Friday, September 01, 2006

Law, Morality, Religous Freedom and Hooking up with another Woman's Husband (Part 3)

When Mr. X, a friend of mine, got married, he and his wife prepared their own litrugy for the wedding mass. They picked the Bible passages to be read during the mass, and prepared moving and poetic wedding vows. Their officiating priest was so impressed that he couldn't help but commend the couple during the homily for their preparation.

This prompted Mr. Y, another friend of ours, who got married several months after Mr. and Mrs. X, to copy the missal prepared by Mr. and Mrs. X, and used it on his own wedding, changing only the names of the participants and retaining everything else. This was not really a problem with Mr. X, except that he jokingly asked Mr. Y at an intermission during the wedding, whether Mr. Y knew what he was doing.

I bring up this story, because this is how exactly the freedom of religion got to our Constitution. We copied it word for word from the American Constitution. And sometimes, we should ask ourselves if we know what we are doing.

Reading the Escritor decision, and seeing the pains that Justice Puno took in arriving at the decision, I asked myself many times why did he had to be so elaborate. The decision traced the history religion from the dawn of time, through the days of the Hebrews, the modern American Constitution, and the Philippine Constitution.

Ending the chapter on religion in the old world, Justice Puno concludes,

"In sum, this history shows two salient features: First, with minor exceptions, the history of church-state relationships was characterized by persecution, oppression, hatred, bloodshed, and war, all in the name of the God of Love and of the Prince of Peace. Second, likewise with minor exceptions, this history witnessed the unscrupulous use of religion by secular powers to promote secular purposes and policies, and the willing acceptance of that role by the vanguards of religion in exchange for the favors and mundane benefits conferred by ambitious princes and emperors in exchange for religion’s invaluable service. This was the context in which the unique experiment of the principle of religious freedom and separation of church and state saw its birth in American constitutional democracy and in human history."

Thereafter, Justice Puno traces the factors contributing to the adoption of the American Religion Clauses.

He notes the contribution of Roger Williams:

In Williams’ pamphlet, The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for cause of Conscience, discussed in a Conference between Truth and Peace, he articulated the philosophical basis for his argument of religious liberty. To him, religious freedom and separation of church and state did not constitute two but only one principle. Religious persecution is wrong because it “confounds the Civil and Religious” and because “States . . . are proved essentially Civil. The “power of true discerning the true fear of God” is not one of the powers that the people have transferred to Civil Authority. Williams’ Bloudy Tenet is considered an epochal milestone in the history of religious freedom and the separation of church and state.

Like Williams, who founded Rhode Island, William Penn, who founded Pennsylvania, was mentioned by Justice Puno in discussing the factors that led to the adoption of the American Religion Clauses.

Justice Puno writes,

William Penn, proprietor of the land that became Pennsylvania, was also an ardent advocate of toleration, having been imprisoned for his religious convictions as a member of the despised Quakers. He opposed coercion in matters of conscience because “imposition, restraint and persecution for conscience sake, highly invade the Divine prerogative.” Aside from his idealism, proprietary interests made toleration in Pennsylvania necessary. He attracted large numbers of settlers by promising religious toleration, thus bringing in immigrants both from the Continent and Britain. At the end of the colonial period, Pennsylvania had the greatest variety of religious groups. Penn was responsible in large part for the “Concessions and agreements of the Proprietors, Freeholders, and inhabitants of West Jersey, in America”, a monumental document in the history of civil liberty which provided among others, for liberty of conscience. The Baptist followers of Williams and the Quakers who came after Penn continued the tradition started by the leaders of their denominations. Aside from the Baptists and the Quakers, the Presbyterians likewise greatly contributed to the evolution of separation and freedom. The Constitutional fathers who convened in Philadelphia in 1787, and Congress and the states that adopted the First Amendment in 1791 were very familiar with and strongly influenced by the successful examples of Rhode Island and Pennsylvania.

Thereafter, Justice Puno traces the jurisprudence in the United States on the religion clauses, and how it later was adopted in the Philippines.

To go back to the question, why did Justice Puno have to be so elaborate?

This brings me back to the story of the guy who copied the missal of a friend's wedding in his own wedding. It seems that Justice Puno is trying to show us that we are not just copying these things from the Americans, because it is a fashionable thing to do. We have adopted the religion clauses in the American Constitution, because we know and understand their history and the human experience that shaped these principles.
The Escritor decision connects the Philippines to the long line of history and thought on religious freedom.

So the Americans, cannot tease and ask us whether we know what we are doing.

(To be continued)

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