How Religious Freedom can prevail over State Authority

How Religious Freedom
can prevail over State
The landmark case of
Estrada v. Escritor
1987 Philippine Constitution
Section 5.
No law shall be made respecting an
establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free
exercise thereof. The free exercise and
enjoyment of religious profession and worship,
without discrimination or preference, shall
forever be allowed. No religious test shall be
required for the exercise of civil or political
1987 Philippine Constitution
Section 12.
The State recognizes the sanctity of family
life and shall protect and strengthen the family
as a basic autonomous social institution. It shall
equally protect the life of the mother and the life
of the unborn from conception. The natural and
primary right and duty of parents in the rearing
of the youth for civic efficiency and the
development of moral character shall receive the
support of the Government.
The Family Code of the Philippines
Article 1.
Marriage is a special contract of permanent
union between a man and a woman entered into
in accordance with law for the establishment of
conjugal and family life. It is the foundation of
the family and an inviolable social institution
whose nature, consequences, and incidents are
governed by law and not subject to stipulation,
except that marriage settlements may fix the
property relations during the marriage within the
limits provided by this Code.
Estrada vs. Escritor
(A.M. No. P-02-1651 August 4, 2003 &
June 22, 2006)
Created a glorious impact in the necessary
balance between State Authority and
Freedom of Religion
Foreseen that this precedent shall pave
the way for stronger emphasis and respect
for Religious Freedom
Re: Estrada vs. Escritor
I, Soledad S. Escritor, do hereby declare that I have
accepted Luciano D. Quilapio, Jr., as my mate in marital
relationship; that I have done all within my ability to
obtain legal recognition of this relationship by the proper
public authorities and that it is because of having been
unable to do so that I therefore make this public
declaration pledging faithfulness in this marital
I recognize this relationship as a binding tie before
'Jehovah' God and before all persons to be held to and
honored in full accord with the principles of God's Word.
I will continue to seek the means to obtain legal
recognition of this relationship by the civil authorities
and if at any future time a change in circumstances
make this possible, I promise to legalize this union.
Signed this 28th day of July 1991.
Re: Estrada vs. Escritor
Escritor's partner, Quilapio, executed a
similar pledge on the same day.
Both pledges were executed in Atimonan,
Quezon and signed by three witnesses.
At the time Escritor executed her pledge,
her husband was still alive but living with
another woman.
Quilapio was likewise married at that time,
but had been separated in fact from his
Re: Estrada vs. Escritor
Whether or not respondent should be
found guilty of the administrative charge
of “gross and immoral conduct”.
Whether or not respondent's right to
religious freedom should carve out an exception
from the prevailing jurisprudence on illicit
relations for which government employees are
held administratively liable.
Free Exercise Clause and
Establishment Clause
Found in Section 5, Article III of the 1987
Philippine Jurisprudence Revisited
1) Aglipay v. Ruiz
> Religion, defined
2) Gerona v. Sec. of Education
> Interpreting the free exercise clause
Free Exercise Clause and
Establishment Clause
Philippine Jurisprudence Revisited
3) American Bible Society v. City of Manila
> Religious Speech; right to disseminate
religious information
4) Tolentino v. Sec. of Finance
> Tax imposed on sale of religious
5) Victoriano v. Elizalde Rope Workers Union
> Establishment Clause
Free Exercise Clause and
Establishment Clause
Tests in determining when religious freedom may be
validly limited:
“Immediate and grave danger to the security and
welfare of the community” and “infringement of religious
freedom only to the smallest extent necessary”
Religious exercise may be indirectly burdened by a
general law which has for its purpose and effect the
advancement of the state’s secular goals, provided that
there is no other means by which the state can
accomplish this purpose without imposing such burden
The “compelling state interest” test which grants
exemptions when general laws conflict with religious
exercise, unless a compelling state interest intervenes
Free Exercise Clause and
Establishment Clause
Philippine Jurisprudence Revisited
6) J.B.L. Reyes v. Bagatsing
> Freedom of worship in relation to
freedom of expression, speech, and
peaceable assembly
7) Ebralinag v. Division Superintendent of
> Exemption from the flag ceremony
Free Exercise Clause and
Establishment Clause
Philippine Jurisprudence Revisited
8) Iglesia ni Cristo v. Court of Appeals
> The “clear and present danger” test
9) Pamil v. Teleron, et al.
> Disqualifying ecclesiastics from
appointment or election
10) Fonacier v. Court of Appeals
> Right of control over certain properties
Free Exercise Clause and
Establishment Clause
The case survey in Estrada demonstrated
two main standards used by the court in
deciding religious clause cases:
1) Strict Neutrality
2) Benevolent Neutrality
Strict Neutrality
vs. Benevolent Neutrality
 Otherwise known as separation, strict or
 The weight of current authority, judicial
and in terms of sheer volume, appears to
lie with the separationists
 Protects the principle of church-state
separation with a rigid reading of the
Strict Neutrality
vs. Benevolent Neutrality
 Protects religious realities, tradition and
established practice with a flexible reading of the
 Suggesting a preference for accommodating
over inhibiting religion
 Congruent with the sociological proposition that
religion serves a function essential to the
survival of society itself
 Thus, there is no human society without
one or more ways of performing the
essential function of religion
Benevolent Neutrality
Philippine jurisdiction adopts the
benevolent neutrality approach
Constitutional history and interpretation
indubitably show benevolent neutrality as
the launching pad from which the Court
should take off in interpreting religion
clause cases
Benevolent Neutrality
This approach is directed in the
protection of religious liberty
not only for a minority, however small,
not only for a majority, however large,
but for each of us to the greatest
extent possible within flexible
constitutional limits.
Benevolent Neutrality
The Supreme Court subjected the claim
of religious freedom to the
“Compelling State Interest” Test
The first inquiry is whether respondent's
right to religious freedom has been
The second step is to ascertain
respondent's sincerity in her religious
Re: Estrada vs. Escritor
Escritor’s conjugal arrangement cannot be
penalized as she has made out a case for
exemption from the law based on her
fundamental right to freedom of religion.
The Court recognizes that state interests must
be upheld in order that freedoms - including
religious freedom - may be enjoyed. In the area
of religious exercise as a preferred freedom, In
the absence of a showing that such state
interest exists, man must be allowed to
subscribe to the Infinite.
Re: Estrada vs. Escritor
Both criminal and administrative
complaints against Soledad Escritor
The Constitution focuses on the
“family” as the basic autonomous social
institution, and not on “marriage” which is
merely a statutory concept.
Similarly, a statutory concept cannot
prevail over a fundamental right under the
Constitution, more particularly the
Freedom of Religion.