Separation of Church and State

April 4, 2010 at 5:29 am (Commentary)

To begin with, it is not what others think of as an absolute disconnection between the Church and the State. It simply means that government funds shall not be used for church-related activities or for a particular church’s temporal needs, and that the State shall not adopt any particular religion as its own. Others would think that the purpose of this concept is to prevent the Church from intervening with any State matter. But the Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines shows the opposite. Following are some statements that further elaborate the meaning of the idea. Article II Section 13 says that the State shall promote and protect the youth’s spiritual well-being. Doesn’t it sound like the State “cooperates” with the mission of the Church rather than being indifferent to it? Section 5 of the Bill of Rights reads as follows: “No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed.” It appears that the State is actively protecting the freedom of religion and of the Church, instead of distancing itself from it. This protection is being re-affirmed by the same Constitution by saying that “The State shall defend the right of spouses to found a family in accordance with their religious convictions…” (Art. XV Sec. 3 Par. 1). This does obviously mean that since the family is the foundation of the nation, our society is being built according to these families’ religious conviction, with the Church and the State on their back, serving as their counselor and protector.

It is not uncommon to hear the old lines, “We cannot have a Church-run state,” and “The battle of the Church is for our soul – in our spiritual and moral formation, but not through a governmental action.” It sounds plausible but it is actually mindless and misleading. To say that the state decisions should not be influenced by a moral formation is just as saying that the State has nothing to do with morality, and so all of its actions. To say that the battle of the soul ends where governmental action begins is no less than saying that people from the government stopped having a soul. And to say that the Church has no more right to appeal to one’s conscience if that one is already in politics is tantamount to saying that politicians have no conscience anymore. Moreover, it is very wrong to think that speaking about politics means politicizing, and that speaking about the government means running it. The Church is the conscience of the society – not excluding the State. The only people that it does not appeal to are those who are not part of the society and those who have no conscience. It is the presence of God’s Kingdom on earth, but it does not attempt to run the civil government. The archbishop of Manila, for instance, is not the president of the Philippines; nor the CBCP his cabinet members. It should be noted, however, that this does not mean that the Church would be unconcerned about civic affairs. It would always engage itself in every aspect of human life since no human being is “body alone” or “soul alone”. As long as our activities are human, the Church has something to do with it, either directly or indirectly.

Separation of Church and State is not a hostile divorce between two governments; it is rather a complementary distinction. To think of literally separating them would be equally senseless with saying, “Ang ilaw ng tahanan ay walang pakialam sa haligi nito.” Is it not the Church who teaches us to give what is due to the State (Mt 22:21), and that we should be obedient to the civil authorities (Rm 13:1; 1 P 2:13-14)? And is it not the State that mightily defends the rights of the Church and the freedom of religion? Besides, we are talking about the Fatherland and the Mother Church.

1 Comment

  1. The Glenn Beck Review said,

    I have a post up today about James Madison’s views about the separation of church and state that you might enjoy reading.

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