Liberty and Guidance

“Freedom prospers when religion is vibrant and the rule of law under God is acknowledged.” –Ronald Reagan

The church and state are two very different entities. One guides the people with their religious beliefs and the other governs them. Sometimes, this line is blurred out. A state tries to guide people (e.g. North Korean government) or a church tries to govern people. This time, we’re going to talk about the latter.

As most of us have heard in the national news, Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) did a very peculiar thing. Their church was investigated for detaining an ex-minister’s brother and other corrupt practices.Current leaders of the church were summoned to court for questioning on the matter. Yet, they refused the allegations and shut their doors down.The government was only doing its part in keeping the rights of the people and investigating a crime.  There was nothing wrong with what they did. The government has the power to do so, given that this concerned its citizen.

Another interesting fact is that some members of the church rallied out to EDSA mocking Justice Secretary Leila De Lima and the one who filed the case: ex-INC minister Isais Samson, Jr. This act fueled more tension with INC people claiming that the government had no right to meddle in their affairs. But in hindsight, the life of a person is involved, whether he be part of the church, he is first and foremost a citizen of the state. Faith should not hold back freedom; it should be the one that guides to it.

The church officials are alleged to have taken out the right of freedom of the said ex-minister’s brother. As written in the Revised Penal Code, Art 267, “Any private individual who shall kidnap or detain another, or in any other manner deprive him of his liberty, shall suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua (permanent imprisonment)….” Laws given by the state must be upheld; there is no exception even if the said person held power over a given church. The INC officials should stand up to the allegations and answer them. After all, they are leaders of a church.

In INC’s defense, they were just trying to uphold their beliefs. Yet, this cost them the credibility of their church. Many people started ridiculing members of the church by posting on Facebook pictures of themselves eating dinuguan (which in their sect, is prohibited). Some even went further by calling them a cult of idiots. We should not have hit that low because all religions could have done the same exact thing. What if your religion was the one involved, how would you feel? Rubbing salt to the wound will only make things worse. It is not right to make fun of an entire religion for an allegation and an act only few members did. INC is a minority in a country filled with Catholics; hence, they seem to be viewed as a lower sect.But, technically, they are not. They had the power to gather a huge crowd in EDSA, a commendable feat given they are only a century-old religion. The cause, however, is still in question.

So what do we get from all this?

A reminder of why the church and state should be separate in the first place. This is because sometimes what’s wrong for the church isn’t exactly wrong for the people of the state and vice versa. We learned this back in the Dark Ages and during the Spanish colonial period.  We should always remember that faith and the law are two very different aspects of humanity.

Columnist: John Rey Villareal

Column Name: Saucy Salamander

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