THE recent call by Church leaders for the faithful to vote with their conscience and not to be lured by campaign propaganda, radio-TV commercials, as well as results of popularity surveys, somehow betrays the inability of the Church to remain detached from politics and strictly uphold the democratic principle of separation of Church and State.

The Church, it seems, cannot just stand by and allow its tenets upended.

Click here for stories and updates on the Sinulog 2010 Festival.

At the risk of generating adverse reactions from various sectors, the Church took an aggressive stance to generate mixed voting that might complicate the task of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in attaining credible election results.

Already, critics of the Comelec are sowing doubts over its poll automation program, and its likelihood of succeeding.

(Double standard)

Events in the country's upcoming political exercise have the traditional separateness of public governance and religious operation constantly emerging as a flash point in the relationship.

For many months now, the Church has been having a "running gun battle" with the public sector, as well as elements of the national government, who are openly behind the proposed Reproductive Health bill, to the extent of denying poll support to proponents.

Reacting to the call of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) for the faithful "not to be swayed by survey results and political advertisements" but to follow instead the dictates of their conscience after a prayerful and collective period of discernment," some people accused the bishops of having a double standard of religious outlook.

While asking people to vote with their conscience, CBCP urges them not to vote for candidates supporting the RH bill.

(Conflicts)

The relationship between Church and State is a long accepted practice under the democratic principle of freedom of religion conceived by the democratic thinkers of early England.

It was arrived at as a kind of agreement between the English nobility and the Church of England.

The principle has since been accepted as a natural right of people in a democracy to preserve the freedom of religion.

However, the changing moral and spiritual profile of the Philippines' socio-political condition has increasingly shown a need for some kind of intervention from the Church, not so much because of threats to certain Church tenets as it is due to dangers posed by corruption of the moral and spiritual values of the faithful.

Thus, conflicts over the RH bill and the ongoing clashes over issues of the political campaigns have emerged.