Saturday, June 29, 2002

Law is a Religion

Recently, a US Federal Appeals Court ruled that the US Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional because of the addition of the phrase "under God" in 1954 by Congress which makes it an "endosement of religion". The full CNN story is found here..

The ruling stems from a provision of the US Bill of Rights that can also be found in the Philippine Bill of Rights which states something like "No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." In layman's terms, it simply menas that the state should not favor one religion over another and neither should the state prohibit the exercise of anyone's religion. There is a history that went with the crafting of this provision. But the bottomline is the conviction that in the modern society no man should be killed for believing that the world is round.

But what is religion? My theology and philosophy teachers used to say that the word comes from the latin term "religare" which means to be tied down to something. Thus, you can say religion is what one believes he is tied down to. This involves a creed -- what one believes in. For Catholics, this is the Apostle's Creed. I believe in God the Father Almighty creator of heaven and earth...
Religion has a code --the moral behavior expected from a believer of the creed --e.g., no premarital sex, practise monogamy, Thou shall not steal, etc. And religion has a cult -- the rituals that the believer goes through everyday of his life to nurture his creed and code. Go to mass. Go to confessions. Take Holy Communion, etc.

Going through this definition, law qualifies as a religion. It's creed is the constitution, the supreme law that defines the principles that society believes will make it happy. It's code is the various statutes that seek to enforce the supreme law of the land in the everyday detail of life. Law encompasses every aspect of life that there is no way to run away from it. You won't believe it, but there is even a law governing cockfighting. Law is cult -- everyday thousands go to the court room -- the church of the law -- to hear judges and lawyers preach about what the law means to ordinary people. We have ceremonies that signal the effectivity of the law, the signing of the bills, the banging of the gavel, the implementation of lethal injection. Law is a religion. Society is tied to the law.

So the joke is on this US Federal Court. By upholding the non-establishment clause of the US Constitution by prohibiting the US pledge of allegiance, it unwittingly violated the same clause by establishing, as it were, the Religion of the Law.

No comments: