The right of a man to worship God in his own view is guaranteed by the Bill of Rights under Article III, Section 5 of the 1987 Constitution of the Philippines which states that:
“No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The free exervise and enjoyment of religious profession and whoship, without discrimniation or preference, shall forever be allowed. No religious test shall be requires for the exercise of civil or political rights.”
Restriction by any law in exercising this right is prohibited by the Constitution itself.
Meaning of religion
According to Concise Oxford Dictionary, religion is the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods. a particular system of faith and worship. a pursuit or interest followed with devotion.
Aspects of religions freedom
- The separation of Church and State
- The freedom of religious profession and worship
- Freedom to believe in a religion
- Freedom to act in accordance with such belief
To believe and Act
Thus the (First) amendment embraces two concepts – freedom to believe and freedom to act. The first is absolute, but in the nature of things, the second cannot be… In the case at bar, petitioners are not denied or restrained of their freedom of belief or choice of their religion, but only in the manner by which they had attempted to translate the same to action. But between the freedom of belief and the exercise of said belief, there is quite a stretch of road to travel. If the exercise of said religious belief clashes with the established institutions of society and with the law, then the former must yield and give way to the latter. The government steps in and either restrains said exercise or even prosecutes the one exercising it.
Justice Teenhankee says:
- The right to freely exercise one’s religion is guaranteed in Section 8 of our Bill of Rights. (footnote omitted) Freedom of worship, alongside with freedom of expression and speech and peaceable assembly “along with the other intellectual freedoms, are highly ranked in our scheme of constitutional values. It cannot be too strongly stressed that on the judiciary – even more so than on the other departments – rests the grave and delicate responsibility of assuring respect for and deference to such preferred rights. No verbal formula, no sanctifying phrase can, of course, dispense with what has been so felicitously termed by Justice Holmes ‘as the sovereign prerogative of judgment.’ Nonetheless, the presumption must be to incline the weight of the scales of justice on the side of such rights, enjoying as they do precedence and primacy.’ (J.B.L. Reyes, 125 SCRA at pp. 569-570)
- In the free exercise of such preferred rights, there is to be no prior restraint although there may be subsequent punishment of any illegal acts committed during the exercise of such basic rights. The sole justification for a prior restraint or limitation on the exercise of these basic rights is the existence of a grave and present danger of a character both grave and imminent, of a serious evil to public safety, public morals, public health or any other legitimate public interest, that the State has a right (and duty) to prevent (Idem, at pp. 560-561).
The establishment clause
The constitutional provisions not only prohibits legislation for the support of any religious tenets or the modes of worship of any sect, thus forestalling compulsion by law of the acceptance of any creed or the practice of any form of worship (U.S. Ballard, 322 U.S. 78, 88 L. ed. 1148, 1153), but also assures the free exercise of one’s chosen form of religion within limits of utmost amplitude. It has been said that the religion clauses of the Constitution are all designed to protect the broadest possible liberty of conscience, to allow each man to believe as his conscience directs, to profess his beliefs, and to live as he believes he ought to live, consistent with the liberty of others and with the common good. (footnote omitted). Any legislation whose effect or purpose is to impede the observance of one or all religions, or to discriminate invidiously between the religions, is invalid, even though the burden may be characterized as being only indirect. (Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398, 10 L.ed.2d 965, 83 S. Ct. 1970) But if the state regulates conduct by enacting, within its power, a general law which has for its purpose and effect to advance the state’s secular goals, the statute is valid despite its indirect burden on religious observance, unless the state can accomplish its purpose without imposing such burden. (Braunfeld v. Brown, 366 U.S. 599, 6 L ed. 2d. 563, 81 S. Ct. 144; McGowan v. Maryland, 366 U.S. 420, 444-5 and 449)
Justice Laurel says:
The prohibition herein expressed is a direct corollary of the principle of separation of church and state. Without the necessity of adverting to the historical background of this principle in our country, it is sufficient to say that our history, not to speak of the history of mankind, has taught us that the union of church and state is prejudicial to both, for occasions might arise when the state will use the church, and the church the state, as a weapon in the furtherance of their respective ends and aims . . . It is almost trite to say now that in this country we enjoy both religious and civil freedom. All the officers of the Government, from the highest to the lowest, in taking their oath to support and defend the Constitution, bind themselves to recognize and respect the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom, with its inherent limitations and recognized implications. It should be stated that what is guaranteed by our Constitution is religious liberty, not mere toleration.
Establishment Clause versus Free Exercise Clause
Tension is also apparent when a case is decided to uphold the Free Exercise Clause and consequently exemptions from a law of general applicability are afforded by the Court to the person claiming religious freedom; the question arises whether the exemption does not amount to support of the religion in violation of the Establishment Clause. This was the case in the Free Exercise Clause case of Sherbert where the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, viz:
In holding as we do, plainly we are not fostering the “establishment” of the Seventh-day Adventist religion in South Carolina, for the extension of unemployment benefits to Sabbatarians in common with Sunday worshippers reflects nothing more than the governmental obligation of neutrality in the face of religious differences, and does not represent that involvement of religious with secular institutions which it is the object of the Establishment Clause to forestall.371 (emphasis supplied)
Tension also exists when a law of general application provides exemption in order to uphold free exercise as in the Walz case where the appellant argued that the exemption granted to religious organizations, in effect, required him to contribute to religious bodies in violation of the Establishment Clause. But the Court held that the exemption was not a case of establishing religion but merely upholding the Free Exercise Clause by “sparing the exercise of religion from the burden of property taxation levied on private profit institutions.
How the tension between the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause will be resolved is a question for determination in the actual cases that come to the Court. In cases involving both the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause, the two clauses should be balanced against each other. The courts must review all the relevant facts and determine whether there is a sufficiently strong free exercise right that should prevail over the Establishment Clause problem. In the United States, it has been proposed that in balancing, the free exercise claim must be given an edge not only because of abundant historical evidence in the colonial and early national period of the United States that the free exercise principle long antedated any broad-based support of disestablishment, but also because an Establishment Clause concern raised by merely accommodating a citizen’s free exercise of religion seems far less dangerous to the republic than pure establishment cases. Each time the courts side with the Establishment Clause in cases involving tension between the two religion clauses, the courts convey a message of hostility to the religion that in that case cannot be freely exercised.374 American professor of constitutional law, Laurence Tribe, similarly suggests that the free exercise principle “should be dominant in any conflict with the anti-establishment principle.” This dominance would be the result of commitment to religious tolerance instead of “thwarting at all costs even the faintest appearance of establishment.”375 In our jurisdiction, Fr. Joaquin Bernas, S.J. asserts that a literal interpretation of the religion clauses does not suffice. Modern society is characterized by the expanding regulatory arm of government that reaches a variety of areas of human conduct and an expanding concept of religion. To adequately meet the demands of this modern society, the societal values the religion clauses are intended to protect must be considered in their interpretation and resolution of the tension. This, in fact, has been the approach followed by the Philippine Courts.
Anent the representation that attendance to religious devotion is not a “cut” in public service alleging that people of Muslim faith can accomplish many good deeds outside office such as promotion of unity, peace and understanding among the people must similarly be rejected. The theory is that a religious belief by itself cannot in any degree affect public interest (Textbook on the Philippine Constitution, Hector SCRA De Leon, 1991 Edition). The promotion of unity, peace and understanding is a right accompanying the right to religion as it partakes the form of the right to dissemination of belief. Additionally, the exercise of religious profession and worship is obviously alien to performance of work considering that the former is a cleric activity and the latter is secular one.
Freedom not to associate
(Republic Act No. 3350) was intended to serve the secular purpose of advancing the constitutional right to the free exercise of religion, by averting that certain persons be refused work, or be dismissed from work, or be dispossessed of their right to work and of being impeded to pursue a modest means of livelihood, by reason of union security agreements. . . . The primary effects of the exemption from closed shop agreements in favor of members of religious sects that prohibit their members from affiliating with a labor organization, is the protection of said employees against the aggregate force of the collective bargaining agreement, and relieving certain citizens of a burden on their religious beliefs, and . . . eliminating to a certain extent economic insecurity due to unemployment.
A fundamental personal right and liberty
Religious freedom, although not unlimited, is a fundamental personal right and liberty (Schneider v. Irgington, 308 U.S. 147, 161, 84 L.ed.155, 164, 60 S.Ct. 146) and has a preferred position in the hierarchy of values. Contractual rights, therefore, must yield to freedom of religion. It is only where unavoidably necessary to prevent an immediate and grave danger to the security and welfare of the community that infringement of religious freedom may be justified, and only to the smallest extent necessary.
Right, not absolute
More importantly, the right to act in accordance with one’s belief is not and cannot be absolute. Conduct remains subject to regulation and even prohibition for the protection of society (Cantwell vs. Connecticut, 310 U.SCRA 296). It may not be used to justify an action or refusal inconsistent with general welfare of society (People vs. Diel, [CA] 44 O.G. 590, August 22, 1947). One of the regulations imposed in its exercise is the compliance of government employees to Section 5 of the Omnibus Rules relative to the number of working hours. While government employees of Muslim faith are excused from work between the hours of 10 o’clock in the morning up to 2 o’clock in the afternoon every Friday, they are obligated to compensate said lost working hours by adopting flexible time schedule to complete forty hours of work in a week.
Church versus State
We are not persuaded that by exempting the Jehovah’s Witnesses from saluting the flag, singing the national anthem and reciting the patriotic pledge, this religious group which admittedly comprises a ‘small portion of the school population’ will shake up our part of the globe and suddenly produce a nation ‘untaught and uninculcated in and unimbued with reverence for the flag, patriotism, love of country and admiration for national heroes’ (Gerona v. Secretary of Education, 106 Phil. 224). After all, what the petitioners seek only is exemption from the flag ceremony, not exclusion from the public schools where they may study the Constitution, the democratic way of life and form of government, and learn not only the arts, sciences, Philippine history and culture but also receive training for a vocation or profession and be taught the virtues of ‘patriotism, respect for human rights, appreciation of national heroes, the rights and duties of citizenship, and moral and spiritual values’ (Sec. 3, Art. XIV, 1987 Constitution) as part of the curricula. Expelling or banning the petitioners from Philippine schools will bring about the very situation that this Court has feared in Gerona. Forcing a small religious group, through the iron hand of the law, to participate in a ceremony that violates their religious beliefs, will hardly be conducive to love of country or respect for duly constituted authorities.
Furthermore, let it be noted that coerced unity and loyalty even to the country, x x x- assuming that such unity and loyalty can be attained through coercion- is not a goal that is constitutionally obtainable at the expense of religious liberty. A desirable end cannot be promoted by prohibited means.
It is certain that not every conscience can be accommodated by all the laws of the land; but when general laws conflict with scruples of conscience, exemptions ought to be granted unless some ‘compelling state interest’ intervenes.
- Gerona vs. Secretary of Education, 106 Phil. 2
- Everson vs. Board of Education, 330 U. SCRA 1
- West Virginia State Board of Education vs. Barnette, 319 U. SCRA 624
- Ebralinag vs. Division Superintendent of Schools of Cebu, March 1, 1993
- Aglipay vs. Ruiz, 64 Phil. 201
- Centeno vs. Villalon, 236 SCRA 197
- Cox vs. New Hampshire, 312 U. SCRA 569
- Fonacier vs. CA, 96 Phil. 417
- Garces vs. Estenzo, 104 SCRA 510
- German vs. Barangan, 135 SCRA 514
- Gonzales vs. Archbishop of Manila, 51 Phil. 420
- Iglesia ni Cristo, Inc. vs. CA, July 26, 1996
- Marsh vs. State of Alabama, 326 U. SCRA 501
- Pamil vs. Teleron, 86 SCRA 413
- People vs. Cayat, 68 Phil. 12
- School District of Abington Township, Pa. vs. Schempp, 374 U. SCRA 203
- Engle vs. Vitale, 370 U.SCRA 421; 8 L. ed. 2d. 601
- Victoriano vs. Elizalde Rope Workers Union, 59 SCRA 54
- Zorach vs. Clauson, 343 U. SCRA 306
- Cantwell vs. Connecticut, 310 U. SCRA 296
- Jacinto vs. Court of Appeals, 281 SCRA 657
- Pastor Dionisio V. Austria vs. NLRC, G.R. No. 124382, August 16, 1999
- Estrada vs. Escritor, AM No. P-02-1651, August 4, 2003
External Resources and Credits
- Textbook on the Philippine Constitution by Hector S. De Leon
- International Center of Law and Religious Studies – http://www.iclrs.org/
- Religious Organizations Can Discriminate in Hiring – They’re Above the Law Protecting Workers (blogs.lawyers.com)
- Florida to Strike the Establishment Clause from its Constitution? (breakingspells.net)
- Critiquing a lay reading of the Constitution’s “freedom of religion” clauses (inpropriapersona.com)
- A Constitutional look at The Blunt Amendment (readersupportednews.org)
- Freedom of Religion (livescience.com)
- HHS mandate challengers receive unlikely support | CNA Columns: Guest Columnist (amhec.wordpress.com)
- So WHEN Will the NOAHIDE LAWS Be Activated And Guillotines Be Used in America? (zionistoutrage.com)
- Catholic Lawsuits and the Establishment Clause (americanthinker.com)
- Founders’ wisdom: Full religious freedom (mysanantonio.com)
- Delaware Courts Rule That Ex-Wife’s Alimony Cost Can Be Calculated by Reducing Tithe (patheos.com)