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Friday, April 20, 2012

If RH bill is for "choice", then why does it endanger freedom of religion?

From CBCP for Life:

MANILA, April 19, 2012—As pro-lifers in the United States gear up for another nationwide rally for religious freedom in June to protest the birth control mandate, numerous Filipinos still need to open their eyes to the fact that one of the Philippine government’s proposed measures violates the freedom of religion.

Atty. Ma. Concepcion Noche, president of the Alliance for the Family Foundation Philippines Inc. (ALFI) said that the Reproductive Health (RH) bill, which has divided the nation due to contradictory viewpoints and insufficient understanding of its implications, tramples on the people’s religious freedom, a freedom protected by the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

Based on the bill, healthcare workers and medical professionals are forced to provide RH supplies and services or participate in practices that go against their religious convictions — referring patients to others who would provide the services concerned is participation nonetheless. Employers also must either provide RH services to their employees or suffer the consequences as specified by the legislative measure.

“Dangling a criminal penalty of imprisonment and/or fine, believers will find themselves torn between fidelity to God and loyalty to their country. This unjustly limits the right to conscientious objection on the part of health care workers and medical professionals,” Noche explained.

“For the exercise of religious freedom to be truly meaningful, individuals should be allowed to profess and practice their faith by freely seeking and serving God in their hearts, in their lives and in their relationship with others, without fear of persecution or punishment. Only in this way can this right be truly guaranteed,” Noche pointed out.

The current set-up already allows respect for the religious beliefs of everyone, the lawyer said.

“But once a national policy on contraception is legislated, that changes the landscape altogether. Making it a matter of national policy or institutionalizing contraception via RH Bill and allocating billions of our scarce resources, will deprive us of our choice because the government will effectively have made that choice already for the Filipino families,” she explained.

What ‘separation of Church and State’ means

Much as separation of Church and State has been invoked by those who insist that the practice of one’s moral convictions has no place in the public square, this principle has often been misunderstood.

“Under our Constitution, the command against the violation of the separation of the Church and State is directed to the State — not to the Church — which is mandated to steer clear of the religious realm and give utmost respect to the exercise of religion. So, with the RH Bill, is the State poised to breach this wall of separation?” Noche remarked.

“The State exists for persons, as a guarantor and defender of their rights,” she continued. “In the face of ever-changing social conditions that confront us as individuals and as a people, the central question is: What are the requirements that government may reasonably impose upon its citizens and how far should they extend?”

Religious convictions have no place in the political process, some RH bill advocates have said. Noche, on the other hand, disagreed with this notion.

On the contrary, “As demonstrated by St. Thomas More when he defied the sovereign of which he was a “good servant” and chose to serve God first, religion has an important place in the political process. For indeed, it has been proven time and again that for democracy to be stable, it needs a foundation of moral principles based upon faith and religion.” (CBCP for Life)

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