Equal Religion: Equal Society

-RJ Barrete

Last week,  Kabataan Partylist (Youth Partylist) Rep.  Raymond Palatino filed the House Bill 6330 entitled “Religious Freedom in Government Offices Act” which seeks to empower heads of government offices and departments to strictly follow the constitutional provision on the freedom of religion in the exercise of their official functions, and in the use of government facilities and property. However, the proposed bill was bombarded with reverse and opposing reactions from the religious sector, especially from the Catholic Church. They have regarded that this bill directly harms the faith of the people towards “God” and thus, our soul as a nation would be the “real downfall”, said Villegas, vice president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

Under the bill, the conduct of religious ceremonies such as prayers, masses and other liturgical celebrations as well as he display of religious symbols would be prohibited within the premises and perimeter of officers, department and bureaus, including publicly-owned spaces and corridors within such places. (newsinfo.inquirer.net)

Philippines, a democratic state, in a sense where people are granted various forms of freedom and rights (i.e., freedom of speech, the right to vote and participate in political process, maximizing citizens’ potentials to be highly relevant in the society, and to choose his/her own religion) may at some point manifests backward ideologies and beliefs inculcated in the minds of the people towards acceptance of other religions.

Philippine society is very conservative and sensitive in religious issues that visibly enforces limitations and narrow-minded perceptions and thinking towards religious issues. Relevantly, this initiative of Rep. Palatino may be considered as a starting point for social reforms in terms of curbing religious discrimination. This is what the Catholic Church doesn’t see or may be seeing for decades yet trying to blind themselves with beliefs that indirectly transcend to a social dilemma in our society. Thus, having this bill could be a tool in attaining “modern democracy”. According to Article I, Section III of the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, “Freedom to manifest one’s religion or belief may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.”

Separation of Church and State

Nevertheless, the Catholic Church always throws the principle of the separation of church and state when government officials try to solve social stigma and addressing social issues that are directly or indirectly associated with their beliefs yet it is highly visible that with their continuous participation in opposing some potential developmental measures truly impedes the expansion and progress on these significant issues *insert RH Bill*.

“Majority of our employers and employees are Catholics. The small crucifix and a short prayer will remind them to be good, honest and just employers and employees. It has many positive and advantageous results. I hope our legislators will be more discreet,” Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo said.

I think this is one of the values and beliefs that every religious people should try to modify, regardless of any religion. One must understand and learn that doing good things and being honest and just employees is not just about religion. It is something that what society expects from us. Granting that yes, there are advantageous outcomes, it is high time for us to disintegrate religion to whatever positive actions we reach for the society; having faith to your supreme being and doing good things may be a personal incentive for an individual but it does not solely conclude that doing good things is all about religion or vice versa.

It is difficult to mount successful social challenges when people believe that you would be fighting against God himself.

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  1. Hasan · June 23, 2012

    You can’t ignore the religion nor you can take the right to choose religion from the people.

  2. theclickbook · June 23, 2012

    Hasan, this isn’t about taking away the right to choose religion. This is about giving an equal chance to all religions in the society, regardless if you belong to majority or minority groups. In this way, no one is being secluded in the affairs of the society and try to accept other people’s belief and ideologies.

  3. Hasan · June 23, 2012

    I was talking in general perspective of any society or nation.

  4. Magan · June 23, 2012

    separation of religion from governance has been talked about since eternity. It is possible that religion came into being as a certain code of conduct to people for good governance and it worked well when it came in practice. The moment it became the ‘word of god’ (possibly proclaimed by the ‘god men’ for their own benefit in the name of god), it got written on stone rather than changing with the times.
    What does it mean to be ‘religious’? We need to have a common understanding that it means being good in the interest of self, family, society, nation and ultimately humanity.And it means no one gets harmed in any way due to any actions of ours.
    Everyone has their own interpretations. The government does not do much about educating people because the politicians lack that understanding. It is a vicious cycle and we can possibly achieve only superficial results rather than long term. (it is a very cynical view) But we cannot give up hope and will have o keep working on it!

    • theclickbook · June 23, 2012

      Oh Magan! I miss our conversations. I still remember the topics and issues we talked about last winter. I hope we can catch up really soon! Regards.

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