Bar Q and A #23

What is prohibited in the Constitution is the establishment of a state religion. While the establishment clause in the Constitution restricts what the government can do with religion, it also limits what religious sects can or cannot do with the government. They can neither cause the government to adopt their particular doctrine as policy for everyone, nor can they cause the government to restrict other groups. To do so would cause the State to adhere to a particular religion, and thus establish a state religion. (Imbong v. Ochoa, GR No. 204819, April 8, 2014) 

The freedom of exercise of religion entails the right to believe, which is absolute, and the right to act on one’s belief, which is subject to regulation. As a rule, the freedom of exercise of religion can be restricted only if there is a clear and present danger of a substantive evil which the state has the right to prevent. (Iglesia ni Cristo v. CA, 259 SCRA 529)

The non-establishment clause implements the principle of separation of church and state. The state cannot set up a church, pass laws that aid one religion, and all religions, prefer one religion over another force or influence a person to go to or remain away from church against his will, of force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion (Everson v. Board of Education, 330 US 1)

The contention must be rejected. The use of the site temple will not be limited to a particular religion sect. It will be made available to all religious sects. The temporary use of public property for religious purposes without discrimination does not violate the Constitution. (Ignacio v. De La Cruz, 99 Phil. 346 [1956]; People v. Fernandez, 40 O.G. 1089 [1956])

a. NO, the subsidy is not permissible. Such will foster religion, since the school give religious instructions to students. Besides, it will violate the prohibition in Section 29[2], Article VI of the Constitution against the use of public funds to aid religion. In Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602, it was held that financial assistance to a sectarian school violates the prohibition against the establishment of religion if it fosters an excessive government entanglement with religion. Since the school requires its students to take at least three hours a week of religious instructions, to ensure that the financial assistance will not be used for religious purposes, the government will have to conduct a continuing surveillance. This involves excessive entanglement with religion.

b. If the assistance would be in the form of laboratory equipment in chemistry and physics, it will be valid. The purpose of the assistance is secular, i.e., the improvement of the quality of tertiary education. Any benefit to religion is merely incidental. Since the equipment can only be used for a secular purpose, it is religiously neutral. As held in Tilton v. Richardson, 403 U.S. 672, it will not involve excessive government entanglement with religion, for the use of the equipment will not require surveillance.

c. In general, the giving of scholarship vouchers to students is valid. Section 2(3), Article XIV of the Constitution requires the State to establish a system of subsidies to deserving students in both public and

d. private schools. However, the law is vague and over-broad. Under it, a student who wants to study for the priesthood can apply for the subsidy and use it for his studies. This will involve using public funds to aid religion.

a.) The offer does not violate the Constitutional prohibition against the establishment of religion. Section 3(3), Article XIV of the Constitution provides that at the option expressed in writing by their parents or guardians, religion shall be taught to students in public elementary and high schools within regular class hours by instructors designated or approved by the religious authorities of their religion.

b.) As counsel for the parents of the evangelical students, I shall argue that the rejection of their request violates the guarantee of the free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference. The exercise of religious freedom includes the right to disseminate religious information (Iglesia ni Cristo v. CA, 259 SCRA 529)

The principal is liable. Although the grotto and the chapel can be used by different religious sects without discrimination, the land occupied by the grotto and the chapel will be permanently devoted to religious use without being required to pay rent. This violates the prohibition against establishment of religion enshrined in Section 5 of the Bill of Rights (Opinion 12 of the Secretary of Justice dated February 2, 1979). Although religion is allowed to be taught in public elementary and high schools, it should be without additional cost to the government. (Section 3(3), Article XIV of the Constitution)

YES, the Commission on Audit was correct in disallowing the expenditures. Section  29(2), Article VI of the Constitution prohibits the expenditure of public funds for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, sectarian institution, or system of religion, or of any priest, preacher, minister, other religious teacher, or dignitary as such, except when such priest, preacher, minister, or dignitary is assigned to the armed forces, or to any penal institution, or government orphanage or leprosarium.

The sending of a priest to minister to the spiritual needs of overseas contract workers does not fall within the scope of any of the exceptions.

The religious organization must submit the tapes to the MTRCB. Freedom of speech and freedom of religion does not shield any religious organization against the regulation of the government on its program over the television. The right to act on one’s religious belief is not absolute and is subject to police power for the protection of the general welfare.

However, the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board cannot ban the tapes on the ground that they attacked other religions. In Iglesia ni Cristo v. CA, 259 SCRA 529, 547, the Supreme Court held: "The respondent Board may disagree with the criticisms of other religions by petitioner but that gives it no excuse to interdict such criticisms, however, unclean they may be. Under our constitutional scheme, it is not the task of the State to favor any religion by protecting it against an attack by another religion.”

Moreover, the broadcasts do not give rise to a clear and present danger of a substantive evil. In the case of Iglesia ni Cristo v. CA, 259 SCRA 529, 549: "Prior restraint on speech, including the religious speech, cannot be justified by hypothetical fears but only by the showing of a substantive and imminent evil which has taken the reality already on the ground."

The teachers and the students should be exempted from the flag ceremony. As held in Ebralinag vs. Division Superintendent of Schools of Cebu, to compel them to participate in the flag ceremony will violate their freedom of religion. Freedom of religion cannot be impaired except upon the showing of a clear and present danger of a substantive evil which the State has a right to prevent. The refusal of the teachers and the students to participate in the flag ceremony does not pose a clear and present danger. To compel them to participate in the flag ceremony will violate their freedom of religion.

The students cannot be expelled from school. As held in Ebralinaq v. Division Superintendent of Schools of Cebu219 SCRA 256 [1993], to compel students to take part in the flag ceremony when it is against their religious beliefs will violate their religious freedom. Their expulsion also violates the duty of the State under Article XIV, Section 1 of the Constitution to protect and promote the right of all citizens to quality education and make such education accessible to all.