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ESTRADA
v.


ESCRITOR

AM
No.
P‐02‐1651,
August
4,
2003,
June
20,
2006


FACTS:
 Escritor,
 a
 member
 of
 the
 Jehovah’s
 Witness,
 was
 charged
 for
 immoral
 conduct
 for
 co‐habiting
 with
 a
 man

without
 the
 benefit
 of
 a
 marriage,
 their
 relationship
 bearing
 a
 child.
 She
 secured
 a
 “Declaration
 of
 Pledging

Faithfulness,”
indicating
their
church’s
approval
of
their
union
in
accordance
with
the
beliefs
of
the
Jehovah’s
Witness.


ISSUES:
Whether
or
not
Escritor
may
be
sanctioned
in
light
of
the
Free
Exercise
clause.


RULING:
No.
The
state
has
the
burden
of
satisfying
the
“compelling
state
interest”
test
to
justify
any
possible
sanction
to

be
imposed
upon
Escritor.
This
test
involves
three
steps:


1) The
courts
should
look
into
the
sincerity
of
the
religious
belief
without
inquiring
into
the
truth
of
the
belief.

2) The
state
has
to
establish
that
its
purposes
are
legitimate
and
compelling.

3) The
state
used
the
least
intrusive
means
possible.



The
case
was
remanded
to
the
Office
of
the
Court
Administrator
so
that
the
government
would
have
the
opportunity
to

demonstrate
 the
 compelling
 state
 interest
 it
 seeks
 to
 uphold
 in
 opposing
 Escritor’s
 position
 that
 her
 conjugal

arrangement
is
not
immoral
and
punishable
as
it
comes
within
the
scope
of
free
exercise
protection.



Since
neither
Estrada,
Escritor
nor
the
government
has
filed
a
motion
for
reconsideration
assailing
the
August
4,
2003

ruling,
 the
 2003
 decision
 has
 attained
 finality
 and
 constitutes
 the
 law
 of
 the
 case.
 
Any
 attempt
 to
 reopen
 this
 ruling

constitutes
a
contravention
of
elementary
rules
of
procedure.
Worse,
insofar
as
it
would
overturn
the
parties’
right
to

rely
 upon
 the
 Supreme
 Court’s
 interpretation
 which
 has
 long
 attained
 finality,
 it
 also
 runs
 counter
 to
 substantive
 due

process.


In
its
June
20,
2006
ruling,
the
Supreme
Court
held
that,
Escritor’s
sincerity
is
beyond
serious
doubt.
She
procured
the

certificate
 10
 years
 after
 their
 union
 began
 and
 not
 merely
 after
 being
 implicated.
 The
 free
 exercise
 of
 religion
 is
 a

fundamental
right
that
enjoys
a
preferred
position
in
the
hierarchy
of
rights.
The
state’s
broad
interest
in
protecting
the

institutions
of
marriage
and
the
family
is
not
a
compelling
interest
enforcing
the
concubinage
charges
against
Escritor.

The
 Constitution
 adheres
 to
 the
 benevolent
 neutrality
 approach
 that
 gives
 room
 for
 accommodation
 of
 religious

exercises
as
required
by
the
Free
Exercise
Clause.
Even
assuming
that
there
was
a
compelling
state
interest,
the
state

failed
to
show
evidence
that
the
means
the
state
adopted
in
pursuing
this
compelling
interest
is
the
least
restrictive
to

Escritor’s
religious
freedom.



Hence,
 Escritor’s
 conjugal
 arrangement
 cannot
 be
 penalized
 as
 she
 has
 made
 out
 a
 case
 for
 exemption
 from
 the
 law

based
on
her
right
to
freedom
of
religion.




Mark Jorel O. Calida | 1C 2007 | Introduction to Law