A continuation of our ongoing discussion on the RH bill.
Blogger Arvin Ortiz wrote a good piece on lobbying in a democracy, specifically referring to the Catholic Church lobbying for its side in the heated debate.
An excellent point made by Arvin is that although a democracy definitely allows for any group to lobby for its own interests, the Catholic Church flexing its muscles to champion its cause may be toeing the line. An example includes denial of communion to politicians favoring the bill which blogger: Pinoy Law Student criticized earlier.
My question is that while our democratic system allows for freedom of religion–does this accomodate “religious legislation”–or the encouragement of laws that favor a certain set of beliefs? Majority of Filipinos are Catholic which gives the Catholic Church tremendous influence over public sentiment, and while this is perfectly within the bounds of that freedom of religion, doesn’t lobbying for legislation in the name of Catholic beliefs potentially disparage the rights of those who are not Catholic?
Arvin links to an article of Manuel Quezon III which is an excellent commentary on religious freedom, separation of Church and State, and freedom of conscience which (admit it or not) lies at the heart of this ongoing debate.
If our secular state treads carefully so as to ensure that religious freedom (and freedom of conscience) is respected, particularly in the case of religious practices by minorities, it is less careful about the religion practiced by the majority of Filipinos. This is what sets the question of the separation of Church and State with regard to the Catholic hierarchy apart—it is the dominant religion, with a claim to the minds and hearts of a majority of our fellow citizens. The faith and morals of Catholics happen to be the articles of faith of the majority—and we are a nation that subscribes to the principle that questions of policy and leadership are best solved by invoking majority rule.
When the faith and morals, then, of the majority are endangered by what are perceived as minority-inspired proposals, what alternative does the majority have but to mobilize the faithful?
Fair enough that Catholics far outnumber any other religious denomination–but for me this numerical advantage should not make it easier for the Catholic Church to lobby for its prescribed morality and legislation furthering those ends. This is the essence of religious freedom.
MLQ3′s last statement sums it up nicely:
But it is fair and just to remind the hierarchy and the rest of the Catholic citizenry that our Republic does not exist for Catholics alone, and this means that their faith and morals cannot be made the exclusive basis for state policy.