Thursday, October 28, 2021

Sanchez: Mandatory Bible reading

Nature Speaks

I STUDIED in a Catholic school from elementary to high school run by nuns. Every day in school, we had religion classes expounding on the Catechism. I learned Church doctrine and Bible passages.

I joined Catholic school organizations. At one point, I was a volunteer catechist to teach Grade 5 students in a nearby public school. And then the re rigeur Friday masses.

At home, as a family we prayed the Rosary every night and went to Sunday masses.

In high school, some of my classmates expressed their teen rebellion openly proclaiming their atheism. But they were in the minority. We had debates, with me defending the Catholic position. And then came graduation.

For the first time in college, at the University of the Philippines, I was exposed to many ideas. There, the teachers emphasized the “marketplace of ideas.” In true liberal fashion, it didn’t matter what we believe in, so long as we can defend and reason out our beliefs.

I had classmates who were atheists, non-Catholic Christians, Muslims, Buddhists. Whatever.

I am thus alarmed at the proposed House Bill Minority Leader Bienvenido Abante Jr., a Baptist pastor, as he batted for the passage of a bill seeking to make Bible reading mandatory in all public elementary and secondary schools.

His argument? “If only Biblical discipline, principles and standards are taught and inculcated in the minds of our children, there would be no more problems on leadership, governance, and peace and order,” Abante pointed out.

The Manila representative is pastor of the Metropolitan Bible Baptist Church and Ministries in Sta. Ana, which he founded in 1975.

I could understand that would be mandatory if parents enroll their children in sectarian schools. It’s a choice if their children go to Catholic, Baptist, and Pentecostal schools.

But if they are going to enroll their children in public schools funded by taxpayers who hold different beliefs, that could be problematic.

I cannot understand why Muslim students who study at the Negros Occidental High School is required to read the Bible.

Besides what Bible? The Seventh Day Adventists taught to honor their Saturday Sabbath. The Iglesia ni Cristo, the Baptists and the Jehovah’s Witnesses hold different doctrinal interpretations of the Bible.

I support the position of Catholic Bishop Pablo Virgilio David who said in a statement that other students’ religions should be considered.

David noted that though the intention of the bill in Congress is good, it should respect other students’ religious beliefs.

“It would be (a) great idea to include an elective (meaning optional) subject on the Bible in junior or high school, if only to get students to appreciate how most, if not all, our good human values are drawn from this sacred book,” he said.

“There is nothing wrong about religious instruction being allowed in public schools, if it is done in a manner that is respectful of the students' religious affiliations,” he added.

Amen to that.


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