Tyranny-A A +A
Saturday, June 23, 2012
HOUSE Bill 6330 dubbed the Religious Freedom in Government Offices Act has stirred epic condemnation. The common thread of criticism for Kabataan Partylist Rep. Raymond Palatino’s bill which bans religious icons, symbols and ceremonies in government offices is that it curtails religious freedom.
But does it? It bans communal worship of any religion in the premises of a government office. It does NOT ban private worship of any religion by any individual even inside the confines of a government office. The prohibition is on public not private space.
Does Palatino truly misinterpret the Constitution that guarantees “the free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference?” Is it not discriminatory to non-Catholics when Catholic icons are displayed in government offices? Is it not preferential to the Catholic faith when Catholic rites are held inside government institutions?
Palatino critics say no one is being compelled to attend Catholic rites inside government offices. No office memo need be circulated. When the boss spearheads any event of any kind, all employees know it would bode better for them to participate.
It’s called moral suasion. It’s why we buy tickets to raise money for the boss’ pet projects. It’s why we buy direct-selling products the boss sells on the side. There is pressure, not necessarily force, to comply or to fall out of grace.
House Bill 6330 seeks to make the state religiously neutral in order to provide all citizens, regardless of faith, the same rights in terms of government. The bill does not seek to have individuals abandon their religion, only to separate matters of faith from matters of the state.
I understand this concept is completely alien to the majority of Filipinos. The Spanish friars, after all, ruled our nation, for 300 years. But you only have to read the books of our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, to see that the merger of church and state resulted in religious tyranny.
Palatino has been called crazy, his bill labeled nonsense but who’s really make sense here? Those who say that because the Philippines is 83 percent Catholic, the rest of the population should just shut up and bear with whatever the Catholic majority desires?
Are we saying that in a roomful of people, majority of whom agree to drink cyanide, the minority should just shut up and comply? This is a cult. Not a community. This is tyranny not democracy.
Reactions from both lay and ecclesiastical groups have been telling. Those who choose not to practice the predominant religion in this country are still persecuted for rejecting orthodoxy. That, I say, is curtailment of religious freedom.
Today, the Catholics are up in arms, saying that those who feel offended by Catholic rites and icons should simply shut up because they are the minority. I say beware of the tyranny of the majority. The Inquisition was a moment of great shame in history.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on June 24, 2012.