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POLITICAL LAW: freedom of religion and the right to free speech

At the outset, it cannot be denied that we all live in a heterogeneous society. It is


made up of people of diverse ethnic, cultural and religious beliefs and backgrounds.
History has shown us that our government, in law and in practice, has allowed these
various religious, cultural, social and racial groups to thrive in a single society
together. It has embraced minority groups and is tolerant towards all -the religious
people of different sects and the non-believers. The undisputed fact is that our
people generally believe in a deity, whatever they conceived Him to be, and to whom
they call for guidance and enlightenment in crafting our fundamental law. Thus, the
preamble of the present Constitution.
The Filipino people in "imploring the aid of Almighty God" manifested their spirituality
innate in our nature and consciousness as a people, shaped by tradition and
historical experience. As this is embodied in the preamble, it means that the State
recognizes with respect the influence of religion in so far as it instills into the mind
the purest principles of morality. Moreover, in recognition of the contributions of
religion to society, the 1935, 1973 and 1987 constitutions contain benevolent and
accommodating provisions towards religions such as tax exemption of church
property, salary of religious officers in government institutions, and optional religious
instructions in public schools.
The Framers, however, felt the need to put up a strong barrier so that the State
would not encroach into the affairs of the church, and vice-versa.
The principle of separation of Church and State was, thus, enshrined in Article II,
Section 6 ofthe 1987 Constitution, viz:
Section 6. The separation of Church and State shall be inviolable.
Verily, the principle of separation of Church and State is based on mutual respect.
Generally, the State cannot meddle in the internal affairs of the church, much less
question its faith and dogmas or dictate upon it. It cannot favor one religion and
discriminate against another. On the other hand, the church cannot impose its
beliefs and convictions on the State and the rest of the citizenry. It cannot demand
that the nation follow its beliefs, even if it sincerely believes that they are good for
the country.
Consistent with the principle that not any one religion should ever be preferred over

another, the Constitution in the above-cited provision utilizes the term "church" in its
generic sense, which refers to a temple, a mosque, an iglesia, or any other house of
God which metaphorically symbolizes a religious organization. Thus, the "Church"
means the religious congregations collectively.
Balancing the benefits that religion affords and the need to provide an ample barrier
to protect the State from the pursuit of its secular objectives, the Constitution lays
down the following mandate in Article III, Section 5 and Article VI, Section 29 (2), of
the 1987 Constitution.
In short, the constitutional assurance of religious freedom provides two guarantees:
the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause.
The establishment clause "principally prohibits the State from sponsoring any
religion or favoring any religion as against other religions. It mandates a strict
neutrality in affairs among religious groups." Essentially, it prohibits the
establishment of a state religion and the use of public resources for the support or
prohibition ofa religion.
On the other hand, the basis of the free exercise clause is the respect for the
inviolability of the human conscience. Under this part of religious freedom
guarantee, the State is prohibited from unduly interfering with the outside
manifestations of one's belief and faith.
The establishment and free exercise clauses were not designed to serve
contradictory purposes. They have a single goal to promote freedom of individual
religious beliefs and practices. In simplest terms, the free exercise clause prohibits
government from inhibiting religious beliefs with penalties for religious beliefs and
practice, while the establishment clause prohibits government from inhibiting
religious belief with rewards for religious beliefs and practices. In other words, the
two religion clauses were intended to deny government the power to use either the
carrot or the stick to influence individual religious beliefs and practices.
Corollary to the guarantee of free exercise of one's religion is the principle that the
guarantee of religious freedom is comprised of two parts: the freedom to believe,
and the freedom to act on one's belief. The first part is absolute.
The second part however, is limited and subject to the awesome power of the State
and can be enjoyed only with proper regard to the rights of others. It is "subject to

regulation where the belief is translated into external acts that affect the public
welfare.