Friday, July 31, 2015

The Separation of Church and State in the Philippines and How I View It

These past weeks, we have been bombarded by news regarding the apparent rift within the Iglesia ni Cristo hierarchy. I’m not really familiar with the INC’s past and I was bent on not touching the subject with a twenty foot pole. But when this article popped up on my Facebook news feed, the phrase “separation of church and state” shot through my mind. Then another popped up and here I am. 

To be clear, I still don't care about the internal problems of the INC. 

Now, the phrase "separation of church and state" has been shoved down our collective throats for a few years now. I'm pretty sure the battle to enact or junk the Reproductive Health Bill is still pretty fresh in most Filipino minds. People kept pointing to Article II Section 6 of the constitution. But what does the separation of church and state mean? More importantly, how have I, a layman, been affected by it?

John Locke is thought to be the source of the need for secularization. Locke basically said that the state is a man-made group that was formed because without it, human nature will end man. It is bonded by an external need which is to survive in a pleasant environment. Church on the other hand is concerned with internal struggles. Its main goal is salvation and every individual chooses his own path to it. 

According to him, the state really doesn't have a voice in which path that person takes to heaven. This is still pretty true if you think about it. Summarizing his words, you can torture someone to convert to a religion. And sure, by the end of that torture he may accept baptism or whatever ritual you want him to take. But deep down inside, that person still has the option to believe in something completely different. It's like me. I am a baptized Catholic. But that doesn't mean I believe everything the Church says. 

Now, you may have observed how bad it would be if the state meddled in the church's business. But in the case of the Philippines, some have argued that the church is doing the meddling.

The church has always been a fixture in political discussions in the Philippines. Aside from the RH Bill, the Divorce Bill and the EDSA Revolutions come to mind. The Catholic Church is the not only one present by the way. The INC bloc voting is one of the things that urged me to write this. We saw Eddie Villanueva run for President. In 2010, Apollo Quiboloy's blessing was also sought after by the candidates.

If you think the church is only present in national politics, I am sure your haven't come across this.

Fr. Oscar Cruz wrote that the church can't sit idly by as the state leads the people to a life of poverty where rights are not respected. In a way I agree with him. I mean, priests and nuns or any other leader of a religious group has the right to voice out political matters.

I don't subscribe to the belief that since they don't pay taxes, they should be silent about political matters. The problem with that statement is that the people living in the streets don't pay taxes. But should they not have a say in politics? In any case, both still pay taxes indirectly since they still buy stuff.

The separation of church and state has been blurry in the Philippines. We're not like the Maldives. You can believe your toilet is God if you want and you won't have to worry about the police. But the church definitely has great influence in how we conduct politics. The question is, should this be the case? NO. 

By the way, I'm not a lawyer or constitutional expert so I'm not gonna reference the constitution in defending my answer.

You see, I subscribe to a lot of western political ideals. But aside from politics, there is one branch that I consider whenever I answer this question and that is Public Administration.

Public Administration is basically the study of the government itself as oppose to politics which studies how decisions are made. I am no expert but the Public Administration uses Accountability and Professionalism a lot.

My problem with the church influencing government is there is no professionalism. Politicians deciding to go against the RH bill because it's against their beliefs give no attention to their constituents who don't share their beliefs. That's like a member of a business partnership moving the location without consulting the partner.

Aside from that, how can we be sure that it is God's will? For every transaction with the government, we expect a receipt or any proof of the transaction. This is because the government tries to be professional and accountable. Is there any paperwork with God's signature that if we use condoms, we will go to hell?

Notice that I did not antagonize the church. That's because as citizens, they have the right to voice out their concerns. This doesn't mean that I don't think that voicing these political concerns during homilies is bad. It's just that I can always choose not to believe even if I'm a Catholic. If I get fed up, I can live church altogether. And if the church decides to threaten me, the state will be there to protect me... well they should be there to protect me.

The separation of church and state is on the state. It should be professional enough to make sound unpopular decisions and take into account every stakeholder no matter the religious belief. But then again, it's hard to imagine the Philippines having that kind of government. I mean big brother isn't setting a good example.

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