Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Religious Test Is Required To See If Religious Feelings Were Offended

Performance artist CARLOS CELDRAN has been charged under a little-used 1930 law in the Revised Penal Code:

Art. 133. Offending the religious feelings. — The penalty of arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period shall be imposed upon anyone who, in a place devoted to religious worship or during the celebration of any religious ceremony shall perform acts notoriously offensive to the feelings of the faithful.

Art. 133 criminalizes  acts notoriously offensive to the religious feelings of the faithful.

Not just any old feelings, mind you, but the RELIGIOUS feelings of the Faithful! This law is very specific and ought not to be used for every circumstance of VEXATION of feelings that so easily arises among people.  If one is to be convicted of the crime of "Offending the Religious Feelings" it had better BE religious feelings that are offended.

This immediately suggests to me a strong line of defense.  The Accused ought to be shown some proof that the feelings he has allegedly offended are indeed genuine RELIGIOUS feelings, and not some other kind of feeling like: false pride, rash judgment, spiteful hatred, vaingloriousness, political vindictiveness or some other non-religious feeling.

But how should the Court and the parties decide whether a given human emotion in a given circumstance was indeed a RELIGIOUS FEELING of the Faithful, and not just some fleeting emotion of the crowd?

Would it be enough for a member of the Faithful to attest to having had a religious feeling of the faithful notoriously offended within himself or herself as a result of the act committed by the Accused?

How could the Court and the Parties be assured of the veracity of such a testimonial?  How is notorious offensiveness to self-described religious feeling to be detected and measured?

Since at the very least there should be a clear demonstration to the Court of a religious feeling being notoriously offended for guilt to be adduced, it seems unavoidable that a RELIGIOUS TEST be required to detect the RELIGIOUS FEELING alleged to have been "notoriously offended."

The theory and justification for such a test is that only a religious test could possibly distinguish a religious feeling from an irreligious feeling.  More so, only a religious test could possibly distinguish a notoriously offended religious feeling from one that is not notoriously offended.

Such a religious test seems indispensable if a further determination is needed that such bona fide religious feelings were in addition, notoriously offended. 

In short, a Religious Test is logically required to prove that a bona fide Religious Feeling exists "in the faithful" and then was notoriously  offended.

For example, the Defense may wish to put on the stand the Accuser, Msgr. Cerbo to testify upon the Religious Feelings he alleges have been notoriously offended by Mr. Celdran's actions on September 30, 2010 at the Manila Cathedral during a religious ceremony.

If we now turn our attention to the Constitution it will become fairly obvious where the infirmities of Article 133 lie.

(5a)  No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.  (Principle of State Neutrality)
(5b)  The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed. (Principle of Equal Liberty)
(5c) No religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil or political rights. (Principle of Secular Morality) 

Because the existence of bona fide Religious Feelings being notoriously offended requires some type of Religious Test for the purpose of submission to the Court as evidence, such a test imposes a heavy burden on "the exercise of civil or political rights." 

For example, to comply with the Law and avoid the criminal offense of "Offending the Religious Feelings of the Faithful" all persons must mentally apply that self-same religious test to determine if their actions will violate the law.

It seems reasonable to conclude from this series of deductions that Article 133 directly or indirectly violates the 1987 Bill of Rights prohibition against requiring religious tests in the exercise of civil and political rights.  

Perhaps the Celdran Case will cause Article 133 to be deemed REPEALED by the 1987 Constitution's guarantees of Freedom of Religion.


Jego said...

Clever. Prosecution would say, 'Duh. It was during a Church service. What other feelings of offense could it possibly be?' Precedent also didnt have this determining what sort of feelings were offended before they arrived at a guilty verdict. But I agree that 133 is archaic. They should have hit him with 153.

(To be clear, I think 153 is pretty harsh too. There should be no jail time for offenses of Carlos Celdran's sort unless accompanied by threats of force, like waving a firearm or showing up with thugs.)

GabbyD said...

in that case, 5b and 5c contradict each other:

here the "civil and political right" interferes with "the free exercise" of religion.

in this case, laws should be enacted to clarify the situation.

Dean Jorge Bocobo said...

As you point out there are other laws that could cover the situation and I prefer that they use those articles. But on the matter of Article 133 it cannot be avoided that the law specifies RELIGIOUS feelings. It is not clear to me that in a religious ceremony only religious feelings could be offended. I think the mere presence of the word invites a Constitutional challenge because the Bill of Rights provisions are quite precise and all inclusive.

Jego said...

DJB: If we're using that tack, whose religious feelings would have to be offended to render someone guilty of offending religious feelings? Is it necessary for the feelings of all present to be offended? A majority? One or two people present?

If the complainants pursue this case, it'll be very interesting. In any case, that provision in the code should be repealed for sheer vagueness.

Ben Vallejo said...

Catholic doctrine is based on codes. The Dean of the Manila Cathedral will have to testify exactly what in Catholic ecclesiatical law was the "offended feelings" lie.

The Church puts a premium on juridical objectivity with respect to pastoral concerns. For example, You can't get a marriage annulment on just "offended feelings" alone. The Diocesan Rota has to establish the fact that a marriage never existed as based on Canon Law before a decree can be issued.

This "offense of religious feeling" case should be thrown out of court since it REALLY THREATENS freedom of religious belief. This penal provision makes sense in a State with an established religion and all other religions are proscribed.