- NOTE: This article was first posted on my old site on March 29, 2011.
The empty arrogance and ignorance of some people in the mainstream media is so disturbing and alarming. Consider the
curious case of this Manila Times’ columnist named Buddy Cunanan.
Mr. Cunanan, one of the strongest media supporters of the Reproductive Health bill, wrote two ill-informed, laughable opinion articles titled Catholic Talibanand The Silent Pro-RH Bill Majority. In the first column, Mr. Cunanan passionately defended notorious social reproductivist Carlos Celdran and criticized the Catholic church’s trying to “sway state policies by alluding to issues in homilies or employing back-channel approaches to quietly influence politicians.”
My problem with Mr. Cunanan’s pathetic piece is that he has a very sophomoric, shallow, and illogical understanding of the principle of separation of church and state. He wrote:“Unfortunately, the Church has just gone too far. For instance, emblazoned on the façade of the Manila Cathedral are two very big signs that read “Do we need the RH Bill? No!”. I have traveled extensively all over the Catholic world and this is the first time I have ever seen such a direct and barefaced manifestation of the Church’s interference in state affairs. What is even more shocking and alarming is that thousands of people pass in front of the Manila Cathedral everyday, yet no one seems to have noticed this or complained about it.” REALLY! Does that constitute the Church’s attempt to violate the separation clause?
First, let me make it very clear that I am an atheist and I strongly disagree with the infamous, anti-freedom Alabang ordinance that aims to limit people’s freedom to buy condom and to use contraception. In a previous blog piece titled Protecting “Unborn Children” or Sacrificing Actual Human Beings I wrote:
“The phrase “to equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn child from conception” smacks of utter hypocrisy! There is no “unborn child” to be protected yet when we’re talking about the use of condoms. To protect a non-existing entity is to disregard the existence of those who exist. There is the actual, living, breathing human body to be protected FIRST against sexually transmitted diseases or even unwanted pregnancy. What those who drafted and passed this highly idiotic ordinance failed or refused to realize or understand is that their measure seeks to sacrifice the actual human being to a potential or to a thing that does not exist yet. Both the RH bill supporters and the anti-abortion group are statists or fascists. They are willing to use the coercive powers of the state in order to achieve their anti-reason, anti-freedom objectives. Those who push for the passage of the RH bill are pro-government control of our lives while the anti-abortion people who try to ban the use of condoms and artificial family planning methods are not pro-life– they are in fact pro-death! Thus, the ordinance must cease to exist in order to protect those who are still willing to think and to exist! There is no such thing as “unborn children.” An “unborn child” is not even a potential, but a ridiculous illusion.”
I agree with Mr. Cunanan that the Catholic Church cannot justifiably violate the principle of separation of church and state. However, the Church must not be entirely blamed for the passage of that unconstitutional village ordinance. The blame must go to the village officials who caused its passage.
I also agree with his statement that “[t]he Philippines is a secular country, as enshrined in Article 2, section 6 of the 1987 constitution, which states that the separation of Church and State is inviolable”, and that “the government should not make any laws that aid or give preference to a certain religion, nor should any religious group or denomination interfere in government affairs and policies.” However, it seems that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
He quoted the right constitutional provision yet he came up with a highly sophomoric, anti-legal evaluation. For the information of Mr. Cunanan, 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 (e.g., Catholic Church, Iglesia Ni Cristo, etc.). 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.
We already have that principle under the current setup as proved by Mr. Cunanan’s quotation. Thus, logic has it that the Catholic Church has no political power to violate, to negate or to bastardize it. The responsibility to protect and maintain the separation of church and state falls to the government, which has the most noble, most important duty to protect individual rights and freedom. Everybody has the right to influence the government, and I must repeat here that mere influence is not illegal. However, if the Catholic church employs illegal and unconstitutional means in influencing our most corrupt and statist politicians, then logically the government has to use the power of the state in order to penalize the guilty.
In a previous blog titled In Defense of the Troublesome, Meddlesome Catholic Church, I stated:
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 with 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.
I was indeed right in saying that the separation of church and state is one of the most misunderstood principles by Filipino atheists and pseudo-intellectuals. Some Filipino secular mystics like the Filipino Freefarters (Freethinkers) and professional media practitioners like Cunanan believe that in order to guarantee the total separation of church and state, a political mechanism that would perpetually bar the religionists from trying to influence the government should be put in place. Based on my personal observation, those who arrogantly yet ignorantly invoke this principle seek to promote neither secularism nor freedom. In truth and in reality, these people (who are mostly misguided atheists) are advocates of arbitrary government control and anti-freedom political measures.
Now in his latest take on the anti-RH bill people, Cunanan committed an implied fallacy of generalization. I say it’s implied because he did not directly state that all anti-RH bill advocates are Catholics or religionists. He wrote: “Sadly, the RH Bill controversy reveals that many Filipinos, even those who have attained higher education, are either misinformed or ignorant about the basic concepts of secularism, separation of Church and State, and the meaning of “pro-life”. Amazingly, many anti-RH Bill proponents who commented on my column saw absolutely nothing wrong with the Church’s blatant lobbying and politicking and other religious activities such as celebrating masses in government offices.”
However, it appears that he’s simply referring to himself, as he’s one of “those who have attained higher education who are either misinformed or ignorant about the basic concepts of secularism, separation of Church and State…”
This is exactly what most social reproductivists cannot understand. The RH bill is not a religious issue. It is an intellectual, philosophical issue. It is an intellectual issue as it covers numerous disciplines and fields, such as philosophy, economics, politics, the law, science, medicine, and religion. Yes, religion is just one of the many ramifications of this issue.
Every freedom-loving individual, particularly employer or doctor, must oppose this fascist bill because most of its provisions contravene individual rights and freedom. Yes, the bill seeks to violate the following constitutionally guaranteed rights:
- Equal protection under the law
- The rights and freedom of employers
- The rights and freedom of doctors and health care providers
- The rights and freedom of parents to decide on their own
- The rights and freedom of the people to say NO to government intrusion into family homes and people’s private lives.
- The rights and freedom of young students against state-imposed sex education
- The people’s right to free speech and freedom of expression
- Everybody’s right to be left alone
- Everybody’s right against any probable imposition of higher or new taxes
- The right to freedom of choice, which is being perverted and destroyed by Rep. Edcel Lagman and his stupid ilk
Mr. Cunanan should understand that this issue does not involve religion or religious beliefs. However, I must admit that the Catholics and religionists have successfully hi-jacked the anti-RH bill camp. The tragic fact is that the religionists appear to be the leading force against the RH bill, and this shows the worsening level of intellectual bankruptcy in the country today. The irony is that the religionists, led by the Catholic Church, somehow believe that they are the intended victims of this bill. They are not! They are protesting simply because they believe that the measure itself is against the will of their God! And if they had their way, they would also try to pass a legislative proposal that would ban the use of contraception like the village officials of Alabang in Makati city did a few weeks ago. If they had their way, they would also use the power of the state against some group of individuals who don’t subscribe to their religious beliefs.
I repeat what I stated in a previous blog titled I am an Atheist and I Oppose the RH Bill:
The real victims of the RH bill are NOT the religionists; it is the employers, health care providers, and freedom-loving individuals. However, its consequential victims who would suffer great negative consequences are the measure’s primary beneficiaries— the poor and the marginalized women. (Suggested readings:Responsible Parenthood Bill: A Fascist Legislation by Another Nameand The Most Needed Victims of Fascist RH Bill: Businessmen and Doctors).
Both Filipino and foreign employers who own small or big business would be forced to provide the RH care needs of their employees. They could be penalized by either fine or imprisonment or both in case they fail or refuse to provide these services to their workers. So under the proposed measure, employers, regardless of the nature, size and economic status of their business, would be forced to serve the welfare of their workers. The bill would authorize the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to directly deal with employers and companies, as if the latter were part of the government or state employees. It also empowers DOLE to issue directives in the furtherance of its new function as guarantor of people’s RH rights.
Based on the tragic experiences of other countries that passed anti-business edicts, the most inevitable consequence of statist measures is economic collapse and devastation. Consider the case of the United States that passed universal health care law, otherwise known as the ObamaCare. Reports say that several companies, mostly politically connected with the Obama administration, and unions, asked for exemption or waiver. Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz, who supported the measure now realized that it is hurting small business.
Ideas have consequences. Evil ideas definitely lead to evil consequences. Some Filipinos continue to support the bill simply because they believe there is such no right or wrong in this issue. They perhaps believe that any issue that can potentially affect our rights and freedom is subject to public vote, and if the majority decides, then that makes a proposal or an issue right. Such a mentality is not to be applied in business or in the field of medicine. Look at the most successful companies in the world today. They were not the result of skeptical or no-right-and-wrong mentality. If a doctor followed this so mediocre a state of mind, the life of his patient would be put at great risk.
Should our statist politicians pass the measure, that would signal the end of the country’s free health care and medicine as we know it. Today, doctors still enjoy the freedom they need to properly perform their job and to improve their craft. Nobody tells them how to perform their job, what medicine to prescribe, or whether to advise the use of contraception, ligation, or vasectomy to their patients. Doctors today are free to pursue their work according to their self-interest and rational judgment. But free from whom? From government intervention! However, in the name of the poor, some of our politicians and their mindless civilian supporters would like to put the entire medical industry under state control.
The mere fact that I wrote and published this piece proves that there are men and women in this country who are willing to THINK, and who based their arguments on reason and logic, and not on religion or any socialist/statist ideology or arguments.