If you have been watching the news regularly for the past weeks, I’m sure you are at least familiar with the House bill 6330 or the “Religious Freedom in Government Offices Act.” This bill was proposed by Kabataan Partylist representative Raymond Palatino and it prohibits the religious ceremonies and the display of religious symbols or relics in government offices and/or public areas. This bill seeks to promote government’s neutrality towards every religion in this country. Also, as Palatino said, he wanted to remind everybody that, “public space is for everybody” regardless of what religious group one belongs to.
When I learned about this bill, knowing what kind of people live in this country, I said to myself, “Ah, this bill doesn’t stand a chance.” Just a few days after its proposal, it was already labeled as the “Ban God bill.”
We can’t deny that the majority of Filipinos are Catholic Christians. If you observe the Filipino lifestyles and traditions, you can deduce that Filipinos are strongly religious. But let’s face it, we are godly only on the outside. If we really live by the words of God, why are we considered one of the most corrupt countries in the world? If we follow the teachings of the Church, why are crimes and violence still hot news topics? And if these people who consider themselves the lambs of God, why do some of them get involved in cases of molestation and child abuse?
Filipinos need to realize that they are influenced by religion more than they are supposed to be. We need to be aware of the fact that most of our decisions and actions are based on our beliefs no matter how illogical they are. Political leaders even forget that the Church should not interfere with the State and vice versa. Some bills that are being proposed do not get approved due to the opposition of the Church leaders. Some of these politicians even become icons in the own religious groups. If they are doing it out of sincerity or they are just gathering support for their political career, we may never know.
I am an agnostic person and I have no intentions of contradicting any religion. I respect people with strong religious backgrounds and beliefs. However, they need to know where to put boundaries and stop pushing their beliefs down other people’s throats. In a larger scale, Filipinos in general should be aware of religious freedom, meaning they could choose a religion they want to practice or they can refuse to practice at all. Also, Filipinos need to stop labeling people a “demonic,” “anti-Christ” and other degrading names if they opt not to belong in any religion. For all we know, they could even be more morally right than those who pray the rosary and go to church every Sunday. Filipinos need to realize that being religious does not automatically guarantee righteousness. Most of the time we need to know when to think with freedom and logic.
If Raymond Palatino believes that this bill does not have ill intentions, he should have fought for its passage. However I have learned that he withdrew and even apologized for its proposal. If the leaders need to have an open mind for this bill, Palatino needs to have the balls to pass it.