Separation of Church and State

Although it is true that much of Philippine law is based on U.S. law and Philippine court cases refer often to U.S. legal cases, the two sets of laws originated in very different historical and social settings. By sets of laws I mean the respective Constitutions and the respective case law originating in relevant court decisions.
The difference in “religious framework” between the two nations is clear in reading the Preambles to the Constitutions for both nations:
  • United States: We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
  • Philippines: We, the sovereign Filipino people, imploring the aid of Almighty God, in order to build a just and humane society, and establish a Government that shall embody our ideals and aspirations, promote the common good, conserve and develop our patrimony, and secure to ourselves and our posterity, the blessings of independence and democracy under the rule of law and a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality, and peace, do ordain and promulgate this Constitution.
The U.S. seeks the “blessings” of “Liberty”, the Philippines  “independence and democracy” with the “aid of Almighty God”.
How many times is “God” mentioned in the U.S. Constitution? 
Well, the U.S. was founded to enable Americans to ESCAPE the tyranny of religion imposed by Great Britain, not to mention taxation that the locals believed was punitive. So the writers of the U.S. Constitution intentionally marked out God.  The Philippines, fully saturated with Spanish religious passions and doctrine, believes it is only whole with God’s help. The respective Constitutions will therefore have distinct meanings and interpretations.
Both Constitutions deal with:  (1) the separation of church and state, and (2) the right of people to worship as they wish.  On separation of church and state, we read:
  • United States:  . . . no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.(Article VI, Clause 3)
  • Philippines:   The separation of Church and State shall be inviolable. (Article II, Section 6)
On freedom to worship, we read:
  • United States:  Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ….” (First Amendment)
  • Philippines:  No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed. No religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil or political rights. (Article III, Section 5).
A letter from Thomas Jefferson, a principal writer of the U.S. Constitution, to the Danbury Baptist Association formed the foundation of U.S. case law supporting the “wall” of separation between church and state. Jefferson wrote:
  • I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their “legislature” should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between church and State.
This document has been cited in numerous court rulings that represent the case law that restrains the Church from interfering in politics at risk of losing certain privileges (the privilege not to pay taxes, in the main).

The Philippines lacks this essential benchmark demarcation. Therefore, there is no clear restraint upon churches that wish to engage in political activities. Indeed, precedent in the Philippines strongly supports church engagement in politics. “Friarocracy” extends from the days of Spanish rule all the way past foreign occupancies, a dictatorship and various iterations of the Constitution to reside heartily in the fabric of Philippine politics today.
The term “inviolable” used in the Philippine Constitution to describe the term “separation” means “not violable; not susceptible of violence, or of being profaned or corrupted; incapable of being injured; not to be infringed or dishonoured” [wiktionary]. It is a soft term, easily challenged as anything other than a firm wall. Indeed, a synonym is “holy”. Clearly, there is no wall in the Philippines.
But a problem arises when there are conflicts between national interest and the interests of different faiths.
How to resolve them . . . How to resolve them . . .
I personally like the eloquent way U.S. Presidential candidate John F. Kennedy, who became the first Catholic U.S. President, explained how he would deal with potential conflicts between his faith and his oath to defend national interests:
  • I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute—where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishoners for whom to vote—where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference—and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him. I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish—where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source—where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials—and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all. […] I do not speak for my church on public matters—and the church does not speak for me. Whatever issue may come before me as President—on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject—I will make my decision in accordance with these views, in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise. But if the time should ever come—and I do not concede any conflict to be even remotely possible—when my office would require me to either violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign the office; and I hope any conscientious public servant would do the same.
Now lets head back to the Philippines where President Aquino is today facing one of those tests, faith against national interest, on the RH Bill. His way of dealing with it is through signals, citing “responsible parenthood” in his 2012 SONA, then stepping back and letting legislators wrestle with the beast, faith versus national need. Don’t look for President Aquino to resign because his conscience is conflicted.
Well, legislators’ LOCAL NEED for re-election trumps national need, so they have been dragging their faith-bound feet, or as I would look at it, sticking their faith-bound heads in the sand, whilst the Philippines heads directly toward certain chaos and confrontation rooted in over-population and poverty. Like, say, during the next severe economic downturn, when the left-wing rabble rousers will rise and raise the angry cry “monopoly capitalist American puppy”, rile up the masses of poor and starving people, and bring down the state.
Therein lies the difference between the definitions of “separation” in the U.S. and Philippines. One sees separation as a firm wall, the other a wall with a big door in the middle. And through the door stomp outspoken priests who do not seem to have national interest first and foremost in their minds.
In the U.S., it is considered good to be “of faith”, but one can push religion only so far. It is fine for a President to go to Church. It would be wrong for him to step to the pulpit and recruit Americans to his faith. It is fine for a Priest to step to the Legislative podium to open a session in prayer. But he cannot speak from the Church pulpit in favor of one candidate over another without risk of punishment.
In the Philippines, oddly enough, there is more “freedom” than in the U.S. Indeed, the Catholic Church and Iglesia Ni Cristo operate as clan leaders, instructing their flock on the “correct” vote on various political contests. And candidates actively seek church endorsements, thus selling their favor-trading souls and votes to the God of their choice, the God of their district.
The purpose of laws is to protect us from ourselves.
In the Philippines, laws do not protect broad, secular national interest from narrow religious doctrine.
27 Responses to “Separation of Church and State”
  1. Edgar Lores says:

    The idea of penalizing a church for perceived infringements is a capital idea! It would stop the Roman Catholic Church from constant meddling and the INC from block voting. The penalty of taxing the churches would fill the government coffers.But who would have the courage to author such a bill? Much less enact and implement it? The leftist Palatino withdrew his so called anti-God bill that would prohibit religious rites and imagery in government offices. Where do we find men of principle, with lion hearts and steel-but-not-titanium backbones?

  2. There, indeed, is the difficulty. Women are starting to speak through the vote. That is the vehicle. Only when candidates and the Church feel genuinely threatened will they change. Here is the other end of the value spectrum, which needs to go mainstream:

  3. Anonymous says:

    Separation of Church and State, Article II, Section 6 is not Absolute Preventive Clause. It was meant only to be Intentional by the use of the future word "SHALL." Church authorities are following the same evangelism tactics of Spanish friars. They sow fear instead of love on their constituents and at the same time tolerate their paganic and cultist ways of worship. El Shaddai prospered because its manipulation of the followers favored the methods of the Bishops. Watch Mike Velarde asked the congregants to show their envelopes where their requests to God are written and asked them to throw upwards to heaven.If this is not paganistic then history is wrong. CBCP even appointed a Bishop to become spiritual adviser because they have made arrangements with Velarde how to handle the finances. When a layman claims of miracles or apparitions of Saints or Jesus, they will immediately shut it down until they have complete control of the situation including how donations are apportioned. That apparition in Pangasinan was a perfect example.Catholic church profits from continous poverty, ignorance and fanaticism of the faithful. Pretending to care for them at the same time sowing fear in their minds if they go astray against Catholicism. If Love And Good is the message why not concentrate on them instead of preaching fear by talking about Satan and evil everytime a homily is delivered.In Psychology repetition of words is a better way to inculcate its meaning on the minds of subjects. Meanwhile, catholic priests and Bishops are wallowing on their luxurious lifestyles by accepting largesses from politicians.Before the eighties, it would be an exception seeing a priest driving a latest model car. Nowadays, it is the rule and the exception is a priest riding the bus because he is not corrupt. Former priest and governor Ed Panlilio is a living example. How many more can we count with five fingers? INC is a religious syndicate thriving on political exploitation. Common to hear now that if something "big" is requested from the administration or Congress or SC justices, "INC support" is always dangled. This is the true state of church and state illicit "love affair" in the Philippines which is unconstitutional. But who among the politicians will dare to declare it publicly?Johnny lin

  4. But not only the friars. Recall that US Pres. McKinley claimed that God told him to colonize the Philippines. :-)Incursions by churches into the state affairs is a global phenomenon. Look at the laws in Islamic countries. Look at how the religious right in the US has managed to legislate the teaching of creation in science classes and all that. Secularism is under attack. We have to defend it with everything we've got if we don't want a return tot the dark ages

  5. Anonymous says:

    In the US, what was added in school books was the alternative scientific creation, Big Bang theory, not the universe created by God which was already in place in school and public library books before the liberal left insisted on the inclusion in classroom teachings of the other theory. The religious right opposed the inclusion of the scientific theory and insisted on retention of the universe conception as God's creation.In principle, In the US they still try to abide by their constitution by avoiding religious activities or display of religious artifacts in federal and state properties. Contrary in the Philippines, where government officials permit the celebration of religious rituals inside public properties violating the constitutional provision. Party list Rep Palatino tried to make it right constitutionally but his fellow congressmen shut him out, as usual, for political expediency.Might be better if the Philippine constitutional Article on separation is eliminated and religious groups could openly become partisans rather than the current sham practice in observing the Article, hypocritically obeyed by both sides. Palatino was on the right track yet he did not have political and laymen support. Secularism will never be observed correctly until we the people lose our tribal instincts.

  6. Yes, I had a colonel as boss in the Army who fell on his knees each morning to get guidance from above as to what to do during the day. Gave me the heebie jeebies. I'd prefer just figuring it out in our best manly way.Yes, a two front attack on secularism. It astounds me how the smarter we get scientifically, the stupider we get spiritually.

  7. Yes, that is a great point you make in the last paragraph. It is the sham of it all, the manipulations, the name calling, the hypocrisy that is so ridiculous. Even in the U.S., the Christian movement is seeking control of political activities. Doesn't matter what the Constitution says, and the Supreme Court is packed with Christians.

  8. You are scaring me, Johnny.

  9. Cha says:

    The current Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, is an atheist.Nuff said.

  10. Australia, the land of convicts and other heathens. And, of course, Cha. ahahahahaha ;> (I love Australia. Spent three weeks there in 2004, Kakadu, Great Barrier Reef, hiking the Daintree rain forest (as the first ever tourist to be dragged up pieter bott by a guide who fortunately was very muscular). I'll post a photo or two, right side bar this coming week.

  11. Anonymous says:

    From: Island jim-e (aka: The Cricket)1. I stand breathless and my mind keeps re-cycling the wonderful information and insights I have witnessed fromthe articles on Separation and Ships….good show youall! I wish I had some hair left on my little bald headso I could pull my hair out as a show of "public protest"for the in-humanity and stupidity I witness daily! If I were really a "true-beliver" and had one last way of makinga "flaming-exit" I would become the first and only black-hole of this world we live in!2. I leave you with a Readers Digest type quote for your"thought to ponder" to wit: "Religion is the sigh of the oppressed people/creatures, the heart of a hearlessworld, and the soul of a soulless condition. It is theOPIUM of the people"! The "Fiftythousand dollarquestion–who said/wrote this? (notea;I hereby concur!)CHIRP…. Chirp!

  12. Cha says:

    In 2002, 1 Au$ = .60 US$.Today, 29Jul, 2012, 1 Au$= 1.08 US$The convicts and heathens are laughing all the way to the bank. ;pWill keep an eye out for photos.

  13. Anonymous says:

    @the cricketYou must have read a lot about Mao Tse TungHe he heJohnny lin

  14. Anonymous says:

    @JoeIammy point was directed mostly to Philippine players. In the US both religious and antichurch advocates are zealous in their drives to influence politicians on their agenda. Per se, nothing wrong with their advocacies and crediting American politicians in general, they are able to put a wedge on the issue. Although that is not the case in the courts. Some judges have strong christian beliefs that some of their decisions favor the religious right. On the other hand, did the forefathers really mean what was written in the american constitution? The good almighty dollar included "In God We Trust"! He he heJohnny lin

  15. Anonymous says:

    @JoeAmIn what way, am I scaring you? Truth is universal. There is a tagalog saying "pagsasabi ng totoo, pagsasama ng maluwat" I'm certain you could translate this saying by now He he heJohnny

  16. Anonymous says:

    JoeThe Outbacks have landedCrashing the almighty $ with their two feetJohnny

  17. Anonymous says:

    Heebie jeebies, what an expression! You must be fun to hang around with, Joe"To each, its own" Agree with you though, the first line of defense is "self"Don't get me wrong. I grew up in a very religious, catholic family. Well, they say there is always a prodigal one in each. Yet I do believe there is a Divine Intervenor. Dont care if the name is Jesus, Mohammed, Yahweh or Buddha. Everymorning, I wake up saying thanks to my Jesus and asking the same favor for the next 24. Does that fall under heeby jeeby? Johnny

  18. To understand how entrenched the value of "privilege" is withing the Catholic Church, and to know how forcefully Catholics wield political power.

  19. I also flick a prayer now and then, but never ask for anything. I figure with all the gifts I have been given, it would be rather rude to seek more. If I were poor, I would of course not feel this way. That, then, is where structured churches grab people in need. Grab 'em in their vulnerabilities.

  20. Thomas Jefferson without question believed church engagement in politics would lead to values other than the freedoms and principles to which he aspired. "The history of the dollar", in its artwork, would be a good blog. Maybe I'll do that. The "In God We Trust" line has been at the center of a lot of arguments.

  21. If I run out of things to say about the Philippines, I'll turn the typewriter on Australia. You've got some bugs under your rocks, too.

  22. Cha says:

    Bring it on! Just bear in mind that while the Philippines grapples with overbirthing and America debates on their President's birth origins, the Australians are keeping an eye on inflation, unemployment and interest rates and other economic indicators.When you run out of things to write about the two countries, the Australians would have raised all the money needed to exterminate them bugs. So good luck catching up. Ahahaha. (Seriously though, all I'm really saying is that the Australians, at the moment,, have one thing the two countries seem to have lost…. FOCUS.)

  23. Focus and no wars to fund . . .

  24. Anonymous says:

    In the interest of constitutionality and national interest, one anon was right that Palatino was on the right track, but rejected by his colleages. Joe cited "The separation of Church and State shall be inviolable. (Article II, Section 6)."Above provision declares religious objects and catholic masses in governmnet owned buildings as unconstitutional. Consequently, Palatino or any Juan Dela Cruz doesnt have to sponsor a special bill, but file a lawsuit to the Supreme Court. Prayers in public school in USA was declared unconstitutional because one parent complained and believes that it violates her religious rights being non catholic. Would be an interesting test to SC if they are capable of interpreting the constitution. Just remember when Corona conducts masses in the SC (govt property)when he was being impeached. The holy grail of unconstitutionality. Its Jack

  25. I think Philippine laws are not "hard" enough to get much done through legal action. The only thing that would cause the Church to rethink its doctrine is people leaving in droves.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Mostly of these people are heavy fanatical. Have you seen people nailed and crucified during holy week? How about those lunatics who hit their backs with whiplike object while cutting their skin to induce bleeding during a religious procession? Leaving in droves is not gonna happen Joe. Challenging the constitutionality should work. Its Jack

  27. I agree, challenging or even changing the constitution would draw a harder line. But I think that is not gonna happen, either. So Option C is for us to keep bitchin' and moanin' and tossing out of office those elected officials who won't do what is best for the Philippines, in our eyes. The RH Bill is gathering that kind of heat.

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