Who would push for marriage equality in Philippine courts?


A week ago, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the constitutionality of Proposition 8, a California initiative amending the state constitution in 2008, and the Defense of the Marriage Act (DOMA), a federal law passed in 1996. Both laws restrict marriage to a man and a woman.

In the Philippines, the Family Code, issued by President Corazon Aquino in 1987 when she still had legislative powers, defines marriage as a special contract of permanent union between a man and a woman. However, the Constitution defines marriage merely as an inviolable social institution and as the foundation of the family.

During the oral arguments in the United States, advocates of marriage equality argued that Prop 8 and DOMA were unconstitutional because there is no substantial distinction between heterosexual marriages and homosexual marriages in furthering the state’s interest. They argued that the purpose of marriage is not pro-creative, as the Christian lobby argues, since sterile opposite-sex couples and couples who do not have children are allowed to marry. They invoked the Equal Protection clause.

The Philippine Constitution has a similar clause under Article III Section 1 of the Bill of Rights. It states that “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.” The Philippine Supreme Court has adopted a four-fold test in determining the validity of laws under this Equal Protection clause. The classification must (1) rest on substantial distinction, (2) be germane to the purpose of the law, (3) not be limited to existing conditions only, and (4) apply equally to all members of the same class.

Thus, laws that restrict marriage between a man and a woman create two classifications: opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples. It must be remembered that same-sex relationships are not prohibited by law, since that would be unconstitutional for violating the right to privacy and liberty. Since gay couples are free to enter into a relationship, it must be asked why they are not free to marry.

A decision from the US Supreme Court striking down gay marriage bans, which might come out around June or July, will only help a similar case in the Philippines. Local politicians and religious groups would be hard-pressed to find a legitimate government interest to ban gays from marrying, as has been shown by the oral arguments in the United States. There, the Justices have asked skeptical questions about pro-creation being the state’s interest in regulating marriage.

Justice Elena Kagan even pointed out that the passage of DOMA was driven by an animus, or intent to discriminate, against gays. She read out loud in session a portion of the House Report, which said that DOMA was meant to reflect the Congress’s “collective moral judgment and to express moral disapproval of homosexuality.”

But while legal arguments against gay marriage bans in the Philippines are easy to make and would be highly persuasive, the country is still far away from a Prop 8 or DOMA debate. For Philippine courts to have an opportunity to strike down the Family Code for being unconstitutional, there must be an actual case or controversy.

There would have to be a gay couple brave and willing enough to put themselves in the limelight. The said couple would have to apply for a marriage license at the Civil Registrar, be denied such application, then hire a lawyer, file a case, and be exposed to intense media and public scrutiny– perhaps even be featured in a Catholic poster called “Team Beki”.

Any takers?

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Sabah: Rewarding violence


President Benigno S. Aquino III has spoken out against conspirators as the ones at fault in the violence in Sabah. He has threatened to charge Jamalul Kiram, pretender to the throne of the defunct Sultanate of Sulu, for his actions that caused his followers to invade Sabah to assert the ancient claim of his family to the vast territory.

But is it really about the Kirams? Is it about the claim to Sabah? Is it about Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo? Or is this incident merely a product of the traditional myopia of successive Philippine administrations, sacrificing long-term perspective for political expediency in developing policy?

Peace framework for continued violence

The government of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has sought peace with the MILF as one of its cornerstone policies. To this end, it signed a Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domains with the MILF that served as the capitulation of the Philippine government to demands of the MILF to autonomy. This agreement was struck down by the Supreme Court, and thus President Aquino was able to present the 2012 Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro as his own legacy of peace in Mindanao.

This policy followed by two successive governments, and the Ramos government before them, was a vindication of the method of armed rebellion chosen by the MILF as its instrument of forcing policy change in the government. It was incongruous that the government chose to accede to peace talks when the stated goal of the MILF was not independence, but rather a substate. That is rather unusual for an armed rebel group, who usually ask for independence and then concede to autonomy. Given that they already demanded autonomy, then it means that the MILF conceded recognition of the legal mandate of the government of the Philippines over the lands they claim and thus its subordination to Philippine laws. Even criminals who do not bother themselves to think of the legal mandate of the government are still prosecuted and then incarcerated, so why didn’t the government respond to MILF acts of violence with vigorous police action?

Even more curious, the government can recognize their grievances by simply encouraging them to participate in the ARMM elections. The ARMM has enough power to change its own system if the MILF’s endorsed candidates can win and implement their proposals within the already existing framework. The fact that the government entered into peace talks with the MILF and then decided to reorganize the autonomy of Muslim Mindanao based on these talks has shown a picture of government concession to violence. Even worse, it was the government agreeing that its own laws and structures, built with legitimacy derived from elections and plebiscites, are insufficient and can be changed only with violent action against such institutions.

This framework also nullified the loyalty shown by many Muslim Filipinos who did not participate in the MILF revolt. They fought with the Republic against the rebels, but ultimately they would live under a government crafted to the wishes of the rebels. This does not count the thousands of Filipino soldiers who died in defense of the same Republic, even as the MILF continued to flout its immunity from laws that bound all other citizens, such as the incident in Al-Barka. The framework’s contents might be valid, but their validity becomes irrelevant when the Constitution remained in force, and it was not respected by either the government or the MILF. Force has won over the law.

But then again, the 2012 Framework Agreement requires the MILF to participate in the electoral process. Does it not nullify the objections raised above? The answer is no. It might require voter approval, but then again the government has already shown its support for the MILF position. What happens if voters reject the framework agreement? Does the MILF go back to the hills? If yes, then what was the reason for the peace talks to begin with? If not, then why should we let the MILF’s decision to rebel slide? Other groups take to Constitutionally protected forms of political agitation, but why is the MILF special? Why are they getting away with violating the Constitution?

Incomprehensibly, even if the argument boiled down to force, there was no reason for the government to concede. Erap has proven that the AFP can defeat the MILF. The fact that the MILF could not even bluster for the rest of his abbreviated term showed that the power of the MILF has been broken, and it can only crumble in the face of sustained assaults from the AFP and PNP. The lull afforded by the peace talks allowed the MILF to establish camps and settlements that it was not able to win by force of arms. And they immediately showed their contempt for Philippine laws inside those enclaves.

As violence continued, the MILF claimed “lost commands” when it suited them to deny responsibility. Given that they cannot control their own troops, or at least they cannot guarantee complete peace even after all concessions granted by the government, there was no reason to sign the framework, but sign the government did.

And so at the end of the day, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front had its way. By exploiting talk of peace, it was able to gain government support for enforcing their way of life on people who never voted for them, in territories they could never win by force of arms. And those who remained loyal to the government and the democratic process looked on.

The Kiram Dynasty

The Kiram Dynasty once ruled over Sulu, Palawan, Tawi-Tawi, Sabah, and various other islands that comprised the Sultanate of Sulu. The Sultan of Sulu’s warriors plundered coastal villages under the rule of Spain, carting off slaves to be sold in the slave markets of Borneo.

But as time passed by, the Sultanate’s fortunes began to wane. Battered by continuous wars, the Sultan had to submit to the King of Spain in 1881, and to the Americans in 1916. To his credit, the Sultan became a Filipino, never again challenging the authority of the Americans  of the Philippine Republic. Indeed, one of his kin was a member of the 1935 Constitutional Commission.

But now, Jamalul Kiram III saw himself becoming sidelined in Mindanao affairs. Although the Sultan of Sulu hasn’t mattered that much for some time, it is probable that poverty and old age is driving him to more desperate measures. The government did promise to honor the Sultan as a spiritual leader of the Moros. The government also promised to uphold and protect the claim over Sabah.

And he has become so irrelevant that even his letter to the President was not deemed worthy of the personal attention of Pnoy. Now left with the pittance that is the annual rent, and facing competing claims over the title of Sultan, he has most likely seen how the MILF, and before them, the MNLF, achieve power and respect from the government through force. And so perhaps he was approached by opposition forces from both the Philippines and Malaysia, perhaps not. But one thing is clear – he had nothing to lose from the venture and everything to gain.

As inflation continued to erode the value of the annual rent and the government continued to express indifference over the Sabah claim, he has fallen far, but can still fall some more.

It is not clear if he actually thought he can invade Sabah and win, or if it was even his intention. But what is clear is that people now consider him Sultan of Sulu and he has obviated the legitimacy of the claims of other people, if only by the standard of being referred to as sultan both in the media and private conversations. He has also succeeded in forcing the government to take another look at the Sabah claim and consider its status.

And most importantly, his letter to the President was miraculously found and read by its intended recipient. And that is what violence brought Kiram.

The post-conflict scenario

The Philippines has long had a history of revolts against the government, even after colonization. The Pulahanes revolted against the Commonwealth, there was the Huk rebellion, the NPA, the MNLF, the MILF, RAM, Kato’s Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, and recently, the Magdalo. The question is, why, given the liberal democratic tradition of this country, are revolts so frequent? It becomes even more incongruous considering that not a single one of these revolts has been successful. So many people have tried and failed, but still rebels can be found popping out every so often.

Is it the oppressive nature of the government? Perhaps, but Leftist propaganda to the contrary, the Philippine government has never reached the level of oppression seen in Myanmar, even during the Marcos dictatorship. In addition, the Armed Forces of the Philippines has generally had a successful run against these insurgents. Even in the 1980s, when the AFP had to deal with the NPA, MILF, and MNLF all at the same time while combating putschists in its own ranks, the government was not overwhelmed and engulfed. Not one of these rebellions managed to threaten the government center the way the Huks did in the late 1940s. And the Huks were still beaten off. As a disincentive to revolt, this run of success is a pretty powerful one.

Why do rebels continue to risk their lives when a revolt is unlikely to succeed and when it is easier to go to Manila and just picket government offices? It is because violence works. Kiram’s case is unique in the sense that the violence was not directed against the national government, but it is still violence that got results.

The rebels might not have achieved their stated goals, but their resort to violence was rewarded. Joma Sison continues to live in comfort in the Netherlands and can lay claim to belligerency even as the NPA has been reduced to acts of banditry in the countryside. Honasan of RAM and Trillanes of Magdalo are now Senators. Misuari of the MNLF got ARMM before he revolted against the government once more. The MILF is about to get their peace treaty. And none of them had to account for their crimes to the Filipino people.

In the future, another citizen with grievances against the government might consider what happened all this, and once more eschew legal and institutional frameworks for agitating for reforms. The government should consider the costs of seeking peace in dealing with those who use violence to circumvent the legal process.

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The emerging Philippine tiger: Asian or Celtic?


During his recent visit to Manila, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper echoed many economists in hailing the Philippines as the next Asian tiger. This is something Filipinos had also heard some fifteen years ago, when the world hailed the Philippines as the next Asian tiger in the mid-1990s. The problem, however, is that the anticipated rise of this new Asian tiger never took place, and it’s highly likely that it will also not take place this time around.

An Asian economic tiger is characterized by massive influx of foreign direct investment (FDI), an export-driven economy, and a phenomenal expansion of its manufacturing base. Export-driven economic policies and a solid manufacturing base were the hallmarks of prominent Asian tigers like South Korea and Taiwan; while next-wave tigers Thailand and Malaysia were boosted by massive FDI, followed by the expansion of their manufacturing bases and the re-orientation of their policies towards an export-driven economy.

During the term of President Fidel V. Ramos from 1992 to 1998, the Philippines tried to follow the Asian tiger model by making a powerful pitch to attract a bulk of FDIs that were then going into the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region. The Ramos era was a time of political stability, economic liberalization, and a vibrant economic vision with a catchy name– Philippines 2000. Key industries were deregulated and de-monopolized, public enterprises were privatized, and economic zones and free ports, coupled with financial incentives like tax breaks, were set up to attract foreign investors. These brought about significant positive results. Electronics and semiconductors manufacturing sites mushroomed in Subic Bay Free Port and various economic zones in Laguna and Cavite, for instance. Yet all of these achievements failed to compare with what the rest of the major ASEAN economies achieved.

According to data from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), from 1990 to 1994, the Philippines took merely $4.7 billion in FDIs, while Thailand and Indonesia got $9.9 billion and $8.6 billion, respectively. It was even worse in the 1995-1999 period, when the Philippines got a measly $7.2 billion, while formerly lackluster Vietnam cornered $9.3 billion and Thailand received more than double its previous at $22.9 billion. The same story reflects the data for 2011: The Philippines got a meager $1.73 billion, while Vietnam took in $10 billion and Indonesia raked in $19.3 billion.

This failure to attract a substantial amount of FDIs resulted in an insignificant manufacturing base and a dismal performance in terms of manufacturing-based exports. Ateneo de Manila University’s Dr. Edsel Beja, in an opinion piece that appeared on the Philippine Daily Inquirer, even pointed out that the Philippines has been experiencing de-industrialization. One can simply go around Subic Free Port to know how much Philippine manufacturing has reversed.

Instead, the narrative of economic growth of the Philippines during the past decade has been characterized by the increase in foreign exchange remittances from overseas Filipino workers (OFW) and the phenomenal boom of business process outsourcing (BPO) industry. Manufacturing and export-oriented industry played very little role in comparison. This paradigm of Philippine economic growth is contrary to the Asian tiger model.

Many observers, like the Asian Development Bank (ADB), continue to argue that the Philippines needs to develop its manufacturing industry in order to attain inclusive growth. Some even assert that the Philippines should not yet aspire to be a services-based economy, since its manufacturing sector has never fully matured in the first place. However, the continued reluctance of foreign investors to set up a manufacturing base in the Philippines tells us that growth through the Asian tiger model is no longer viable, unless an indigenous Filipino company courageously decides to set up one.

There is, however, an alternative path to economic “tigerhood” that emerged alongside the Asian tiger paradigm: Ireland’s Celtic tiger model. From 1990s to 2000s, Ireland achieved phenomenal economic growth that raised its profile from being among the weaker economies of Europe to being one of its richest.

Ireland’s growth was different the path taken by the Asian tigers. Aside from the usual financial incentives to entice foreign investors, Ireland used its comparative advantage as an English-speaking nation and as a relatively cheaper location in Europe to build a strong services-based economy. The Emerald Isle became the destination of knowledge-intensive businesses like information technology (IT), financial services and BPO. This turned the country into a knowledge-based economy.

Of course, one key difference is that, unlike the Philippines, Ireland did not have to deal with poverty on a massive scale. But Ireland’s growth path through the development of its knowledge-based services industries is similar to the current path that the Philippine economy is currently taking. The Philippine BPO industry is already transforming from a voice-based services sector to a knowledge-intensive service industry.

The Philippine BPO industry is still in its infancy, and it must pursue the development of more sophisticated knowledge-based services sector like those involving IT, financial services, and similar other industries. The Philippines has the best chance of cornering investments of these nature. The competition in this field is smaller, with only India as the sole viable competitor.

Manila’s economic growth policy should therefore make a significant shift towards building a knowledge-based economy. The Philippines produces hundreds of thousands of highly skilled graduates that can meet the demands of a Celtic tiger economy. Jobs in a knowledge-intensive service sector are significantly better-paying than those in the manufacturing sector, which means that a knowledge-based economy would create a sizable middle class with a high disposable income.

In the Celtic model, inclusive growth can be achieved when the knowledge-intensive service sector produces a multiplier effect that boosts allied sectors. The demand for office spaces, for example, would boost the real estate industry, while the proliferation of offices would result in an increase in demand for fast foods, convenience stores, retail outlets like malls and supermarkets, and building maintenance and security services, among others.

In so far as the traditional Asian tiger economic growth model is concerned, the Philippines has arguably lost its comparative advantage to the other major ASEAN economies. The country should therefore explore growth paths where it enjoys overwhelming advantage. Instead of aspiring to be an Asian tiger, perhaps the Philippines should aspire to be a Celtic one.

Readers may indicate their wish to contribute posts in the blog’s comment section.

How to revive Japan’s electronics industry


In the 1980s and the 1990s, whenever a customer walks into an electronics store to buy a TV, his choices would almost always be either a Sony, a Sharp or a Panasonic. All were Japanese brands. But during the last decade, the story has become different. Korean brands like Samsung or LG, and even Chinese brands like TCL or Changhong, became the likely choices.

This change in consumer attitude is a result of aggressive efforts of Korean and Chinese manufacturers to challenge Japanese supremacy in the electronics market. For instance, when Samsung began massively selling LCD TVs in the mid 2000s, they offered them in much lower price than what Japanese brands would offer. But instead of matching the prices offered by Samsung, Japanese brands joined hands in camaraderie to keep their prices, perhaps thinking that, as the traditional dominant TV manufacturers, they have a solid market base. The result was devastating: Samsung took over that market base in just a couple of years.

The decline of Japanese electronics industry was historic. In 2011 alone,  Sony, Sharp and Panasonic registered a combined $20 billion losses. (Note: For the first half of 2012 alone, these three companies posted a combined losses of $12.5 billion -J) In contrast, Samsung made a historic profit of $15 billion. As a result, Sony, Sharp, and Panasonic let out waves of massive job cuts and plant closures throughout Japan and in countries where they operate. The gloomy reality is not confined in these three consumer electronics giants of Japan; the consumer electronics segments of such Japanese titans as Hitachi, Toshiba, NEC and Fujitsu have also been losing money for several years now.

It’s impossible not to miss the paradox: Japan’s electronics industry remains the world’s biggest and most technologically sophisticated, yet it’s also the fastest-shrinking industry of its kind in the world.

Yet, there are ways to revive the ailing titans. For instance, while Toshiba’s consumer electronics business is posting losses, its overall financial shape remains good. This is due to the company’s highly diversified business structure. It produces LCD TV, home appliances, medical devices, power plant turbines, railway equipment  elevators, semiconductors and nuclear reactors. This model insulated Toshiba from the threat of Korean and Chinese competition.

Another way out for Japanese electronics firms is to look for meaningful innovation. For instance, who would have thought that Apple, which almost went on the brink of collapse in the 1990’s, would rise to become the most important electronics-technology company today? Apple came back to the limelight when it revolutionized portable music players in early 2000’s by releasing the iPod, which evolved into the iPhone and the iPad. This innovative streak brought Apple back as a major player in the electronics-technology industry.

Sony itself has a rich history of innovation, creating the likes of Walkman and PlayStation. Innovations like these create new markets, which drive the growth of a company. Unfortunately, Sony’s creative side seems to be in a state of malaise; we haven’t seen any ground-breaking innovation from the company in the past few years.

Finally, perhaps Japan’s titans should give the home appliances and consumer electronics market up and find another niche. Samsung and Changhong can produce LCD TVs efficiently, but they are trailing their Japanese counterparts in terms of developing sophisticated high technologies. Japan, for instance, is a pioneer in the development and production of the Lithium-Ion battery, which is at the center of the quest to come up with durable batteries for electric cars. Perhaps focusing on these kinds of high technology production, on which Japan has an overwhelming comparative advantage, is the best way to revive Japan’s electronics industry.

Readers may indicate their wish to contribute posts in the blog’s comment section.

China’s fishing boat aggression


When a state projects its overwhelming military might against another state in pursuit of its foreign policy objectives, it’s called gunboat diplomacy. But when a state uses not the traditional military warships and jets but a supposedly harmless flotilla of civilian fishing crafts, it’s a fishing boat aggression.

In the Scarborough Shoal, it was the encroachment of Chinese fishing boats into the Philippine Excusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which prompted a reaction from Manila, that led to the current tensions between the Philippines and China. The role of these private Chinese fishing boats in the escalation of tension in disputed areas is indicative of the new pattern being employed by China in asserting its claims.

In 2010, a Chinese fisherman rammed his boat on a Japanese Coast Guard ship on the waters around the Senkaku Islands, causing a row between China and Japan. In 2011, on the other hand, Chinese fishing boats inflicted damages to oil exploration activities in Vietnam’s EEZ.

This is how Beijing’s fishing boat aggression works: Purportedly Chinese civilian boats will venture into the other country’s EEZ. When patrol boats of that country try to apprehend them, maritime patrol vessels from China’s Fisheries Bureau (under the Ministry of Agriculture) will suddenly appear to secure the Chinese boats, often resulting in a stalemate. China would then reiterate its so-called “inalienable right” to the disputed waters, and insist on a bilateral negotiation to resolve the stand-off.

As the stand-off drags, China would then flare up domestic nationalist sentiments by demonizing the rival claimants, like Japan and the Philippines, through its controlled media. This is then followed by economic pressures like the restriction of rare earth exports to Japan in 2010, the cancellation of tourist travels to the Philippines, and the dumping of Philippine banana exports in China. Finally, China would rattle its saber by making bold pronouncements of its willingness and capability to defend its territory militarily, just as it dismisses suggestions to resolve the disputes through mechanisms under international law. Meanwhile, Chinese fishing boats continue their activities, ignoring all protestations.

Obviously, China is employing this new strategy for two reasons. Firstly, Beijing wants to show that the disputed waters are indeed traditional fishing grounds for Chinese fishermen, in order to buttress its “historical claims” to the said maritime territories. Secondly, by using vessels from the Fisheries Bureau instead of, say, the Coast Guard, the Chinese side is trying to dodge accusations of aggressiveness by characterizing its activities in the area as being civilian in nature.

We have to acknowledge that the Chinese fishermen believe their government’s claims that the disputed waters are really Chinese territory, of course. But it cannot be denied that these fishermen know the danger of venturing into those disputed waters. Without the Fisheries Bureau’s backing, it’s less likely for these Chinese fishermen to risk chartering through these disputed waters. In other words, the boldness of the fishing boats to rummage the disputed waters stems from the protection given by the Fisheries Bureau.

Are these Chinese fishermen merely engaging in private economic expedition, or are they playing accomplice to China’s assertive policies in the disputed waters? It’s difficult to tell. But what’s apparent is that the weight of pressure that China employs whenever stalemates arise due to these fishing boats is indicative of the aggressive nature of Beijing’s South China Sea policy.

Clearly, Beijing is using these supposedly private fishing boats as a tool to advance its claims in the disputed waters. This fishing boat aggression is here to stay, and China’s rival claimants should know how to deal with it.

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Should the principle of separation of Church and State apply to atheist groups?


Auguste Comte, considered the father of Sociology and Positivism, proposed in his “Law of Three Stages” that societal development undergoes three stages: (1) Theological, where nature and the natural phenomena are sought and understood through mythical and supernatural explanations; (2) Metaphysical, where understanding of the origin of nature and the natural phenomena was through abstract and philosophical explanation; and (3) Positivism or Scientific,  where nature and the natural phenomena are explained and understood through scientific methods and means, and invalidated abstract or supernatural concepts as an explanation. For Comte, the third stage is the pinnacle of the development of human society.

This same understanding of human societal development as positivist and humanistic unites a group of people who call themselves variedly as humanists, atheists, agnostics, secularists, freethinkers, non-believers, naturalists, sceptics and non-theists. The more passionate of them are bonded through formal groups like American Atheists, British Humanist Association, International Humanist and Ethical Union and Secular Coalition for America, to name a few. They have created structures to manage, organize, fund and campaign for the propagation of secular-humanistic-atheistic values, ideas and ethics in society.

Many of them, like the British Humanist Association, have developed secular ceremonies for marriage, baptism and funeral as an alternative to churches. Others organize retreat-like camps like the Camp Quest where children are taught of humanist, secularist and freethought ideas.  Some have engaged in militant atheism, like Richard Dawkins who aggressively preach atheism and naturalism in the backdrop of the eventual eradication of religion. Evidently, signs that the theory postulated by Comte one hundred fifty years ago may seem to be dawning.

However, the changes and development in the dynamics on how the varied worldviews of irreligion are providing alternatives against the traditional turf of churches and religion is something that needs to be qualified. It is understood that the formal formation of various movements of irreligion are still in its infancy. But nonetheless, the ideas, beliefs and convictions they are rooting for are clear. Hence, qualifying irreligion in the level of religion is possible, and necessary in the context of liberal, constitutional democracy.

We will qualify irreligion in the level of religion in two ways, first as a worldview and second as an active structured organization motivated and founded on a worldview or a set of worldviews. Then, we will look at how this is a cause for us to re-think and expand the separation of Church and State principle as a democratic ideal in the light of new developments in human society.

Firstly, Worldview has been defined by Leo Apostel and his associates at the Center Leo Apostel for Interdisciplinary Studies (CLEA) of Free University of Brussels as “a map that we use to orient and explain, from which we evaluate and act, and put forward prognoses and visions of the future. Hence: (i) orient; (ii) explain; (iii) evaluate; (iv) act and; (v) predict are the basic aspects of a worldview”.  (Apostel, et al. World Views, from fragmentation to integration, 1994) He further elaborated the qualifying of worldviews through seven standards:

  1. A model of the world (What is the nature of the world? How is it structured?)
  2. An explanation model (Why is the world the way it is and not different? Why are we the way we are and not different?)
  3. An evaluation model (Why do we feel in our world the way we feel?)
  4. An action model (How can we and do we have to act and create in this world? How can we influence and transform?)
  5. A rational futurology (What kind of future is ahead of us? And what are the criteria that allow us to choose for the future?)
  6. A model of model construction (How do we have to construct a model of the world such that we can answer the above questions?)
  7. Fragments of worldviews as starting points (What are the partial answers that can be given to the above questions?)

So, in taking this approach, we can surmise that a worldview is a distinct body of knowledge and ideas that take its own approach in answering important human questions and understanding, whether philosophical, scientific, social, political or religious. This separates a mere idea or concept to a worldview. It is in this regard that humanistic-atheistic irreligion is a worldview, as much as various religions are also worldviews. Religion and irreligion are worldviews trying to answer the same questions of life and nature. They are competing to provide answers and truths. Hence, religion and irreligion are worldviews in equal footing.

The second qualification proposed in this essay is that irreligion like religion is active structured organization motivated and founded on a worldview or a set of worldviews. The church is the expressed system and organization of religion. It is the structure of religion that maintains, enriches, promotes and defends its worldview. Similarly, Humanistic-Atheistic-Secularist worldviews are now enriched, propagated and defended through emerging formal structures, which we can call as worldview-structures like the British Humanist Association and American Atheist. One saliency is the fact that worldview-structure is active, that it engages the society to propagate its own worldview. This is an important difference to a passive worldview, which is stuck in the theoretical realm, like, for instance, anarchy.

Moreover, the worldview-structures, including various organized religions, compete in the public arena to push for their own worldview regarding, for instance, the origin of nature. A Hindu, for example, will have a distinct worldview vis-a-vis an Atheist or a Scientologist or even a Communist. Hence, the actual confrontations of different worldviews happen in society through the worldview-structures. Some lobby the government, some do public demonstrations, some are involved in public discourses, while others, in the case of formal churches, propagate their views through their normal church services.

Thus, in light of the progress and development in human social stratification and grouping as motivated by their worldviews, we see a case where direct and indirect imposition of worldview in society and in state to be no longer an exclusive complaint against religion or church; instead it has progressed: irreligious groups are now imposing their worldview as the standard worldview as well. This new reality is what this essay scrutinizes.

The principle of the separation of Church and State in liberal democracy was practically founded on the idea that State will never espouse an established religion. Henceforth, legal frameworks were developed in various liberal democratic countries to uphold this idea. To cite a few, the “free exercise” and “non-establishment” clauses are enshrined in the First Amendment of American Constitution, while Article II, Sec 6 of the Philippine Constitution contain a direct expression of the separation of Church and State.

The motivation is to allow each individual to freely pursue his or her own belief without any prior restraint, fear or threat. It assumes also that the State should remain neutral, while the Church should keep itself mellowed down in relation to core state functions. This environment ideally provides healthy pluralism; no religion is given the privilege in the society.

However, this essay put into question the potency of the principle of the separation of Church and State not just as a political theory, but as a legal doctrine that has clear implications in society, in light of the analysis of the emergence of worldview-structures. In the legal framework of the separation principle, where do you place irreligious organizations, which, like the Church, forward a worldview to the society?

In American Jurisprudence, we find very few cases and citations about irreligion. In Torasco v. Watkins, Justice Hugo Black hinted that Secular Humanism could be considered a religion in the likes of Buddhism and Ethical Culture. However, Peloza v. Capistrano School District establishes that as far as the ‘establishment clause purposes’ in the First Amendment is concerned, Secular Humanism is not a “religion”. Still, in Washington Ethical Society v. District of Columbia and Fellowship of Humanity v. County of Alameda, the court granted the Ethical and the Humanist organizations tax exemption because they function like a ‘church’.

Clearly, there is a seeming confusion regarding the status of irreligious organizations that promote worldview-structures. Although Justice Black in Torasco v. Watkins rightly identified non-theistic belief systems as akin to religious belief systems, no law qualifies or defines irreligion and non-theism. This lack of qualification represents how liberal democracies have failed to anticipate the rise of these alternative worldview-structures.

Hence, the task at hand is overwhelming. The development worldview-structures has made it a necessity to re-think, and possibly expand, the current principle of separation of Church and State with the view of properly qualify the non-religious and irreligious worldview-structures. The political and legal implications are great. If this is not addressed, certain worldview-structures, like the atheistic-humanistic groups would have immense privileges in forwarding their worldviews to the state, at the expense of religions and churches, which in the current set up are effectively checked. This is fatalistic to the progress of liberal democracy. In the name of preservation of democratic ideals and of freedoms, we should start to re-think now.

Readers may indicate their wish to contribute posts in the blog’s comment section.