Tuesday, September 15, 2015

56. Religious Freedom and Illegal Detention

In paragraph 42, we explained Freedom of Religion and discussed some decided and hypothetical freedom of religion issues. After talking to some friends from the Iglesia ni Cristo, I've come across a potential landmark jurisprudence on this matter. Say a minister takes a vow of obedience to his religious superior. Then, the religious superior enforces this vow by telling the minister to stay in a guarded home. The issue then would be whether the superior is  liable for Illegal Detention or whether he can raise as a defense that he is merely enforcing the congregation's religious code, whIch the minister consented to when he made his sacred vows. The answer can be more discussed without religious bias if we change  the characters and assume that the religion concerned is the Catholic religion and the superior concerned is the Jesuit Provincial. What I would like to underscore is the unfair comment that this matter is not a legitimate grievance worthy of making one traffic mess for or maybe a revolution. The key essence of Illegal Detention is the prohibition on any one restraining one's freedom of movement with malicious intent.   The question may be approached whether the minister consents to the detention as his religious vow includes the vow to obey the rules  of the congregation, including any disciplinary measure of detention. Yet, I think the more fundamental issue is whether detention was ordered by the religious superior with malice. In other words, the detention may only amount to a crime if there was no religious reason for it. If it were detention for ransom money or for any selfish motive, then it would not fall under the ambit of religious freedom. Yet, the definition of a religious purpose is the tricky part. If, for example, a minister is detained by the superior, because the minister has been instigating sedition in the populace or in the congregation, and the superior decides to detain him to protect the congregation or government, that might not be a religious reason, but it doesn't appear to be malicious either. I don't have the answer. For this reason, it is indeed alarming for the ordinary members of the Iglesia Ni Cristo that the Secretary of Justice, knowing how difficult the issues are at hand, decided to give the case some special attention, made a few comments in a press conference while receiving the case file, and created a special panel of investigators, especially so that every time she did this, i.e., PDAF cases and the PAGCOR cases, the cases ended up in court which issued warrants of arrest.   She could have at least skipped the press conference; but she had to do it, because she wants to run for senator. Now, with all this mess, the real issue has been drowned out by the murmurs and the catcalls.

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