Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Supreme Court decision on RH law a victory for freedom of religion

Plain Language summary:

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/592893/sc-ruling-on-rh-law-win-win

[1] Sections 7, 23 and 24 of the RH law obligate hospital or medical practitioners to immediately refer a person seeking health care and services to another accessible healthcare provider despite their conscientious objections based on religious or ethical beliefs.

[2] The obligation to refer imposed by the RH Law violates the religious belief and conviction of a conscientious objector.

“Generally, healthcare service providers cannot be forced to render reproductive health care procedures if doing it would contravene their religious beliefs.”

[3] Exception: in life-threatening cases, healthcare providers cannot invoke freedom of religion.

“But an exception must be made in life threatening cases that require the performance of emergency procedures. In these situations, the right to life of the mother should be given preference, considering that a referral by a medical practitioner would amount to a denial of service, resulting to unnecessarily placing the life of a mother in grave danger.”

[4] Freedom of religion preferred in Constitution; Benevolent neutrality doctrine

“In case of conflict between the State and Constitution’s free exercise of religion clause, the Court adheres to the doctrine of benevolent neutrality” which is “the spirit, intent and framework underlying the Philippine Constitution.”

[5] No compelling State interest to set aside benevolent neutrality


[6] Relevant US case: “Supreme Court Sides with Hobby Lobby

“In a 5 to 4 ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government cannot require faith-based companies to provide potentially abortifacient contraceptives to their employees in violation of their owners' religious beliefs.” (Read the complete decision.)
The Supreme Court, voting unanimously, upheld the Reproductive Health Law as Constitutional. But the Court, at the same time, struck down certain provisions of the RH law because they violate the Constitutional provisions on freedom of religion and freedom of speech. Among the provisions declared un-Constitutional are:

Section 7 and the corresponding provision in the RH-IRR insofar as they: a) require private health facilities and non-maternity specialty hospitals and hospitals owned and operated by a religious group to refer patients, not in an emergency or life-threatening case, as defined under Republic Act No. 8344, to another health facility which is conveniently accessible; xxx

Section 23(a)(l) and the corresponding provision in the RH-IRR, particularly Section 5 .24, insofar as they punish any healthcare service provider who fails and or refuses to disseminate information regarding programs and services on reproductive health regardless of his or her religious beliefs.

Section 23(b) and the corresponding provision in the RH-IRR, particularly Section 5 .24, insofar as they punish any public officer who refuses to support reproductive health programs or shall do any act that hinders the full implementation of a reproductive health program, regardless of his or her religious beliefs; xxx

Obligation to refer violates freedom of religion

 

“Sections 7, 23, and 24 of the RH law commonly mandate a hospital or a medical practitioner to immediately refer a person seeking health care and services under the law to another accessible healthcare provider despite their conscientious objections based on religious or ethical beliefs.” The Court ruled that the obligation to refer imposed by the RH Law violates the religious belief and conviction of a conscientious objector:
Once the medical practitioner, against his will, refers a patient seeking information on modem reproductive health products, services, procedures and methods, his conscience is immediately burdened as he has been compelled to perform an act against his beliefs. As Commissioner Joaquin A. Bernas has written, "at the basis of the free exercise clause is the respect for the inviolability of the human conscience."
The Court further explained:
Though it has been said that the act of referral is an opt-out clause, it is, however, a false compromise because it makes pro-life health providers complicit in the performance of an act that they find morally repugnant or offensive. They cannot, in conscience, do indirectly what they cannot do directly. One may not be the principal, but he is equally guilty if he abets the offensive act by indirect participation.

Freedom of religion preferred in Constitution


The Court said:
Freedom of religion was accorded preferred status by the framers of our fundamental law. And this Court has consistently affirmed this preferred status, well aware that it is "designed to protect the broadest possible liberty of conscience, to allow each man to believe as his conscience directs, to profess his beliefs, and to live as he believes he ought to live, consistent with the liberty of others and with the common good."

Penalties by RH law on healthcare service providers who refuse to refer are un-Constitutional

The Court is not oblivious to the view that penalties provided by law endeavor to ensure compliance. Without set consequences for either an active violation or mere inaction, a law tends to be toothless and ineffectual.

Nonetheless, when what is bartered for an effective implementation of a law is a constitutionally-protected right the Court firmly chooses to stamp its disapproval. The punishment of a healthcare service provider, who fails and/or refuses to refer a patient to another, or who declines to perform reproductive health procedure on a patient because incompatible religious beliefs, is a clear inhibition of a constitutional guarantee which the Court cannot allow.

Exception: in life-threatening situations, healthcare providers cannot invoke freedom of religion

While generally healthcare service providers cannot be forced to render reproductive health care procedures if doing it would contravene their religious beliefs, an exception must be made in life threatening cases that require the performance of emergency procedures. In these situations, the right to life of the mother should be given preference, considering that a referral by a medical practitioner would amount to a denial of service, resulting to unnecessarily placing the life of a mother in grave danger.

Doctrine of benevolent neutrality


In striking down these provisions, the Supreme Court said that "in case of conflict between the State and Constitution's free exercise of religion clause, the Court adheres to the doctrine of benevolent neutrality" which is "the spirit, intent and framework underlying the Philippine Constitution."

The Court explained what benevolent neutrality is all about:
The benevolent neutrality theory believes that with respect to these governmental actions, accommodation of religion may be allowed, not to promote the government's favored form of religion, but to allow individuals and groups to exercise their religion without hindrance."

 

No compelling State interest to set aside benevolent neutrality 


The Court may set aside benevolent neutrality if there is a compelling state interest. In the case of the RH law, the Office of the Solicitor General said that the compelling State interest was "fifteen maternal deaths per day, hundreds of thousands of unintended pregnancies, lives changed." But the Court rejected this argument:
The undisputed fact, however, is that the World Health Organization reported that the Filipino maternal mortality rate dropped to 48 percent from 1990 to 2008, although there was still no RH Law at that time. Despite such revelation, the proponents still insist that such number of maternal deaths constitute a compelling state interest.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Supreme Court Justice Jose C. Mendoza: Life begins at fertilization, not during implantation



The Supreme Court has affirmed that the Reproductive Health law is Constitutional. But the Court has also said that several provisions of the RH law are un-Constitutional because they violate the freedom of speech and freedom of religion clauses of the Constitution. As to the moment when life begins, the Court said that it is a scientific and medical issue that should not be decided without proper hearing and evidence. But the Court allowed each Justice to express personal views on this issue.

Justice Jose C. Mendoza is the ponente (writer) of the Court’s decision on the RH law. He expressed his view that life begins at fertilization, not when the fertilized egg has been implanted on the uterine wall.

“In all, whether it be taken from a plain meaning, or understood under medical parlance, and more importantly, following the intention of the Framers of the Constitution, the undeniable conclusion is that a zygote is a human organism and that the life of a new human being commences at a scientifically well-defined moment of conception, that is, upon fertilization.”

“This theory of implantation as the beginning of life is devoid of any legal or scientific mooring. It does not pertain to the beginning of life but to the viability of the fetus. The fertilized ovum/zygote is not an inanimate object - it is a living human being complete with DNA and 46 chromosomes. Implantation has been conceptualized only for convenience by those who had population control in mind. To adopt it would constitute textual infidelity not only to the RH Law but also to the Constitution.”
(Note: Statements in Supreme Court decisions that do not affect rulings, like personal views, are called obiter dicta.)

Overview of Justice Mendoza’s views:


Plain and legal meaning Webster’s Third New International Dictionary describes conception as the act of becoming pregnant, formation of a viable zygote; the fertilization that results in a new entity capable of developing into a being like its parents.

Black’s Law Dictionary gives legal meaning to the term “conception”as the fecundation of the female ovum by the male spermatozoon resulting in human life capable of survival and maturation under normal conditions.

Continental Steel Manufacturing Corporation v. Hon. Accredited Voluntary Arbitrator Allan S. Montano

Gonzales v. Carhart
Medical parlance Mosby’s Medical, Nursing, and Allied Health Dictionary defines conception as “the beginning of pregnancy usually taken to be the instant a spermatozoon enters an ovum and forms a viable zygote.” It describes fertilization as “the union of male and female gametes to form a zygote from which the embryo develops.”

The Textbook of Obstetrics (Physiological & Pathological Obstetrics)
Intention of the Framers of the 1987 Constitution Records of the Constitutional Convention also shed light on the intention of the Framers regarding the term “conception”used in Section 12, Article II of the Constitution. From their deliberations, it clearly refers to the moment of “fertilization.” The records reflect the following:

Rev. Rigos: In Section 9, page 3, there is a sentence which reads:

“The State shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from the moment of conception.”

When is the moment of conception?
xxx

Mr. Villegas: As I explained in the sponsorship speech, it is when the ovum is fertilized by the sperm that there is human life.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Online Bible quizzes

These interactive exercises (matching type, multiple choice, cloze, and flashcards) are part of my Baptist Distinctives blog. For the timer and automatic scoring to work, you must enable Javascript in your browser.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan): Where is God When Things Go Wrong?





Where is God When Things Go Wrong?” by evangelist and apologist John Blanchard is a free PDF booklet to download from David Legge’s www.preachtheword.com and by kind permission of www.evangelicalpress.org (Note: This download is for personal use only and should not be printed or copied. The book can be ordered singly or in bulk from Evangelical Press.)

Excerpts:

Why should issues of good and evil, or human suffering, cause any problems? If the British philosopher Bertrand Russell was right to dismiss man as ‘a curious accident in a backwater’, why should it matter in the least whether lives are ended slowly or suddenly, peacefully or painfully, one by one or en masse? If the Oxford professor Peter Atkins, another dogmatic atheist, is right to call mankind ‘just a bit of slime on a planet’, why should we be remotely concerned at the systematic slaughter of six million Jews or half a million Rwandans? Are we traumatized when we see slime trodden on or shoveled down a drain? The whole world wept over the destruction and death brought about by the tsunami in the Indian Ocean, but why not have the same anguish over the fate of beetles or bacteria, rats or reptiles? If human beings are simply the result of countless chemical and biological accidents, how can they have any personal value, and why should we turn a hair if dictatorial regimes or natural disasters dispose of them by the million? The same applies to violence or bloodshed on a personal or limited basis. If we are nothing more than biological flukes, with no meaningful origin or destiny, why should the way we treat each other matter more than the way other creatures behave?

How can we jump from atoms to ethics and from molecules to morality? If we are merely genetically programmed machines, how can we condemn anything as being ‘evil’, or commend anything as being ‘good’? Why should we be concerned over issues of justice or fairness, or feel any obligation to treat other ‘machines’ with dignity or respect? When people respond to tragedy by asking, ‘How can there be a just God?’ their question is logically flawed, as without him words like ‘just’ and ‘unjust’ are purely matters of personal opinion.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The 24th Fundamental Bible Conference in Metro Manila, October 22-25, 2013

24th Fundamental Bible Conference 
Date: October 22-25, 2013

Venue: Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Julia Vargas Avenue (back of Megamall)

Speaker: Dr. Matthew Recker, Senior Pastor, Heritage Baptist Church, New York, USA

Conference chairman: Dr. Roberto-Jose Livioco (Foundation Baptist Church, Pasig City)

For more information, please call 801-6789, 829-4474, 514-8340, 0917-8139-551, 0922-898-4725, or surf to Facebook Fundamental Bible Conference page

October 22

“Authentic Corporate Worship” by Pastor Gilbert Castillo, Gospel Light Baptist Church, Quezon City

“Christ’s Offer to the Moslem World” by Dr. Roberto-Jose Livioco, Foundation Baptist Church, Pasig City

“The Glory of His Character” by Dr. Matthew Recker - Keynote Speaker Heritage Baptist Church, New York City, New York, USA

October 23

“Lessons from the Lord’s Prayer” by Pastor Jun Gonzales, Las Piñas Baptist Church, Las Piñas City

“Victorious Living in Stressful Times” by Pastor Leo Lorenzana, Promised Land Baptist Church, Malabon City

“The Glory of his Creation” by Dr. Matthew Recker

October 24 

“The Challenge of False Cults” by Pastor Carl Gormley, Calvary Baptist Church, San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan

“Biblical Manhood” by Dr. Phil Kamibayashiyama, Director, Bob Jones Memorial Bible College, QC

“Biblical Womanhood” by Mrs. Debbie Recker, Keynote Speaker’s Wife

“The Glory of His Church” by Dr. Matthew Recker

October 25 

“Glorying God in Our Body” by Pastor Cornelio Sacramento, Christian Baptist Church, Bulacan, Bulacan

Panel Discussions


“The Glory of His Commission” by Dr. Matthew Recker

Pastors & Christian Workers Fellowship, October 25, 2013, 3:00-5:00 PM, Meal P100; “Completing Our Course with Joy” by Dr. Matthew Recker

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Due process must be observed in terminating church membership

What is due process?

 (1) “Before a person can be deprived of his life, liberty, or property, he must be given an opportunity to defend himself.”

(2) “Fundamental fairness”

(3) “Opportunity to be heard”

(4) “What due process contemplates is freedom from arbitrariness; what it requires is fairness and justice; substance, rather than the form, being paramount. What it prohibits is not the absence of previous notice but the absolute absence thereof.”

Supreme Court ruling: “While the civil courts will ordinarily leave ecclesiastical matters to church authorities, they may however intervene when it is shown that they have acted outside the scope of their authority or in a manner contrary to their organic law and rules.” (Fonacier vs. Court of Appeals and Isabelo De los Reyes, Jr., 1955)

Plain English explanation: 

(1) The pastor, board, or congregation, must comply with the church constitution or rules in terminating church membership.

(2) Church leaders must educate members on how church membership is terminated.

Biblical due process: Matthew 18:15-17
Several years ago, a young pastor from a province south of Metro Manila was actively opposed by some church members. When he couldn’t take these members’ actions anymore, he announced after the Sunday morning preaching that he was terminating their membership right there and then. His church was split the next Sunday, and he has since then transferred to another church.

The Philippine Supreme Court has ruled in the following cases that due process must be observed when church membership is terminated:

[1] Taruc et al vs. Bishop de la Cruz et al, 2005

We would, however, like to comment on petitioners’ claim that they were not heard before they were expelled from their church. The records show that Bishop de la Cruz pleaded with petitioners several times not to commit acts inimical to the best interests of PIC. They were also warned of the consequences of their actions, among them their expulsion/excommunication from PIC. Yet, these pleas and warnings fell on deaf ears and petitioners went ahead with their plans to defy their Bishop and foment hostility and disunity among the members of PIC in Socorro, Surigao del Norte. They should now take full responsibility for the chaos and dissension they caused.

[2] The Church In Quezon City, 2001

As early as 1988, the respondents-Board of Directors patiently and persistently reminded, advised and exhorted the erring members, including herein petitioners, to stop espousing doctrines, teachings and religious belief diametrically opposed to the Principles of Faith embraced by the CHURCH. The respondents-Board of Directors further warned them during Sunday worship gatherings, in small group meetings and one-on-one talk, that they would face disciplinary action and be dropped from the membership roll should they continue to exhibit acts inimical and injurious to the teachings of the Holy Bible which the CHURCH so zealously upholds. When they ignored petitioners’ exhortations and warnings, the erring members should not now complain about their expulsion from the membership of the CHURCH by the Board of Directors on August 30, 9193. The Board of Directors, before deciding to purge their list of membership, gave the erring members sufficient warning of their impending ouster.

[3] Fonacier vs. Court of Appeals and Isabelo De los Reyes, Jr., 1955

The Supreme Bishop cannot punish an erring member without first giving him an opportunity to be heard and to defend himself, and, in any event, without first securing the opinion of the Judge of the Curia de Apelaciones, and in serious cases, the case needs to be referred to the Supreme Council of Bishops. With regard to a case where a bishop is involved, the action shall be submitted to the Supreme Bishop for approval. And in case of guilt, the accused may appeal to the Curia de Apelaciones, whose decision shall be final. Such is the procedure laid down by the constitution of the church when disciplinary action needs to be taken against a delinquent member. It is not, therefore, correct to say that the Supreme Bishop can take action alone in connection with an erring bishop, even in disregard of the Supreme Council, in view of the over-all powers he claims to possess under the circumstances.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Instances when secular courts can intervene in church disputes (Supreme Court ruling in Fonacier vs. Court of Appeals and Isabelo De los Reyes, Jr., 1955)

Summary:

[1] Case title: “Santiago A. Fonacier, petitioner, vs. Court of Appeals and Isabelo De los Reyes, Jr., respondents” G.R. No. L-5917, January 28, 1955

[2] Supreme Court ruling:

(A) While the civil courts will ordinarily leave ecclesiastical matters to church authorities, they may however intervene when it is shown that they have acted outside the scope of their authority or in a manner contrary to their organic law and rules.

(B) Civil courts have jurisdiction to revise decisions on ecclesiastical matters where it is necessary for settling the question of civil and property rights, or when property rights are affected.

(C) Civil courts can intervene if a member is expelled without due process and a property right is involved.

[3] Plain English explanation: Secular courts can intervene in church disputes (a) if the pastor, board, or congregation, acted contrary to the church constitution or rules; or (b) when the dispute affects personal or property rights; or (c) if a member is expelled without due process and a property right is involved.

[4] Related post: “Doctrine of Church Autonomy: secular courts and church disputes

Note: Claro M. Recto was the lawyer for the respondents. He later on became a senator known for his nationalism; the famous avenue in Manila is named after him. Ferdinand E. Marcos acted as the Supreme Court’s amicus curiae (“friend of the court”).

Facts of the case:


[1] The Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI), represented by its Supreme Bishop Gerardo M. Bayaca, filed a case with the Court of First Instance (CFI) of Manila against Bishop Santiago A. Fonacier. The IFI sought to require Bishop Fonacier to render an accounting of his administration of all the temporal properties in his possession belonging to the church and to recover the properties from him. The IFI claimed that Fonacier had ceased to be its Supreme Bishop.

Bishop Isabelo de los Reyes, Jr., having been elected as Supreme Bishop after the filing of the original complaint, was later made a co-plaintiff in a supplementary complaint.

[2] Fonacier claimed in his defense that:
(a) he has not been properly removed as Supreme Bishop;

(b) his legal successor was Juan Jamias who had been elected in accordance with the church constitution ;

(c) Bishop De los Reyes, Jr. formally joined the Protestant Episcopal Church of America and for this reason ceased to be a member of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente;

(d) Bishops De los Reyes and Bayaca having abandoned the faith, fundamental doctrines and practices of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, ceased to be members and consequently, have no personality in filing the complaint.

[3] On May 17, 1950, the court rendered judgment declaring Mons. Isabelo de los Reyes, Jr. as the sole and legitimate Supreme Bishop of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, and ordering Mons. Fonacier to render an accounting of his administration of the properties and funds of the church.

[4] The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the CFI. Fonacier then filed a petition for review with the Supreme Court.

Some issues raised by Fonacier and the Supreme Court ruling


[1] Issue: The Court of Appeals erred “in holding that the ouster of Bishops Manuel Aguilar, Alejandro Remollino, Isabelo de los Reyes Jr., Gerardo Bayaca, Juan Quijano and Pablo Tablante decreed by the Supreme Council and the petitioner as Obispo Maximo was illegal.”

Ruling: The civil courts have jurisdiction to review the action regarding the ouster.

(A) “Where a decision of an ecclesiastical court plainly violates the law it professes to administer, or is in conflict with the laws of the land, it will not be followed by the civil courts.”

(B) “Expulsion of a member without notice or an opportunity to be heard is not conclusive upon the civil courts when a property right is involved.”

“Since it is claimed that the ouster was made by an unauthorized person, or in a manner contrary to the constitution of the church, and that the ousted bishops were not given notice of the charges against them nor were they afforded an opportunity to be heard, the civil courts, have jurisdiction to review the action regarding the ouster.”

[2] Issue: The Court of Appeals erred in holding that the abandonment of the constitution, restatement of articles of religion and abandonment of faith or abjuration alleged by petitioner are unquestionably ecclesiastical matters which are outside the province of the civil courts.

Ruling: “The amendments of the constitution, restatement of articles of religion, and abandonment of faith or abjuration alleged by appellant, having to do with faith, practice, doctrine, form of worship, ecclesiastical law, custom and rule of a church having reference to the power of excluding from the church those allegedly unworthy of membership, are unquestionably ecclesiastical matters which are outside the province of the civil courts.” (45 Am. Jur., 748-752, 755.)