If we’re friends on Facebook, you might notice that I post my opinion on politics and socio-economic matters. And you would know that I am not a big fan of the current administration of the Philippines. But let’s keep it at that, shall we? I don’t want to sound too radical.
One old and long gone issue which I wish to bring up as of now was the proposal of a certain congressman, who wished to eradicate prayers and religious images in government offices. I’m sure a lot of you are familiar with these kinds of things.
While the lawmaker already apologized for such a move, I think it would be relevant here to discuss my thoughts on why it was pretty reckless on his part to do so. From a secular and purely unbiased viewpoint (well, not really), I’d better discuss the reasons why I—and many others—disagree.
For one thing, I believe in the freedom of religion “cliché.”
This means that I believe that everyone has the right to practice their own faith, including the people in the government offices. Meaning, it’s their choice to implement prayers and put up religious images.
If there truly were a freedom of religion, then why should we restrict those who work in the government from praying or placing icons or images in their offices? Aren’t they—or we Catholics—paying taxes, aside from people who disagree with us?
For another, I also believe secularism does not involve the eradication of religious practices in public or religion in general, but the view that all beliefs—under the eye of a democratic state—should be treated as equal.
Pardon me if that may sound a bit…well…liberal from a traditionalist sense, but it’s true. We’re not imposing state atheism here, are we? If under the guise of democracy, we are to form a free nation, we can practice our creed, even in governments.
To add, Merriam-Webster defines “secular” as:
… not overtly or specifically religious.
There are a number of definitions which I found off the dictionary, but I guess that fits rather well in this case. No mention of an atheistic state there.
Under democracy, one could argue that the government shall not impose a state religion. But on the other side, this does not necessarily mean that the state cannot exercise its freedom to express the faith of its people. Simple, ain’t it?
What about “nosy” religious leaders trying to influence various aspects of the government? It would be hypocritical for me to speak of freedom, yet many would say that the Catholic Church wishes to take freedom away from others.
This goes both ways, actually. Over the span of time, we have known for certain that there are a lot of people who have tried to oppress religion and have spoken against it.
A lot of anti-religious folks over the course of history were trying to influence the government, so why can’t the Church do the same? Because we’ve been doing that ever since?
Umm… Yeah, that’s kind of what we do, fighting evil and stuff.
Anyhow, to cut things short, infringing the rights the government per se to express the freedom of religion is kind of far-out, don’t you think? Even if it were the case that there’s supposed to be no such thing as a state religion imposed in a “democratic” world, would it necessarily be a crime for the state to practice a certain accustomed belief, though not a state religion?
A false notion of respect would seriously lead to a compromise in our creed and in our faith. The deteriorating number of devout Christians would further be exacerbated due to the fact that a lot of our leaders are trying to scrap the devotional practices of people in the government, as well as public institutions.
As a predominantly Catholic nation, what would become of the religious sensibilities of the Philippines and its people, when public prayers and images in state institutions would be disallowed?
I’m happy that the motion for considering that sort of law had been abandoned. I don’t think it would actually change things, considering that most of the people here are Catholics.
And if the argument for the law would be to respect other faiths, then what a terrible way to do so—by throwing away all sorts of beliefs in general.
The law the congressman tried to impose wouldn’t really do so, but it’s a start. We pretty much know enough history to draw a conclusion as to where that would lead us.
[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://www.ignitumtoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/jaredavatar-2-e1317737695228.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Jared Combista is twenty-one and comes from the Philippines. He writes about the Church, touching on the topic of distributism although he still considers himself a student and not a scholar on the economic philosophy. He writes for Verum Nocet, as well as his personal blog, The Secular Catholic. He also plays music and he has no idea how that has to do with anything.[/author_info] [/author]