Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Re: Letter of Tony Q. Valenciano, Holding of Religious Rituals at the Hall of Justice Building in Quezon City

Facts: Valenciano wrote several letters to former Chief Justice Renato S. Puno, complaining about the holding of masses during lunch break at the basement of the Quezon City Hall of Justice. He claimed that the religious icons placed there, the electric organ and other items related to the celebration of masses therein violated the separation of the constitutional provision on the separation of the Church and State. He also claimed, among others, that the choir rehearsals disturbed the other employees and that the other employees could no longer attend to their personal necessities as they cannot go to the lavatories which are located near the basement.

Issue: Whether there was a violation of the constitutional provision on the separation of the Church and State with the holding of masses during lunch break at the basement of the Quezon City Hall of Justice.

Held: There was no violation.

The present controversy did not involve a national or local law in conflict with the Free Exercise Clause. Valenciano was merely questioning the propriety of holding religious masses at the basement of the QC Hall of Justice.

By allowing the holding of masses, the Court could not be said to have established Roman Catholicism as an official religion or to have endorsed the same. It also allowed other religious denominations to practice their religion within the courthouses.

Thus, the holding of religious rituals at the Halls of Justice does not amount to a union of Church and State. While the Church and State are separate, the latter still recognizes the inherent right of the people to have some form of belief system. Such is enshrined in our Constitution.

Besides, allowing religion to flourish is not contrary to the principle of separation of Church and State.

In order to give life to the constitutional right of freedom of religion, the State adopts a policy of accommodation - a recognition of the reality that some governmental measures may not be imposed on a certain portion of the population for the reason that these measures are contrary to their religious beliefs. As long as it can be shown that the exercise of the right does not impair the public welfare, the attempt of the State to regulate or prohibit such right would be an unconstitutional encroachment.

There is in this case, merely an accommodation.

First, there is no law, ordinance or circular issued by any duly constitutive authorities expresslly mandating that judicial employees attend the mass.

Second, when judiciary employees attend the masses to profess their faith, it is at their own initiative and on their own free will.

Third, no government funds are being spent because the lighting and airconditioning continue to be operational even if there are no religious rituals being observed.

Fourth, the basement has neither been converted into a Roman Catholic Chapel not has it been permanently appropriated for the exclusive use of the faithful.

Fifth, the allowance of religious masses has not prejudiced other religions.


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