Protect religious freedom amid push for anti-discrimination bill – CBCP lawyer

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Religious and academic freedom should be protected in the proposed anti-discrimination bill based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression (SOGIE), the legal counsel of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said.

Senate Bill 935 or the SOGIE bill, endorsed by the Senate Committee on Women, Children and Family Relations and Gender Equality, aims to protect individuals and communities that experience human rights violations on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Lawyer Jo Imbong, however, said the grounds for penalties for discriminatory practices are “subjective” and fails to protect religious and academic freedom of institutions.

“Religious freedom is the right to believe what your faith tells you, to exercise and stand by your faith. No one can be forced to do something against his or her faith,” the CBCP legal counsel said in a forum organized by UniHarmony Partners Manila on last Aug. 26.

Imbong said academic freedom is the right of academic institutions to decide who to admit, what teaching methods to use and how to teach.

“Discipline is part of how to teach. [The bill] should not interfere with an educational institution’s policies in the reasonable exercise of academic freedom,” she said.

Fr. Carlos Reyes, executive secretary of the CBCP Episcopal Commission on Interreligious Dialogue, called on faith-based organizations to engage in philosophical discourses and come up with arguments for the protection of religious freedom in the SOGIE bill.

“It should be taken as an issue of philosophy rather than jurisprudence. Engage academicians for philosophical discourses as foundations,” Reyes said.

Reyes said the use of Sen. Risa Hontiveros of the word “self-esteem” to defend the bill stems from the debunked philosophy of subjectivism of Immanuel Kant, Karl Marx and Rene Descartes.

“This type of philosophy is seen in the popular level even if they do not know this is how they think. [Hans-Georg] Gadamer, who debunked this, used method and truth amidst the proliferation of gut feeling thinking. Self-esteem is the product of doing good, not the other way around,” he said.

He said social media would be the main battleground in influencing public opinion.

Hontiveros, chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality, recommended last year the approval of the SOGIE bill, which prohibits discrimination against members of the LGBT community and provides penalties.

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