In Defense of the Troublesome, Meddlesome Catholic Church
The separation of church and state simply means the government must not favor any religion or make no law respecting an establishment of religion. This constitutional doctrine is a LIMITATION strictly applied to the state, not to private individuals or groups. It limits the state from making special favors or making a law respecting an establishment of religion. It does not LIMIT the freedom of religion or the rights of any individual. Why is this the case? Because the state or the government holds a monopoly on force.
I wrote a blog defending the right of the Catholic priests to practice their religion, to defend their faith and doctrines, and to even influence our politicians. Here’s what I wrote:
First, I’m a rabid atheist and I don’t like what the Church is doing. But I would never allow my atheism to distract my understanding of the concepts of individual rights and freedom. As a freedom loving individual (not an atheist), I believe that the Catholic priests or any religionists have the very right to spread their religious beliefs, defend their faith and doctrines, and even influence the government as long as they don’t initiate the use of force and fraud, and violate objective laws in this country.
Then a commenter made the following reaction: “So the solution is to up the ante by giving, not only the members but also, the institutions the right to be involved?”
Here’s my reply:
It is important to understand the concept of rights and freedom here, and then apply this understanding to the issue at hand.
Nobody is giving the members and the “institutions” the right to get involved in politics. “Members” of any religious institution have the right to speak their minds and get involved in any activities, whether political or secular, so long as they don’t initiate the use of physical force. That’s their constitutional right and it’s part of natural law. Rights are not granted or given; they’re merely recognized and respected by the Constitution. Nobody grants anyone such rights. We, as individuals, have to have “rights” in order for us to live as civilized human beings. Rights are part of our humanity. It’s part of the law of nature.
I’d like to address here one big FALLACY that poisons the minds of those who’d like to strip the Church of their right to make political speeches and conduct political actions. This is the fallacy of “COLLECTIVE TERM.” Examples of collective terms are “Church”, “society,” “Association”, “community,” “nation,” “race”, “class,” and “us.” These collective terms as simply abstractions; they’re not concretes. They are, in the strictest sense of the term, figments of the imagination. A society, an association, a community, or a nation or race is not a breathing, living, thinking, and acting entity. Thus, it is a fallacy to assume that the Catholic Church is a living, breathing, thinking entity.
Some people in this country whom I call “statists” or “collectivists” presume that a collective, such as the Catholic Church or the CBCP, is, in fact, a living, breathing, thinking, and acting entity. A collective has no right, because rights only pertain to living and thinking entities or to human beings. Only an individual has rights. Only the individual can have the capacity to think, act, and pursue certain goal-directed actions. That is, he is the only source of all human action.
So in this case, those who form part of an “institution”, which can be the Church or the CBCP, have the very right to make political speeches, defend their religious doctrines or faith, or even influence the government through their actions and activities. Influencing the government per se is NOT illegal, if the act of influence does not involve the use of force, fraud, or any immoral or unlawful means, such as giving bribes or favors.
Now, the implication here is: If you strip the members of any religious institution of their right to make political comments or to try to influence politicians, then do not expect that you are also entitled to exercise the same right denied of these people.
Some people accuse the priests of “meddling in” politics. But the problem is, what these people do not understand is that they’re also meddling in politics and trying their very best to influence the government. Again, the mere act of meddling is not illegal. It becomes illegal when such an act involves the use of force, undue influence, or any illegal means.
The separation of church and state simply means the government must not favor any religion or make no law respecting an establishment of religion. This constitutional doctrine is a LIMITATION strictly applied to the state, not to private individuals or groups. It limits the state from making special favors or making a law respecting an establishment of religion. It does not LIMIT the freedom of religion or the rights of any individual. Why is this the case? Because the state or the government holds a monopoly on force. The Catholic Church or any religious institution does not wield the same “force”. Today, the Catholic Church no longer has the political power it enjoyed over 100 years ago.
This non-establishment clause, according to Thomas Jefferson in his letter to Danbury Baptists in 1802, is a “building a wall of separation between Church and State”. Jefferson said that “[a]dhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.”
Also in the Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom in 1779 Jefferson, the man who penned The Declaration of Independence that is the fountainhead of freedom in the modern world, states that “Well aware that Almighty God hath created the mind free:
that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burdens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the Holy Author of our religion, who being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do;
that the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world, and through all time;
that to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical;
that even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion, is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness, and is withdrawing from the ministry those temporal rewards, which proceeding from an approbation of their personal conduct, are an additional incitement to earnest and unremitting labors for the instruction of mankind;
that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, more than our opinions in physics or geometry;
that, therefore, the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to the offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which in common with his fellow citizens he has a natural right;
that it tends also to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing, with a monopoly of worldly honors and emoluments, those who will externally profess and conform to it;
that though indeed these are criminal who do not withstand such temptation, yet neither are those innocent who lay the bait in their way;
that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles, on the supposition of their ill tendency, is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty, because he being of course judge of that tendency, will make his opinions the rule of judgment, and approve or condemn the sentiments of others only as they shall square with or differ from his own;
that it is time enough for the rightful purposes of civil government, for its officers to interfere when principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order;
and finally, that truth is great and will prevail if left to herself, that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate, errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them.
The United States Constitution on which we partially based our 1987 charter, provides the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment that bans the establishment of a national religion by the legislature or the preference of one religion over another, atheism or irreligion over religion, or religion over irreligion. A long line of court cases in the United States and also in the Philippines highlights this limitation or restriction against the government or the state to promote a state religion or any religion. Justice David Scouter, in the Board of Education of Kiryas Joel Village School District v. Grumet, 512 U.S. 687 (1994), wrote that “government should not prefer one religion to another, or religion to irreligion.”
However, the Philippine Supreme Court in 1939 had a very different, or should I say, very unconstitutional, interpretation of the Separation clause. In the case of Aglipay v. Ruiz involving the Establishment Clause, the Court concluded that the government may have preference of one religion over another if the action or preference is “deemed advantageous to the Government.” The case stemmed from a petition filed by Mons. Gregorio Aglipay, Supreme Head of the Philippine Independent Church, to prevent the respondent Director of Posts from issuing and selling postage stamps commemorative of the Thirty-third International Eucharistic Congress. Aglipay alleged that the respondent’s action was violative of the provisions of section 23, subsection 3, Article VI, of the Constitution of the Philippines, which provides as follows:
No public money or property shall ever be appropriated, applied, or used, directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, secretarian, institution, or system of religion, or for the use, benefit, or support of any priest, preacher, minister, or other religious teacher or dignitary as such, except when such priest, preacher, minister, or dignitary is assigned to the armed forces or to any penal institution, orphanage, or leprosarium.
The ponente of the case, Justice Laurel, who ruled against the petition, concluded: “Even if we were to assume that these officials made use of a poor judgment in issuing and selling the postage stamps in question still, the case of the petitioner would fail to take in weight. Between the exercise of a poor judgment and the unconstitutionality of the step taken, a gap exists which is yet to be filled to justify the court in setting aside the official act assailed as coming within a constitutional inhibition.”
Of course I’m disgusted by the Church’s meddling in secular and political affairs in this country. But the solution is not to obliterate the rights of the Catholic priests or any religionists. The solution is not to deny them of their inalienable rights guaranteed by our Constitution. The only solution is to vote out the politicians who pander to the religious wishes and will of the Catholic priests or any religionists. The solution is to remove the tax exempt status enjoyed by religions by means of constitutional amendment or revision. And the solution is proper, private or non-state-funded education.
So to all the anti-rights IGNORAMUSES out there, BACK OFF!
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