The Iglesia ni Cristo (hereinafter referred to as INC) have been using the Separation of Church and State doctrine to validate their protests over how the government is dealing with illegal detention charges against the INC administration.
The whole controversy stems from the illegal detention and death threat claims of 2 expelled ministers who were allegedly expelled for causing a rift within the strongly united church. Another expelled minister claims that the administration is known for abductions and detentions geared towards downplaying corruption charges against the INC chief auditor. Illegal detention and issuance of death threats, both falling within the realm of punishable crimes, has justified the intervention of the government to investigate further and bring the INC administration to justice should their accountability be established. Now enter the flock of obedient INC followers who have taken to the streets protesting the government’s intervention and clamoring for separation of church and state.
First off, what is the separation of church and state doctrine? It is the principle which prevents the government from meddling with the affairs of any religion. These affairs include beliefs and principles they require their followers to abide by, programs intended to further the teachings of their church, internal and administrative matters which the religious group has the autonomy to address. The doctrine was never intended to place any religion beyond the reach of the long arm of the law.
That being said, the INC contention is clearly misplaced because the government’s intervention is not on the affairs of their church but on the reported commission of a crime. The government intervened upon the behest of expelled ministers who sought the protection of the state under the belief that they cannot protect themselves. The obligation of the state to protect their citizens outweighs the INC demand to respect their independence.
On a similar note, a senator turned presidential wannabee joined the band wagon and defended the INC, saying the group is just fighting for religious freedom (smirk, laugh out loud, smirk….).
My humble understanding of religious freedom or freedom of religious worship is the non intervention of the government in individual decisions on what religion to follow. Again, this is a principle intended to prevent the government from advocating any religion, to avoid that consequence of downplaying other religions.
Exactly how this doctrine comes into play in the INC controversy is beyond my cerebral capacity to comprehend. Not only is the government not advocating any religion, it is also not stopping the INC from exercising theirs. The government (not to mention the public) has been more than tolerant when the INC took their protest to the busiest streets in Manila and clogged the traffic until the unholy hours of the morning.
While the INC followers blindly obeyed orders to position themselves on the streets and shout separation of church and state without an understanding of what the phrase even means, it is a wonder if they could at least hear everyone else clamoring for their right to move about freely and get home early – too bad, freedom from traffic and rants from ignorant people is not a constitutional right.