representation