On the occasion of the recently concluded demonstration of members of the “IGLESIA NI CRISTO” (INC) for having felt much offended by the Department of Justice in taking into consideration the complaint of this or those members against this or those superiors in the national executive level of the INC, in addition to the call for “Religious Freedom”, the more distinct cry made was “Separation of Church and State”.
The 1987 Constitution of the Philippines rightfully and categorically provides: “The Separation of Church and State shall be inviolable.” (Art. II, Declaration of Principles and State Policies, Section 6).
So is it that among other things, the Republic of the Philippines shall not have any official religion represented by any Church in the Country – be this the Catholic Church, the Church of Christ and all other churches and sects in the Philippines included. So it is that every ordinary Filipino as well as every Public Official are altogether free to profess their opted religion, free to practice their chosen faith, free to affiliate themselves with any desired Church or something the like. This in more simple language is the substantive meaning of “Religious Freedom” which is a necessary consequence of the said “Separation of Church and State” in the Country.
Just for information for whatever purpose it may serve, the Catholic Church the world over has her own normative universal provision in consonant response to the above-cited Separation of Church and State. Canon Law stipulates: “Clerics are forbidden to assume public office whenever it means sharing in the exercise of civil power.” (Canon 285, par. 3 CIC) Cleric refers to all Catholic Deacons, Priests and Bishops all over the world. This definite and defined canonical provision is in the realm of the maxim “No one can serve two masters.” So is it that in the event that any Cleric would dare violate the above-cited Church Law, he is either officially suspended from exercising the clerical ministry as a whole or formally dismissed from the Clerical State itself.
But then, the constitutionally provided Separation of Church and State in no way means that any member of a given Church, Sect or Religion is free or exempted from observing the laws of the Land, from answering to any proven violation of any criminal, civil and/or administrative law duly enacted in the State through its government for observance in the Country. So it is that the State is bound to observe and respect its separation from any and all given religious groupings. The same however is bound to impose its laws upon all its citizens – irrespective of any creed they subscribe to.
In other words, the Separation of church and State in no way means that any individual member of any Church is beyond the reach of the arm of the law the moment the former violates the latter. This is not only the rule of law but also the demand of justice. To believe, to say, to claim otherwise is inanity.