Sunday, October 03, 2010

On Violating the Separation of Church and State

Recently some guy named Carlos Celdran decided to publicly insult the Philippine clergy for their stance on the Reproductive Health Bill by going to a cathedral during Mass and calling the presiding bishops "Damaso" (who is a priest villain in Jose Rizal's Noli Me Tangere) and shouting "Stop getting involved in politics!"

A friend of mine defended Celdran with these words:

I am aware that they have the right to exercise their authority. But I believe that they should only exercise that right within the bounds of the church. When they cross that line and start meddling with the creation of laws, that is in direct violation of the separation of church and state.

My response:

I think you are distorting the meaning of "separation of Church and State" to advocate the wrong idea that a certain group of our fellow Filipinos (the bishops of the CBCP) have no voice in the government. As a matter of fact, the ideal of Democracy dictates that the voice of everyone, no matter their religion or standing, will be given consideration.

You say that the bishops should be limited within the "bounds of the church". That is a gross underestimation of their authority. Spiritual leadership does not stop outside the four corners of a building. After all, the Church is, in fact, every single baptized Catholic, not just the bishops. Which brings us to the other fallacy implied, that only the bishops oppose the RH bill. Do you think that if the bishops are silenced (by whatever means), no one else will take a stand? Do you honestly think that orthodox Catholics won't know how to be faithful to their religion without the bishops? If so, then you learned the wrong lesson from your Noli and El Fili classes.

The separation of Church and State, as well as freedom of religion, means that the State can never force a person to do something against his religion. In a country where multiple religions (and forms of irreligion) exist, this means that none of those religions will be able to oppress the others via legislation.

Now, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I present as evidence the following:

Exhibit A: A video of a Frenzy Party Condoms advertisement that is regularly shown on Philippine TV despite the CBCP's anti-contraceptive stance.

Exhibit B: A billboard containing an image of a girl not covering her head, shown to the public despite the sensibilities of devout Filipino Muslims.

Exhibit C: A payslip, showing the amount paid by an anti-contraceptive Catholic employee to the government as tax. Part of this tax will be used to distribute contraceptives if the RH bill is passed.

Exhibit D: A receipt from a Catholic health care establishment. If the RH bill is passed, the government will enforce contraceptive-related policies that all health care establishments will have to follow, or else be punished by law.

From these we can deduce who really is violating the separation of Church and State. The religions of this country have not, but the government is planning to.

I rest my case.