The fact is Pinoy society is visual and it needs images. Politicians know this and so put "Epal" everywhere. Also Pinoy society is basically theist and so there isn't really space for the secular. But I have blogged about this.
Let me go to the idea of religious neutrality. The courts and our Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights hold freedom of worship as a fundamental human right. The Philippine Supreme Court has ruled that this right is supreme and even exempted some religious minorities from saluting state symbols like the Flag and the Anthem since they contend that this violates their religious conscience. However at least one religious group considers the Flag as a sacramental and it figures prominently in their liturgy.
|Let's ban the Philippine Flag from government buildings. It is a religious symbol for at least one religious group!|
The same too with Rizal statues. One notable religious group worships Rizal and once on a visit to Fort Santiago's Rizal Shrine on December 30 (of course it was meant as a secular exercise in a secular memorial for me), I was surprised to see a Rizal Mass being celebrated before Rizal's wax statue (icon to the worshipers of course!).
|And while we are at it, ban Rizal from all public state owned plazas and the Luneta. He is a religious symbol too!|
If all religious symbols will have to be removed from public spaces then the State will have to define what a religious symbol is. This will violate the freedom of worship right in the Constitution. The State will have to officially recognize the doctrines and beliefs of religious groups for the purpose of defining what a religious symbol is. What will religious groups do? Send in a list of their religious symbols to Malacanang? This is a clear transgression of freedom of worship and is coercive. What if it refuses to recognize the Philippine Flag or Rizal as a religious symbol for certain minority religious groups? Then this effectively intrudes in their right to determine what kind of symbol they may venerate or worship.
The point is that by guaranteeing the civil right of freedom of worship, the State is obliged largely by convention and the people's good sense and wisdom to uphold religious neutrality. There is no need to put this under statute since the danger is by doing so the rights of religious groups especially those in the minority may be infringed. The US Supreme Court has ruled that a certain intermixture between religion and the State may be permitted but excessive entanglement violates the non Establishment clause of the US Constitution. It may be that in the Philippines context, this intermixture may be broader than in the US but this is the nature of Filipino society and Philippine history is different from that of the USA. By nature the Filipino is religiously tolerant and ecumenical and drawing a narrower space for religion in public society may be harmful to public order than not. But then again Filipinos by and large respect the non establishment of religion that no one bothered to give a hoot (except the judge whose earlier ruling was reversed) when the Philippine Supreme Court confirmed a religious minority's right not to salute the Flag and Anthem.
This is the cold water on the Freethinkers. I posted Dr Rowan William's defence of why religion is needed in protecting pluralism and they attacked Dr William's being a religious personality and not the argument. This is the kind of Freethinking is dished on us. And BTW I have unintentionally skewered enough Freethinker arguments that I believe I can munch on Tani kebab... sorry Kani kebab!