Editorial: Not only Catholics-A A +A
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
IT'S possible Kabataan Partylist and Rep. Raymond Palatino didn’t expect the controversy generated by House Bill 6330 or the Religious Freedom in Government Offices Act. Or if they expected it, they must not have considered the breadth and intensity of the opposition to it.
Even then, one can consider reaction to House Bill 6330 in a positive light. By filing the bill, the party-list group succeeded in reopening the discussion on such principles as separation of Church and State and religious pluralism.
Indeed, much has changed in the understanding and practice of these principles since Catholicism was established in the Philippines by Spanish colonizers in the 16th century. American colonial rule and the recent globalization trend also provided arguments for such change.
The policy on the separation of Church and State was introduced by the Americans in reaction to the abuses perpetrated by Catholic friars who ruled the country together with the civil authorities under Spain. Religious tolerance would later be added to the separation.
Describing ourselves as being one of only two predominantly Catholic countries in Asia (the other being the relatively new state of East Timor) can be both a source of pride and a curse. It is a curse in the sense that it tends to obscure the existence of other religions whose freedoms also need to be recognized and tolerated.
In a way, Kabataan Partylist and Palatino may have been wrong in pushing for the use of legislation to impose something that is already evolving without resorting to compulsion. There is actually a growing sensitivity to the display of religious (Catholic) symbols and the practice of religious (Catholic) rituals in government offices.
Or to put it in another way, there is already growing recognition of the rights of religions other than the predominant one. Included in our list of holidays, for example, are no longer just Catholic celebrations (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Christmas, etc.) but also Muslim ones (Eid’l Fitr and Eidul Adha).
The point is to keep expanding such tolerance without sparking controversy or religious conflict. In this context, the Catholic Church hierarchy must also take the lead by raising the Catholic faithful’s awareness of religious pluralism.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on June 21, 2012.