Tag Archive | "Roman Catholic Church"

Refuting Tatad’s Petition


As you’re reading this, the Philippine Supreme Court will be having the oral arguments regarding Republic Act 10354 or the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012, aka the RH Law.

One of the people expected to make an appearance at the proceedings is former Senator Francisco “Kit” Tatad, a man who has been frequently touted by the Catholic Church as one of its champions in opposing the RH Law.

Tatad has figured prominently in the opposition to reproductive health in the years leading up to the law’s passing last year. He’s also among the petitioners that was the cause for the SC to impose an SQA on the RH law.

In this article, we’ll be taking a look at the Tatad petition, since it makes use of the most common arguments that the RCC loves to resort to in opposition to reproductive health. Tatad starts off his argument by citing every Filipino’s right to personal and family privacy:

Articles 11-13

…Which is not an issue at all, since this is also what the pro-RH side of the Philippines supports – the right of privacy of every family regarding their sex lives. Tatad’s points on a family’s right to birth control methods of their choice are equally sensible:

Arguments 20-23

Once again a fair point. Birth control should be a decision left up to each family. It is a decision that cannot be forced upon them, either by the state, or anybody else. However, shortly after making several valid points on the rights of the Filipino family, the petition starts treading water…

Arguments 27-30

*Sigh*, where do we begin?

First off, there is nothing in the RH law that forces families to choose a specific birth control method. Quoting section 2, sub-section h of the RH law:

(h) The State shall respect individuals’ preferences and choice of family planning methods that are in accordance with their religious convictions and cultural beliefs, taking into consideration the State’s obligations under various human rights instruments;

What the RH law will provide is family planning medicine and education, and leave the decision on which method is ideal for each family’s circumstances up to the family itself. Accusing the RH Law of forcing a family to choose is no more valid than a creationist accusing public education of “forcing” kids to go against their religious beliefs by teaching evolution in science class.

If your religious beliefs say contraceptives are wrong, then don’t take contraceptives. Nothing in the law says you must pop the pill just because you sat through several sex education classes. How hard is that to understand?

Secondly, so what if the Catholic Church considers contraceptives “evil”? Just as they state that government cannot impose specific beliefs, Tatad and company cannot impose Catholicism on other people who do not agree with their hypocritical moral stance on reproductive health.

Which brings us to the next point…

Argument 32

What is ironic here is that in demanding that the SC junk the RH Law because it goes against their religious beliefs, Tatad’s petition is basically denying the RH law to everybody else in the Philippines.

Okay, fine. So Tatad wants the law junked because it goes against his religious beliefs. But what about the Protestant churches who support the RH Law? What about the Muslim community? What about his fellow Catholics, the majority of whom are also calling for better access to reproductive health education and medicine?

It’s become clear at this point that the message Tatad sends is that he only cares about shoving HIS religious dogma down the throats of everybody else who does not agree with him.  This is not the first time people like him pulled a stunt like this, sadly, as the cases of Manila and Ayala Alabang show.

This intent becomes especially obvious when you consider that the sex education program being proposed is targeted at public schools – where religious groups are not allowed to impose their dogma.

Moving along, the petition gets even more brazen in its religious intent:

 

Arguments 36-38

Does Tatad have any empirical evidence proving that introducing contraceptives “destroys” morality? A study that directly correlates crimes rates with increased access to birth control education and contraceptives would be a good start.

On the other hand, the studies we do have available show conclusively that lack of access to RH medicine and education has resulted in a rising trend in teen pregnancies and STDs. But since it’s women suffering – and the RCC’s known for disregarding their welfare on more than one occasion – I guess that doesn’t count.

And as if Tatad should be one to talk about “deep divisions” and “moral torment”, given that it was his side of the RH discussions that has been demonizing supporters of RH, by spreading outright lies and slander, to resorting to outright threats of violence.

This is no different from a bigot claiming that making gender equality a social norm is provoking “moral torment” because now everybody’s calling him out for being an ass.

Then again, as the former press secretary of the Martial Law years, I guess Tatad knows a thing or two about inflicting moral torment on society.

These are just some of the more glaring flaws I managed to dig up from Tatad’s petition against the RH Law. Any and all feedback or additional insight are always welcome here in the comments thread, or over at our FB fanpage.

Posted in Advocacy, Politics, Religion, RH BillComments (1)

Marriage Equality and the Unequal Society


Marriage Equality vs Unequal SocietyBrace yourselves. Marriage Equality is coming. It’s been happening all over the world recently, and it’s only a matter of time that it happens here.

But as with many developments in science and social justice, the conservative Catholic Church and its Pro Life cohorts will do everything to stop it. They’ll be particularly more antsy with the recent loss in the RH battle and a potential loss on divorce also looming.

They’ll explain how marriage equality — we don’t call it same-sex marriage anymore* — is an attack on the traditional marriage, the sanctity of the family, Filipino culture, and human existence itself. They’ll bring out their usual non-sequiturs and one-sided statistics.

And although this especially applies to their flock, the Church will fight so that it applies to everyone else. They have every right to do so, but it shouldn’t matter in a secular democracy. Yet just like “equality,” “secular” and “democracy” are words the Catholic Church has always been allergic to.

They made this very clear a century ago when France first introduced secularism. In response to the 1905 French law on the Separation of the Churches and State, Pope Pius X promulgated Vehementer Nos, an encyclical that called secularism “a thesis absolutely false, a most pernicious error.”

Although it was particularly aimed at secularism, it illuminated the Church’s stance on other issues, showing just why equality, secularism, and democracy are foreign ideas to this foreign institution:

The Church is essentially an unequal society, that is, a society comprising two categories of per sons, the Pastors and the flock, those who occupy a rank in the different degrees of the hierarchy and the multitude of the faithful.

So distinct are these categories that with the pastoral body only rests the necessary right and authority for promoting the end of the society and directing all its members towards that end; the one duty of the multitude is to allow themselves to be led, and, like a docile flock, to follow the Pastors.

The encyclical goes on to explain why secularism has been, is, and always will be denounced by the Roman Catholic Church.** For now, understand that in the same way that the Church fought against secularism until it became the obvious choice to almost everyone, they will do the same against marriage equality. They’ll rehash the same tired arguments they’ve been using to block the measure here and all over the world.

But ultimately, behind the flawed arguments and supposed “science,” what it all boils down to is this: the Church does not think marriage equality is a good idea, so everyone else will just have to obey them. Because in their unequal society, our one duty is to allow ourselves to be led, and, like a docile flock, to follow the Pastors.

_______

* What LGBT couples are asking for is not a special kind of marriage that merits its own moniker (same-sex marriage). All they’re saying is that the right to marry should apply equally to everyone.

** Fans of Vatican II will undoubtedly bring up Dignitatis Humanae, which supposedly corrects the Church’s stand on religious freedom. But one of the last things Pope Benedict XVI did was explain how this wasn’t really the case. But that’s a story for another article.

Posted in Gender Rights, Politics, Religion, SecularismComments (1)

Dwindling Church Attendance, Statistics, and Grief


A recent Social Weather Systems survey has the Catholic Church up in arms. The survey, based on 1200 face-to-face interviews nationwide showed that 9.2% of Catholics have considered, at least sometimes, leaving the Roman Catholic Church. The study also showed that from 64% church attendance in 1991, only 37% of Catholics go every week to Mass now. The Church response has been quite the display of classic informal logical fallacies.

The initial public reaction from the Church to the survey was outright denial. Peachy Yamsuan, Communications Chief of the Archdiocese of Manila pointed to the quite repugnant, yet popular, practice of holding a supposedly solemn Mass in the middle of a shopping mall (mall giant SM was singled out by Yamsuan). Yamsuan, rather ironically, questioned the survey, saying that the Church couldn’t accept statistics without “real evidence.”

Apart from Yamsuan, several bishops, such as Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo used his cathedral’s Mass attendance to attempt to refute the study. This was essentially the same response from Msgr. Clemente Ignacio, rector of the Quiapo Church, as well as from the bishops of Marbel and Cubao, as reported in the Inquirer piece.

Church in Jaro

The common strand you can gather from their responses is, “my local parish seems to be doing fine, so the study must be wrong.” This is a classic fallacy of composition, where what is true for a part is assumed to be true for the whole. Now, I’m not a big fan of cheaply calling out fallacies, but the defense of the Church against the survey seems to hinge so specifically on this fallacy, that it simply begs to be called out.

In a follow up piece, the Inquirer records Basilan Bishop Martin Jumoad repeating the same fallacious argument, “So, I don’t see here in Basilan the results of their survey.” The bishop from Sorsogon says the same thing, “I do not believe in that [survey] because the number of people going to Mass is going up. Last Holy Week, we had so many people in church. So as far as Sorsogon is concerned, I don’t believe in that survey.”

The thing is, it was not a survey of Sorsogon, Basilan, or Cubao. It was a nationwide survey, meant to reflect a national trend. And a national trend 27 percentage points deep is certainly not going to be refuted by off-the-cuff statements made from bishops’ anecdotes—especially since bishops tend to hold court in the largest, most opulent churches. As an aside, numbers during Holy Week are most definitely not going to be representative of typical Church attendance. Even atheists get dragged along to go to special Church holy days of obligation by relatives.

So, were these bishops lying about their observations when the trends greatly disagree with them? I wouldn’t be so quick to assume malice. One explanation that would easily agree with all pieces of evidence that we have, considering the CBCP anecdotes as well as the SWS survey, is that church attendance is dwindling, but it is also consolidating. That means that people are leaving smaller parishes and those that are left are flocking to the big churches (and malls), where bishops are more likely to see them. It is also likely that, while a larger proportion of nominal Catholics no longer regularly attend Mass, the great increase of our population from 1991 to 2013 due to a lack of a reproductive health program accounts for the bishops’ anecdotes. These do not excuse the bishops’ failure to understand basic statistics, but they just might explain it.

If the first stage of grief is denial, the next is anger, and this is now where the Church stands. Former CBCP President Oscar Cruz is now questioning the motives behind the statistical study. He is now branding the Aquino Administration, which championed reproductive health, as the “culprit” behind the study. “The Catholic Church in the country must be a big pain in the neck to the present administration… It has therefore become imperative to undermine the Catholic Church—such as the supposed survey result of Catholics becoming non-Catholics,” says Cruz.

It will be interesting how the Church will handle the bargaining and depression stages of grief. The last stage will be acceptance—acceptance of the possibility that maybe, just maybe, the Catholic Church is fading into irrelevance.

Posted in Politics, Religion, SocietyComments (3)

It’s Not the Size That Matters: How the Team Patay Tarps Circumvent Comelec Regulations


Two weeks ago, on March 19, the Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments on the Team Patay tarpaulins. Dean Ralph Sarmiento of La Salle Bacolod, counsel for Bacolod Bishop Vicente Navarra, defended the bishop by invoking his rights to religious freedom and free speech, especially as a private citizen who does not belong to a political party.

In response, Chief Justice Sereno said that election laws apply to all, even to a diocese. Sereno said: “In the Bible, it is said that you have to render unto Caesar’s what is Caesar’s. If there is government regulation on taxes, even if God owns the whole world, you have to pay taxes.” She added that all materials “that tend to influence the electorate” should be regulated.

Justice Antonio Carpio shared Sereno’s opinion. He said that the penalties for violating campaign restrictions also apply to private individuals.

Section 95

These statements are promising. Yet I’m disappointed that they didn’t mention section 95 of the Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines. Also called Batas Pambansa Bilang 881, the Omnibus Election Code is the oldest law reference used by the Commission on Elections (Comelec); it’s been enforced since 1985. Which is why I’m surprised that both the Comelec and the Supreme Court missed such a crucial part of it, at least as it relates to the Team Patay tarps.

The crucial section of the Omnibus Election Code can be found in “Article XI. Electoral Contributions and Expenditures.” According to Section 95, “no contribution for purposes of partisan political activity shall be made directly or indirectly by… natural and juridical persons who have been granted… incentives, exemptions, allocations or similar privileges or concessions by the government.”

According to section 94, contributions include, “anything of value… made for the purpose of influencing the results of the elections… [including] the use of facilities voluntarily donated by other persons.”

Because the diocese of Bacolod is a religious organization, it receives exemptions on paying property taxes. Because they were granted this incentive by the government, they are forbidden from making contributions for political purposes. The Team Patay tarp, perhaps even the façade on which it is posted, clearly fall under the contributions defined in section 94.

Section 95 concludes by saying that it’s “unlawful for any person to solicit or receive any contribution from any of the persons or entities enumerated herein.” Which means that if the diocese is found guilty, the politicians listed under Team Buhay can be held liable as well.

Circumventing Comelec

During the hearing, Justice Teresita Leonardo de Castro agreed with Sarmiento that private individuals must not be punished for expressing their political views. She said that the government must show how private citizens could circumvent election regulations, particularly the limits on campaign spending.

In the case of the diocese of Bacolod, it’s quite easy to think of a hypothetical example. Consider Politician X. He has already reached his limit for campaign spending. But he still has money to spend. He decides to make a big donation to his local Church. He tells the local Bishop that he hopes the donation will help the church, and that he prays to God that he can win in the next election.

The local Bishop uses some of the money to create billboards on several parish churches, expressing how pro-life Politician X is. Of course, no one can prove that the politician’s donation went to paying for the billboards; churches, unlike other charitable organizations, aren’t required to report where donations go to. Politician X has thus circumvented election regulations.

The Team Buhay tarpaulins currently include senatorial candidates Mitos Magsaysay, Cynthia Villar, Gringo Honasan, Koko Pimentel, Antonio Trillanes, and JV Estrada. We don’t know how much these politicians have donated to the diocese of Bacolod – or to any church for that matter. We also don’t know whether these donations played a part in their inclusion in Team Buhay, or where the money used for the tarps actually came from. But the possibility that some campaign restrictions are being circumvented is there. This is one of the potential violations that can be prevented if Comelec enforced section 95 – provided the Supreme Court lets them.

But first, both institutions have to forget the poster size restriction issue. Because as far as section 95 of the Omnibus Election Code is concerned, the diocese of Bacolod shouldn’t be posting campaign materials in the first place. At least in this case, it’s not the size that matters.

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The Progressive Church That Will Never Come


Imagine this hypothetical situation:

The progressive Catholics have split from the Vatican to form their own church. They’ve called it the New Catholic Church.

A handful of progressive bishops have taken the place of the Pope as its leaders, and none of them call themselves infallible. Completing the clergy are progressive priests and theologians, mostly Jesuits, who feel exhilarated by the freedom to openly air their opinions without fear of being censured, excommunicated, or fired.

Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, the New Catholic bishops are in constant dialogue with their priests. Theologians thrive as their expertise is sought sincerely. Best of all, the laity are also given a voice. They’re invited to pastoral committee hearings on relevant social issues such as contraception, women’s rights, LGBT rights, and freedom of conscience. It seems like for the first time in centuries, progress is possible.

Progressive Church

Because most Roman Catholics were progressive, the New Catholic Church now outnumbers the Roman Catholic one significantly. And because the Roman Catholic Church is no longer the predominant religion, few politicians pander to them. The drop in donations has forced them to start using their billions in investment, which they have also been using to settle clerical abuse cases. More families are pressing charges with the New Catholic Church urging and supporting them to speak out.

Meanwhile, the New Catholic Church, being the biggest religion, has a steady flow of donations that has allowed them to build simple churches, unlike the luxurious Roman Catholic ones. Most of their funds are spent on charity instead of partisan political campaigns and causes. And none of it is used to settle abuse cases out of court; they report the rare offender to the police and fully cooperate with the authorities so that justice is ensured.

Having learned from the dangers political meddling, the New Catholic Church focuses on the well-being of its flock, avoiding partisan politics and fully respecting the separation of church and state. This has allowed legislation to proceed more smoothly, with the blackmail and fear mongering of the Roman Catholic Church falling on the ears of few conservative politicians.

New Catholics are thriving in their new religion, where they agree with the moral position of their priests and bishops, never again having to withhold tithes or walk out of sermons. Their personal views no longer conflict with their Church’s teachings, and educating the youth is now a cooperative effort between parents, teachers, and priests, each lesson based on scientific evidence and humanistic ethics.

Now. In this hypothetical future, if you are a progressive Catholic who still belongs to the Roman Catholic Church, would you join the New Catholic Church? Remember that the progressive priests and theologians who have made your religion bearable have already left to join this new one. Most of your progressive friends and relatives have also converted.

Would you remain a Roman Catholic when your views on so many social issues are at odds with the clergy? Would you tithe and pay for sacraments in a conservative church when you could so easily get the same experience in its progressive counterpart? What good reasons are there to remain Roman Catholic?

Hans Kung, one of the most prominent Catholic theologians today, has long urged progressive Catholics to revolt, but to no avail.

Stalemate

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that most progressive Catholics would convert to this New Catholicism in a heartbeat. I believe that this is the ideal situation every progressive Catholic hopes would happen inside the Roman Catholic Church. The only problem is, this is not going to happen.

The conservatives in the Vatican are in full control, and because they’re a dictatorship, the opinions of the majority don’t matter. The only way progressive Catholics can get their ideal situation is by forming their own institution outside the Roman Catholic Church.

And this is precisely the problem. To make the New Catholic Church possible, they have to leave the Roman Catholic Church. Every person has to leave on their own. And someone has to start it. But who would begin such an exodus?

The youth would probably be the most willing. But their youth might be a turnoff to those who are so used to getting guidance from more mature men.

The older progressives are more authoritative, but they’re probably too settled into their Roman Catholic routine, with careers and families taking up most of their time, that taking on such a big change would be too much to ask. Not to mention they still wouldn’t be authoritative enough for those who look for a sense of the sacred in their leaders.

Progressive priests and theologians would have this holy authority. But compared to the laity, they would be risking their careers, their livelihoods. They would need to rely on their savings because while starting a new religion they wouldn’t have a source of income.

Bishops probably have enough saved up. But the way the Vatican has been screening bishops since Vatican II, finding even one progressive bishop is a challenge in itself, and such a person would be risking the most in terms of the wealth and influence he would have to give up.

That leaves no one.

Conservative Church

I believe that every individual needed for this New Catholic Church is already here. Majority of Roman Catholics who now have more progressive views than their conservative counterparts and clergy. A group of dissenting priests and theologians who have been expressing their progressive ideals more and more publicly. Enough ideological and theological conflict in many core beliefs to make forming a new religion necessary. And enough shortcomings of the Roman Catholic Church to make leaving it, ceasing to further support its bigotry, an ethical necessity.

But progressive Catholics have to start somewhere. Each of them would join this New Catholic Church if it is ever formed. But few, if any, of them would be willing to leave the Roman Catholic Church to start it.

Progressive Catholics will be content to bear their burden together, comforting each other with their shared dissent, hoping for change but knowing in their hearts that it will never come. Meanwhile, the Vatican thrives with power, arrogance, and impunity, never having to worry about the progressive church that will never come.

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How to Kill As Many Unborn As Possible


The Reproductive Health Bill is now the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012. While the measure has passed all legislative hurdles, the RH Law is now facing a predictable challenge in the Supreme Court. More predictably, the challenge comes from Catholic Church associates. While the intention behind the challenge is supposedly to protect the unborn, it is clear that if the goal of Catholics is to protect as many unborn children as possible, striking down the RH Law is just about the worst thing you can possibly do.

On the first working day of the year, January 2, James and Lovely-Ann Imbong filed a petition for the Supreme Court to nullify the recently passed bill. “In behalf” of their minor children, the Imbongs also name their two offspring as petitioners. As has been pointed out, the “Imbong” name should be very familiar because the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has Jo Imbong, mother of James, as its lawyer. Also, James Imbong is the first nominee of the CBCP-backed Ang Pro-Life Party-List, which claims to represent not the Church, but OFWs. Try to stop yourself from laughing; it gets better. The CBCP has come out to state that they are in no way involved with the petition against the RH Law. Melvin Castro of the CBCP said that their counsel’s relation to the petitioners was “purely incidental.”

Pro-Life Philippines: Abortion is okay sometimes

Reason and Science of Contraception

It is typical for conservative Catholics to equivocate the RH Law with abortion. On the contrary, the availability of contraception diminishes the number of abortions. The logic is simple: people who use contraception want to prevent pregnancy resulting from particular sexual encounters. They can choose to have children from later coital acts by stopping the use of contraceptives. By reducing the number of pregnancies of people who do not want to be pregnant, the number of unwanted pregnancies decreases. Since unwanted pregnancies are the targets of chemical and surgical abortion, less unwanted pregnancies means less induced abortions. After all, why would you willfully abort a wanted pregnancy? Consistent and proper use of contraceptives therefore ensures that a pregnancy that does occur is wanted and planned instead of unwanted and by chance.

But, let’s not rely on pure reason and let some empiricism enlighten us. A four-year study by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis came out last year to show that when free contraceptives were provided to a community, abortions decreased. It should be noted that from their study, most women (75%) chose to have “long-acting” contraceptives such as IUDs instead of pills, which must be taken daily. They found that abortions in St. Louis, Missouri, where the study was conducted, dropped by 20%, while the rest of Missouri’s abortion rates remained steady.

This result, however, is not enough to show that opposition to the RH Law will result in more abortions.

 

Intelligently Designed Abortion

Abortion is an unavoidable fact of pregnancy. Spontaneous abortions are more politely called “miscarriages,” but the essence is the same for either spontaneous or induced abortion—pregnancy ends and a fertilized embryo fails to develop into a child. Catholics would argue that the embryo is already a person and intentionally inducing abortion is murder. Miscarriages, then, would be accidental death. It turns out, however, that as much as 50% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. This estimate includes the great number of pregnancies that were never even noticed because the embryos were spontaneously aborted so early. That means, for any sexual act that successfully results in a fertilized embryo (which Catholics believe are people), 50% of all of these “people” will die. If the Christian God is anti-abortion, it’s hard to imagine greater hypocrisy.

The main mechanism of contraceptives is to prevent the meeting of sperm and egg altogether, meaning no embryo is formed. The opposition of the Church against condoms should have been a dead giveaway that their concern is sex and not unborn children. Chemical contraceptives, like the pill, prevent the meeting of sperm and egg through various means, such as by slowing down the transport of the egg from the ovaries to the uterus. But, even if a drug were specifically designed to prevent the implantation of a fertilized embryo (which is supposedly a person), its users would not rival the number of abortive events caused by well-meaning couples wanting to get pregnant. That’s not a strong enough statement. All the induced abortions performed in the world (over 470,000 in the Philippines according to 2000 data from the Guttmacher Institute), cannot even begin to compete with spontaneous abortions.

The Department of Health reported that there were 1,700,000 live births in 2000. If that is just 50% of all successful pregnancies, then that means there were also 1,700,000 embryos naturally aborted, or over three times the number of induced abortions in the same year. Therefore, if many pregnancies are prevented altogether through contraception, there will be less abortions. Thus, the Catholic plan of “openness” to pregnancy is tantamount to “openness” to spontaneous abortion. In contrast, a couple with no plans of ever conceiving risks no abortions. Comparatively, a couple that plans each pregnancy with contraceptives, and does not haphazardly sire dozens of kids, will not abort as many embryos as the well-meaning Catholic couple.

 

Accessories to Murder

If you want to avoid abortion altogether, the best way is not to have kids. If you want kids, you will risk having an abortion, whether or not you know about it. That is a fact we must accept as a nation. If you want to risk the least number of abortions, then you will need to plan your pregnancies and use contraception.

If you have as many kids as you want, you will abort just as many. It’s statistics. And if you want to kill as many unborn as possible, go a step further like the Imbongs and deny Filipinos the right to access to contraceptives.

The use of the Imbongs’ children in the petition, despite their being incapable to consent, is consistent with anti-RH values, since the Imbongs (and the Church) claim to represent children and the unborn in their crusade against reproductive rights. And in this crusade, they are not shy to employ the bloody imagery associated with the Catholic Church’s own medieval Crusades. About President Aquino’s signing of the RH Bill, Batangas Archbishop Ramon Arguelles compared him to the Connecticut shooter who killed 20 schoolchildren because the RH Law would supposedly kill millions. But, we can see from the scientific evidence that it is not contraception, and not even induced abortion, that will lead to the most aborted embryos—it is the Church’s anti-contraceptive dogma. If abortion is murder, the Imbongs are accessories, and the Catholic Church is the killer.

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Don’t Fear the Preacher: Fear and the RH Bill


In a final attempt at scrounging for votes against the Reproductive Health Bill, CBCP President Archbishop Jose Palma exhorted CBCP loyalists in the House of Representatives with the words their god told Abraham, “Do not be afraid.” You may recall that Abraham was the man whose son Yahweh asked him to kill to prove his faith.

Palma told representatives to “listen to what God is saying.” By pure coincidence, I’m sure, what “God is saying” is exactly what Palma is saying, with God unable to speak for himself.

While Archbishop Palma entreats conservatives in Congress to be free from fear, the Roman Catholic Church sows fear everywhere else. Once Senate Majority Leader Tito Sotto conceded that the pro-RH side had the votes to pass the measure in the Senate, he had this to say, “May God have mercy on their souls.” This, of course, was a threat against pro-RH senators that while they may win in this world, they will face everlasting torment in the afterlife.

A similar tact has been repeatedly approached by other conservative Catholics, where they quote the Gospel’s injunction against those who “cause the little ones to sin.” Matthew 18:6 says, “…if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” They threaten RH advocates with death because they believe that the RH Bill will lead otherwise faithful believers into sin through the temptation of contraception. A cursory search through Google will reveal how popular the idiom is among conservative Catholics and just how much they would like to tie a rock around all our necks and drown us in the sea.

Centered on human sacrifice, violence is at the very root of the Catholic religion and it is not at all surprising that its most zealous adherents would resort to savage irrationality when things do not go their way (despite their confidence in a god). RH Bill sponsor Edcel Lagman has been well-aware of the Church’s history of violence, saying, “Fear has always been used by the clergy as an instrument of repression and reprisal like fear of damnation…”

Even before the RH Bill has passed either chamber of Congress, the CBCP has already issued a warning that the RH Bill is the start of a slippery slope towards what they call “DEATHS bills” or “Divorce, Euthanasia, Abortion, Total Reproductive Health, Homosexuality or gay marriages, and Sex education.” The CBCP Secretary General who was quoted saying this has obviously seen the trend in the greater part of the world toward equality for humans and rights over their own bodies. The CBCP fears that it might also happen in our neck of the woods. It is likely, in my view, that the Roman Catholic Church fears more that they will lose their centuries-long stranglehold on the Filipino people.

As RH advocates, we aim to make, with the RH Bill, this very small step towards a lasting and flourishing society in the Philippines. Our opponents have made it clear that they share no such interest. They would rather we be mired in disease, torment, and starvation, for the sake of avoiding some imagined damnation. But, if there is anyone who ought not be afraid, it is those who are on the side of equal human rights and the dignity of self-determination. It is those who are fighting for a better future, not in some invented paradise, but here, on this tiny planet we call home.

As we draw near into the final stages of passing the RH Bill, many are still hoping that both sides of the argument will come to a compromise. But, it is clear from all the threats of death and violence that there shall never be compromise for the Roman Catholic Church. For them, human souls are at stake and they will stop at nothing to prevent the evils that they foresee. None of their fears, of course, are based on any evidence.

The burden of proof is on the Church to show that the ruler of the universe does indeed think contraception is evil and that its users are going straight to hell. Nevertheless, they act as if this is self-evident. It is not. Their views betray a literally medieval mindset that has no room on the floor of the House of Representatives. Yet, it is given room by conservatives such as Rufus Rodriguez at the expense of those who live and die in suffering every day because of the denial of reproductive rights. It is time to say no to these men beholden to fear and superstition. It is time to acknowledge the right of persons over their own bodies. It is time to vote on the RH Bill.

Image Credit: Le sacrifice d’Isaac by Matthias Stom | Source: Wikimedia Commons

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The Varsitarian Lemon Pity Party


The Varsitarian, the official student publication of the University of Santo Tomas, got a lot of flack a couple of months ago for an editorial, entitled “RH bill, Ateneo, and La Salle: Of lemons and cowards,” ranting at fellow Catholic universities for not being authentically Catholic because they employ “lemons and cowards.” This was in reference to these schools’ professors who came out in support of the Reproductive Health Bill, which the Catholic Church leadership vehemently opposes. The editorial was so vitriolic that the faculty adviser of the paper publicly apologized for it, calling it “unchristian.” UST itself denied that it supported the caustic editorial of The Varsitarian.

As The Varsitarian brags in a followup editorial, “Calling a spade a spade, a lemon a lemon,” their previous piece garnered almost 300,000 views, supposedly “shaming” the readership of national news media. They even take a potshot at the claims of the mainstream media having a “national” reach without objective statistics to support this assertion. This plea for evidence is quite incongruous given the Varsitarian’s general attitude toward scientific and logical reasoning, which will be clear shortly.

The Varsitarian fails to account for the proportion of those 300,000 views that were simply from people sharing it with others because they found it hilarious and intellectually bankrupt. If the paper did account for it, they probably wouldn’t go about boasting of thousands of chortling readers. It also, more critically, fails to mention their readership outside lemon, part 1 and whether this was even comparable to the consistent audience of national media. Given that, it is not likely that any of the media outlets that “assaulted a hapless campus paper and accused it of bad journalism” are spending any sleepless nights from a Varsitarian nightmare.

The Varsitarian doubles down in lemon, part 2. Instead of taking criticism in stride, it lashes out at the media that reported on the scathing commentaries against it. In typical anti-RH (and anti-science) behavior, it insinuates (without a shred of evidence) a vast conspiracy, with the media supposedly carrying out “a vicious campaign against the Catholic Church.” (If this were true, it would have come up in our semimonthly meetings to plot the downfall of the Catholic Church.)

The persecution complex of The Varsitarian is at its height as it compares itself with two Christian martyrs, Lorenzo Ruiz and Saint Stephen. It even emphasizes that Stephen was stoned to death. The paper apparently sees what it does as a service to truth “with the purity of searing idealism.” In full self-aggrandizement, The Varsitarian claims that it would “die a thousand deaths” for its faith, even though, unlike those actually mired in religious violence, it has never faced the threat of dying even once. By calling back the imagery of men who were murdered, The Varsitarian likens its role as an Internet punchline to out and out martyrdom. It would behoove the Varsitarian to know that some people actually die, as in cease to have a functioning brain, because of the denial of reproductive health care. But, let’s not have facts get in the way of delusions of grandeur.

To keep its “idealism” in check and prevent it from being “blind,” The Varsitarian says that it seeks guidance from the Catholic Church. Then, what keeps their obedience to the Church from being blind and sycophantic? I suppose they wouldn’t consider that as a bad thing.

When one is trapped in an echo chamber as large and labyrinthian as Catholic theology, it’s easy to talk out of one’s ass. “The Varsitarian upholds the natural law even without recourse to Catholic teachings because the natural law covers everyone, including non-Christians,” says the paper. Of course, what the Varsitarian means by “natural law” is the specific ethical system ingrained in the Catholic faith. To support their claim that natural law applies to and must be believed by everyone, the paper even quotes the system’s major architect and the namesake of the school, Thomas Aquinas. So, the Varsitarian claims to defend a Catholic teaching (anti-contraception) by upholding Catholic teaching (natural law) “without recourse to Catholic teachings.”

In the end, The Varsitarian does admit that its words were indeed unchristian. And yet, it remains sanctimonious enough to call out AdMU and DLSU professors for not being true Catholics. The paper claims that the moral imperative for denunciation was so strong that it justified lemon, part 1, thereby flouting Christian virtue with the bravery of an anonymous editorial. So strong was the necessity that The Varsitarian closes lemon, part 2 with a quotation from Mark, that those who “scandalize” believers (such as the “faculty members and administrators” of their target schools) are better off to have a millstone tied to their necks and thrown into the sea to drown.

Perhaps The Varsitarian is right, after all. Maybe only people who are as hateful and uncharitable as its editorial team should have the right to call themselves Catholic.

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The Unborn Representatives: How BUHAY Makes a Mockery of the Party-List System


Note: Please also read how BUHAY responded to our opposition of their party-list accreditation in COMELEC.

The party-list system of representation is broken. Want proof? Consider the case of BUHAY party-list.

According to COMELEC, you have to be a member of the sector you claim to represent. BUHAY claims to represent “the unborn, the sick, the disabled and others not capable of protecting themselves alone, through observance of their basic right to live.” Never mind being sick and disabled and incapable of self-protection (all at the same time!). Is even a single BUHAY representative unborn?

Even if we grant for rhetorical purposes that every BUHAY representative is unborn, they would still be disqualified for one simple reason: the unborn is not a sector recognized by COMELEC. This fact was repeated several times at BUHAY’s accreditation hearing at COMELEC yesterday.

And every time the COMELEC official mentioned this, the BUHAY spokesperson would answer the same way: BUHAY representatives actually represent its own political party, which is the one marginalized and underrepresented.

Setting aside how self-serving this reasoning is, does BUHAY actually think that a political party should be considered a sector of society? Let’s humor them a little and pretend that it is. Why is BUHAY party marginalized?

According to their spokesperson, it’s because aside from their party-list seats, they haven’t won any major political positions (senator, president, etc.) in the past elections, so they aren’t a major political party. And according to BUHAY, that means they are marginalized. Poor BUHAY. Since 2004, they’ve only won 7 seats in the House of Representatives.

That’s right. Seven seats in almost as many years have been allotted to the unborn representatives of BUHAY party, each representing the unborn citizens of the Philippines, and of course, that other marginalized and underrepresented sector, the BUHAY party itself. If that can’t convince you that the party-list system is a joke, I don’t know what can.

But there’s hope. COMELEC has been reviewing the current party-list candidates, and from the way they’ve been conducting these accreditation hearings — I’ve witnessed a few — they seem to mean business. I just hope it translates to disqualification, especially in the case of BUHAY and Ang Prolife — another conservative Catholic religious group trying to disguise itself as a political organization.

When we opposed Ang Prolife’s application, I thought nothing could ever beat the absurdity of their claiming to represent OFWs and “the structure of the Filipino family.” Well played, BUHAY party. Well played.

___
Note: This post isn’t meant to be a comprehensive opposition to BUHAY’s application. We’ll leave that to our formal opposition, which we were given 3 days to file, and will post as soon as it’s available. For now, check out Kontradaya’s reasons for objecting to the accreditation of BUHAY (follow the link for other party-list groups they argue should also be disqualified):

Buhay claims to represent the following sectors: the unborn, the sick, the disabled and others not capable of protecting themselves alone, through observance of their basic right to live.

However, none of its present representatives in Congress, and nominees for 2013 elections belong to these sectors.

First representative Mariano Velarde, Jr., the son of El Shaddai’s Mike Velarde, has a personal net worth of P53.326 million for 2011. He does not belong to any of the marginalized and underrepresented sectors Buhay claims to represent. He is not unborn, sick, disabled, nor incapable of protecting himself.

So is second representative Irwin Tieng, whose net worth amounts to P20.054 and whose family owns Solar Sports. He does not belong to any of the marginalized and underrepresented sectors Buhay claims to represent. He is not unborn, sick, disabled, nor incapable of protecting himself.

Second nominee for the 2013 elections is Jose L. Atienza, more famously known as Manila Mayor Lito Atienza. Mayor Atienza served as Manila Mayor from 1998 to 2007. Previous to that, he served as Manila Vice Mayor from 1992 to 1998. He also held other high positions in government, being appointed by former President Gloria Arroyo as the Secretary of Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Clearly Mayor Atienza can compete for a position in Congress through regular elections. This is in addition to the fact that he does not belong to any of the sectors that Buhay claims to represent, and neither is he marginalized and underrepresented.

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Pro-RH Catholics: Please Create a Pro-RH Church


Dear Pro-RH Catholics,

You’ve been asking the Vatican for pro-RH reforms for over four decades. During that time, your leader, the Pope, has made it absolutely clear that to be Catholic means to be anti-RH. You have been called “fake Catholics,” “cafeteria Catholics,” and even “oxymorons.” You have been told that if you cannot obey, you should just leave. Your Pope has answered requests for reforms by saying he prefers searching agnostics over fake believers.

You have no control over what your church officially does and decides. Yet you have fought long and hard to cling to your Catholic identity. I respect that, but I respect even more the fact that you recognize the moral value of RH despite the denigration of your detractors. So I’m suggesting that you consider indulging them.

What if you left the Roman Catholic Church completely and formed your own one? It would be identical to your old church, except for one critical difference: it would be pro-RH officially. Of course, your new church will no longer be recognized by the Vatican.

But what would losing Vatican recognition do anyway? If you cared about the Vatican’s official position, you wouldn’t be pro-RH Catholics. This implies that you don’t think the Vatican is the highest authority.

You probably think that Jesus Christ is, and that He is pro-RH. So don’t you owe it to Jesus to create a church that truly represents Him? If you create a church with pro-RH bishops and priests — and you’ve claimed that there are many of them — don’t you think that Jesus would let them represent Him even without the Pope’s permission?

Surely you don’t think Jesus gave the Vatican unconditional power. If the Catholic Church suddenly taught that child abuse was a sacrament, do you think Jesus would still be OK with them representing Him? Similarly, do you think Jesus would have a problem with good bishops just because they removed the “Roman” in “Roman Catholic”?

So you should have no doubt that Jesus will bless this Pro-RH Church that you are forming. Being a pro-RH God, it’s even reasonable to think He’d bless it even more. Your new church may not be as extravagant as your old church, lacking the expensive decorations and extravagant costumes (and you won’t have billions in reserve for that occasional child abuse settlement). But I don’t think a carpenter’s son who was born in a manger would care much for appearances.

I don’t think Jesus would mind plain silverware.

You may find the different surroundings striking at first, but I’m sure you’ll get used to it soon. Because you can keep almost everything in your new church the same as your old one. A blind person attending a Pro-RH mass wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. At least not until the priest sermons about the importance of informed choice, freedom of conscience, and of course, contraception.

Imagine not having the urge to walk out because you vehemently disagree with your priest. Imagine not feeling tricked whenever you’re asked to kneel, bow your head, and then pray against the RH Bill. Imagine not thinking twice about donating money that could be used to fund anti-RH campaigns. Imagine not feeling cognitive dissonance about supporting an anti-RH institution that claims to represent the pro-RH God you have faith in.

Forming a new church would surely take some courage, not to mention resources. But it wouldn’t take a lot individually if you did it together. If most of you joined this new church, yours would still be the largest church in the Philippines. Since most Catholics are pro-RH, you’ll be bigger than the Roman Catholic church.

The Philippines would now be predominantly Pro-RH Catholic (which it already is anyway). Your new bishops — who will actually represent your RH stance — will have more clout than your old bishops, who can no longer claim to represent 80% of the population.

Knowing the danger of bullying bishops, your new leaders probably won’t use their religious authority to meddle in politics. And they wouldn’t even have to. Because from now on, your representatives will no longer fear pressure from the bishops.

Anti-RH legislators who were just bullied by bishops could change their position. Closeted pro-RH legislators could now openly support the RH Bill. The passage of the RH Bill will finally be a reality, enshrining RH as a fundamental human right. This alone should make you consider forming a pro-RH church. Pro-RH Jesus would be pleased.

Sincerely,

Red

PS

It wouldn’t hurt to disassociate from an organization that censures progressive theologians and nuns, discriminates against women, LGBTs, and non-Catholics, protects pedophile priests more than potential child abuse victims, and thinks that you deserve to burn in Hell.

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This Government is Brought to You by Catholicism


“Let all with something to say be free to express themselves. The true and sound will survive. The false and unsound will be vanquished. Government should keep out of the battle and not weigh the odds in favor of one side or the other.” — John Milton

How much would it cost to advertise in government? The question is rhetorical, of course, because such a thing is not allowed, but just imagine for a moment that it were. What publicity a brand could gain from a single event!

Supreme Commercial

Just recently, most major TV and radio stations covered the Corona trial. Live feeds were streamed online, and commentary was all over Facebook and Twitter. Imagine the Senate walls filled with posters of anti-aging and skin-whitening products. Imagine Coke cans or Gatorade bottles on top of every senator-judge’s table. Imagine them wearing race car driver uniforms displaying the logos of their sponsors. Or the prosecution and defense wearing jerseys endorsing competing products. Court-side announcers saying things like, “Senator Sotto’s speech was brought to you by Eat Bulaga,” or, “Senator Bong Revilla’s decision was brought to you by Panday–only in theaters.”

This is absurd in many ways, but I want to focus on the most important one: These public spaces belong to every Filipino, these public servants work for every Filipino, and as national representatives, they represent every Filipino. Senator Enrile endorsing Ray-Ban sunglasses doesn’t mean he alone endorses it. It means 1/24 of the Philippines endorses Ray-Ban. And what does a Coke can on top of every table represent? It means the Philippines endorses Coke.

What about the citizens who prefer Pepsi? Or Dr. Pepper? Or those who don’t care for carbonated drinks at all? Too bad for them. And too bad for the companies who sell those marginalized products. With their competition getting such prime advertising, they’d more likely be outsold in the market.

All they could do is ask for this unfair practice of government advertising to end. And who would they ask? The same representatives who are already endorsing the products of — and receiving money from — the dominant companies.

This is obviously wrong. For companies to compete fairly, and for consumers to get the most of a fair market, the government has to stay out of it. It’s unfair to make laws in favor of one company — or against another — but so is mere advertising that shows preference for one over the other. Such is the power of advertising, and companies would pay millions — if they could — to get public servants to publicize their product.

The government doesn’t have to make laws that promote a product to give a company an unfair advantage over its competition. Just endorsing products, however indirectly, would do the job. Pretty simple, right?

I found Jesus — in COMELEC

So why is this concept lost on so many when it is applied to religions? How is it fair for statues of Jesus and Mary to be displayed instead of statues of Shiva, Vishnu, or any of the millions of Hindu gods? What makes it fair for Christian prayers to be said and Christian ceremonies to be performed instead of Wiccan chants and Pagan rituals? What makes commercial advertising different from religious advertising?

Religion is a business, and every church is competing for the business of believers. When there is no competition for business, a monopoly exists. Such a religious monopoly is called a theocracy, and the last time the Catholic Church had it they used a viral marketing strategy called the “Inquisition & Crusades.” It was a killer campaign.

The Catholic Church threatened, tortured, and murdered those who wouldn’t buy their products. They destroyed fakes by burning books–and their authors. (It’s interesting to note that the Bible was one of those books.) And they waged wars against companies who threatened to bring their exports into their monopolized market.

It wasn’t just bad for the competition. The customers, aside from being under constant surveillance and afraid for their lives, didn’t have any say about the product they were forced to buy. They couldn’t complain. The customer was always wrong.

Those who had no problem with the product (Catholicism) couldn’t be called informed buyers because they often had nothing else to choose from. And even if they did, it was forbidden to choose. Those who did were branded heretics (from the Greek hairetikos meaning able to choose) and were given a preview of the Hell they were condemned to.

Today, the Catholic Church can no longer use such methods to maintain their monopoly. But lucky for them, they don’t have to. For centuries, all that threatening, torturing, and killing to sell their products gained momentum.

Even without so much Church intervention, parents, teachers, and other authority figures perpetuated the hard selling to their children, and their children would sell to their children’s children, and so on, generation after generation. We call that shared upbringing culture, and we call that momentum tradition.

When Rep. Mong Palatino proposed a bill promoting religious freedom in government offices, all he did was ban religious advertising to ensure that religious businesses competed on a level playing field. When religions compete on a level playing field and citizens are truly free to choose which religious products to purchase (or not) — this free market condition is called secularism.

Critics cried that he was attacking Filipino culture and tradition, severing a link to some glorious past worth perpetuating. But I don’t think they want to go back to those good old days of religious monopoly. There’s a reason it’s called the Dark Ages.

___
Thanks to Jeiel for the CJ trial image.

Posted in Politics, Religion, SocietyComments (3)

If You Were A Pakistani Catholic…


Here’s a question to the Catholics who so vociferously decried Representative Palatino’s now withdrawn Religious Freedom in Government Offices Act (HB  6330). Would you deny your brother and sister Catholics in Pakistan the secular government that this bill was trying to secure? Would you refuse Pakistani Catholics the government that they were promised during the founding of their country?

In any case Pakistan is not going to be a theocratic State to be ruled by priests with a divine mission. We have many non-Muslims—Hindus, Christians, and Parsis — but they are all Pakistanis. They will enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other citizens and will play their rightful part in the affairs of Pakistan.

Muhammad Ali Jinnah, founder of the State of Pakistan

That was to be the promise of Pakistan, that it would be a Muslim majority country that had secular principles. Here we have a clear parallel with the Philippines: our 1987 constitution had declared ours a secular democracy albeit a Catholic dominated one.

And yet what is happening in Pakistan? What happens when the promise of secularism is treated as a sham by the religious majority? In Pakistan, Christians and Catholics are oppressed under the justification of a blasphemy law and Catholic politicians are murdered for daring to stand up to this oppression of religious freedom and human rights. And as reported by the Catholic website, Where God Weeps, during the floods in Pakistan on 2010, this climate of oppression against the religious minorities has made it so that the flood waters were diverted to the places where the religious minorities live.

In Pakistan at least, it seems that the Catholic church is keenly aware of how urgently secularism is needed to protect their flock and the other religious minorities in the country. Even the pope has spoken up to ask Pakistan to repeal their blasphemy laws.

History has shown that the practice of secularism, and not just lip service to it, is a good way of ensuring religious freedom. The actual practice of secularism makes it harder for those in power to oppress people with beliefs different from their own. That secularism in England arose from the mutual persecution between Protestants and Catholics should have taught the Roman Catholic church the value of secularism for religious freedom.

And yet what happens here in the Philippines? We have the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines misrepresenting HB 6330 as a bill that would ban god, as a bill against religious freedom when all it is a bill that reinforces the secularism demanded by our constitution. Meanwhile in Pakistan, a Catholic Bishop committed suicide in protest of blasphemy laws, in protest of the suppression of religious freedom, in protest for secularism.

One of the intentions of HB 6330 is to ensure that government offices do not represent one religion over another; to ensure that public servants won’t feel that they are beholden to a religion because of the religious displays or services in their work place and that the public they serve won’t feel that they are being discriminated against, however subtly or overtly, because of a difference in belief.

This is secularism, this is how religious freedom is preserved. By observing neutrality in government, by showing systems of belief or disbelief no favor over another.

It was mainly the loud and arrogant Catholic voice that brought about the withdrawal of HB 6330. These same Catholics are fond of citing the Golden Rule, “do unto others as you would have them do to you”. It makes you wonder, if they knew how the lack of secularism is hurting Pakistani Catholics, would these Filipino Catholics deny secularism to their Pakistani brethren as they have denied secularism to the minority believers in the Philippines?

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Rep. Raymond Palatino, Another Victim of Catholic Bullies


For people who purport to have monopoly on morality, the sheer lack of charity and grace of conservative Catholics never ceases to amaze. After days of relentless literal demonizing and threats of physical violence from this group, both online and offline, Rep. Raymond “Mong” Palatino of Kabataan Partylist has withdrawn House Bill 6330, the proposed “Religious Freedom in Government Offices Act.”

Several opinion pieces were dedicated in the past week to misrepresenting Palatino and his bill—accusing him of trying to “ban God” and questioning his motives by painting him as an atheist. Ignoring that these are completely irrational and fallacious objections, neither of these allegations is true. As Palatino himself expressed with utter confusion, how can you possibly “ban God”? His bill’s intentions were quite simple—cease government sponsorship of religion.

It is clear what this de facto state religion is. In his interview with Filipino Freethinkers, Palatino revealed that Protestants thanked him for his bill, saying that it will “level the playing field.” The conservatives who opposed Palatino’s bill were almost purely of the Catholic pursuasion, with a few token non-Catholics to puff up a false image of nondenomenational opposition to HB 6330. Protestants have very few icons apart from the Latin cross (without the bloodied human sacrifice) and some Islamic traditions are forbidden from having any images of living things altogether. And it is not only Catholic iconography that is at the heart of the matter here. It is simply a fact that some government offices underwrite Masses with public funds, in clear and incontrovertible violation of the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.

It is plain that the right of non-Catholics against coercion into sponsoring Catholic dogma is viewed by the government as unworthy of protection. Despite being completely unconstitutional, conservative Catholics are quite proud that they have total command of the Philippine government. Palatino is just another victim in a long list of casualties of Catholic bullying. It’s practically an institution in the religion. Again, conservative Catholics prove that intimidation and threats trump reason and logical argumentation. This should not surprise us as their entire belief system is based on fear and punishment.

Conservative Catholics are always quick to identify the “Almighty God” in the preamble of the Constitution with their own Yahweh. They use this as if it gave them carte blanche to propound every dogma in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. They fail to realize that this god could be any god—even gods they’ll find ironically nonsensical. Secularism benefits everyone, especially the easily offended. But, since conservative Catholics purport to enjoy majority support, the Filipino people have been helpless to contest their interpretation of the Constitution.

The Bill of Rights in the Philippine Constitution exists to defend the rights of the minority from the mob rule of the majority. HB 6330 seeks nothing more but to concretize the spirit of the Bill of Rights’ Establishment Clause. And what other purpose could that clause have but to safeguard the rights of citizens against state sponsorship of a religion? The building of chapels on public grounds with public money and the presence of Catholic saints all over public property is undeniably unconstitutional. Unfortunately, the tyranny of the vocal conservative Catholic minority holds our society, and our legislators, hostage. This belief in the non-existent Catholic vote is the Filipino politician’s most popular superstition.

We have seen time and time again that a small band of demagogues’ interests are disproportionately represented in the government. They abuse the state and mold it to further their sectarian ends. The flagrant display of religious icons on public property is only the most visible symptom of sectarianism—there are, of course, much more systemic violations of secularism. Non-Catholics should hear this loud and clear: we do not have a government for the Filipino people, but for the Filipino Catholic. That we even needed HB 6330 only proves this.

There is still hope for those who seek religious freedom, however. As in every single culture war issue, conservatives always lose. It is only a matter of time till freedom from religious coercion will replace First Friday Mass attendance sheets. Until then, advocates of freedom of religion and freedom from religion cannot trust the government to fight for their Constitutional rights.

Report violations of the Establishment Clause to Church in State.

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A Firestorm from Tyrants: Why Rep. Palatino’s Bill Doesn’t Threaten Religious Freedom


I found Jesus — in COMELEC

When I read Cito Beltran’s Philippine Star column criticizing Rep. Mong Palatino’s recent bill, “The Religious Freedom in Government Offices Act,” I didn’t want to dignify it with a response.

But a recent editorial published in The Freeman is giving me second thoughts. Maybe Beltran’s way of thinking is less anomalous than I’d initially thought among the writers of the Philippine Star (The Freeman is published in Cebu by the Philippine Star.)

In a single column, gross misunderstanding of secularism is forgivable, but in an editorial it cannot be ignored. It says that the entire editorial staff of the Freeman — and to some degree the Philippine Star, who published the piece on their website — doesn’t appreciate the constitutionally enshrined separation of church and state.

Since the opinion of Beltran is similar enough to that of the Freeman editorial, I believe refuting the latter is enough to refute both, as well as the many comments online that are based on the same flawed premises. I’ll comment on the editorial in full to avoid any misrepresentation. (Editorial text is italicized and underlined.)

***

There is a proposal — House Bill 6330 — now pending in Congress that seeks to prohibit the conduct of religious ceremonies and the display of religious symbols in public places and in government offices and buildings.

This is probably the only sound statement in the entire editorial.

The proposal, entitled “The Religious Freedom in Government Offices Act,” may sound innocuous enough. But in reality, it is an assault on the Roman Catholic faith…

I find it interesting that secularism is often seen as an assault on Catholicism. Because one of the first religions to benefit from secularism is Catholicism. Catholics escaped from religious persecution in Europe to America where secularism protected them from it.

This allowed Catholicism not only to survive but to thrive. It seems that many Catholics don’t know this, or are simply forgetting the fact now that Catholicism is the dominant religion.

They’re also ignorant of the plight of their fellow Catholics who are still begging for secularism in the parts of the world where they’re still being persecuted.

…which is the only religion known to practice the acts sought to be banned by the bill

Freeman thinks that this fact shows the discriminatory nature of the bill. But it’s precisely this fact that makes the bill’s necessity so blatantly obvious. Their criticism of the bill would be marginally more valid if different symbols and ceremonies from other religions were allowed equal time and space.

The fact that Catholicism is the only religion out of hundreds — even thousands if you count each denomination — exclusively in violation makes the inequity more obvious.

Actually, the bill violates constitutional guarantees against the passage of laws that curtail religious freedoms.

Secularism and religious freedom are two sides of the same coin–you can’t have one without having the other. Religious freedom is not absolute. When it comes to public space — which ideally belongs to each citizen equally — a citizen can’t practice their religion if it means that another is prevented from doing so. One religion that occupies public space with a display or a ceremony prevents all other religions from doing so.

Unless each religion is given equal use of the public space — which is impractical, if not impossible — the public space is best used secularly. Public space can even be called secular space without doing damage to the secularism and religious freedom mandated by our Constitution.

Nevertheless, there is a need to send a message to the bill’s author, Kabataan partylist Rep. Raymond Palatino, to stop his nonsense.

It’s quite common to dismiss Rep. Palatino’s arguments as nonsense or call him a loon or an atheist or an attention-whore. Name-calling, ad hominem, and other irrelevant arguments are used by critics to distract from the real issues, trying to project a confidence in their assertions which actually betrays a lack of it.

The bill attempts to use the bigoted argument that not everyone is Catholic and therefore any Catholic symbols should be removed from places where there are non-Catholics.

I knew the straw man would pop up sooner or later. The bill refers to public places–not all places.

What the bill’s author overlooks is that the acts he wants banned are there not by law but by common consent.

I don’t think public servants ever signed a contract that says they are OK with Catholic symbols and ceremonies. And even if they did, it wouldn’t be enough because public spaces do not belong to public servants–they belong to every Filipino citizen. I’m not aware of any recent referendum that resulted in “common consent.”

There being no decree on record mandating religious ceremonies or displays, it follows that no law should also be passed to curtail them.

There are no decrees on record mandating murder, theft, rape, graft and corruption, child trafficking, sexual abuse, or any criminal act. Therefore…

These things happen as a matter of fact and it is the fault of no one that the Philippines simply happens to be predominantly Catholic.

Everything that happens does so as a matter of fact. It is the fault of no one — no single person — that the Philippines is poor or that children still die of hunger. Each individual is at fault for his fellow human beings to some degree, and for better or worse, we are responsible for the society we live in. Yes, these things happen as a matter of fact, but that does not mean we shouldn’t do anything to change it.

Palatino forgets that non-Catholics are not being forced to participate in Catholic ceremonies or pay obeisance to Catholic icons.

In at least one case that we know of, they are. Also, you don’t need to force someone to remove their right to choose. Sure, non-Catholics (and even Catholic for that matter) don’t have to participate or pay obeisance, but many of them would rather not have to make the choice (“Should I pray with them or just wait for five minutes?) or would prefer to choose otherwise (“I’d rather use this time praying talking to my boss about something really urgent.”)

Truth is, until Palatino came up with his bright idea, things in this country have stayed unruffled by religious tensions born of such nonsense.

Again with the sarcasm and insults. Anyway, the lack of religious wars or religious terrorism doesn’t mean religious tensions don’t exist. Most acts of discrimination — racism, sexism, bigotry — are subtle and nonphysical, but it does not mean they don’t count as violence. On the contrary, these tend to be more pernicious, and often serve as seeds for the physical violence that could follow.

As a partylist representative, Palatino gained access to Congress through the “backdoor” so to speak, on the strength of nothing more than two percent of the vote. That is hardly mandate enough to tackle an issue that affects 80 percent of the country, more than he can chew really.

More irrelevant insults. Not only on Rep. Palatino, but on the partylist system itself. Also, it’s another fallacy: the appeal to popularity.

A final word to Palatino — if it aint broke, don’t fix it. These matters took root long before even his great great grandfather was born. He can’t just barge in as if he owns the place, or is he prepared to face a firestorm if he insists.

It’s somehow appropriate that they ended with yet another fallacy: the appeal to tradition. Many of the things we now accept as evil took root long before the great great grandfathers of those who fought against those evils — slavery, sexism, racism, the Inquisition — were born. Rep. Palatino is not acting “as if he owns the place.”

He’s reminding Filipinos that public spaces belong to every citizen equally. Rep. Palatino may be “courting a firestorm,” but it won’t be coming from the Filipinos who understand secularism. It will be from the tyrants who think they own the place just because they happen to be Catholic.

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