SC okays holding of religious activities inside court houses

THE holding of masses and other religious rituals in the halls of justice in the country is not “constitutionally abhorrent,” the Supreme Court (SC) ruled.

In an en banc resolution, the High Court held that the conduct of religious rituals in the halls of justice does not amount to a union of the Church and State.

“To disallow the holding of religious rituals within halls of justice would set a dangerous precedent and commence a domino effect,” states the resolution penned by Associate Justice Jose Catral Mendoza.

In Cebu City, court personnel and employees hold a mass every first Friday of the month in the court house’s chapel located on the ground floor of Qimonda IT Center.

The ruling of the SC stemmed from the letter of Tony Valenciano, who asked retired chief justice Reynato Puno to prohibit the holding of religious rituals in the Quezon City Hall of Justice and in all halls of justice in the country in 2009.

Valenciano lamented that the basement of the Hall of Justice in Quezon City was converted into a Roman Catholic chapel, complete with offertory table, images of Catholic religious icons, a canopy, an electric organ, and a projector.

He said that such practice violated the constitutional provision on the separation of the Church and State as well as the constitutional prohibition against the appropriation of public money or property for the benefit of a sect, church, denomination, or any other system of religion.

In its recommendation report, the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) ruled that the practical inconveniences cited by Valenciano were unfounded.

OCA said that the principle of separation of the Church and State ought not to be interpreted according to the rigid standards of separation.

The High Court agreed with OCA’s recommendation and allowed the holding of religious rituals in the halls of justice.

“As there has been no detrimental effect on the public service or prejudice to the State, there is simply no state interest compelling enough to prohibit the exercise of religious freedom in the halls of justice,” they said.
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