To discuss about the philosophical and theological views of religious liberty as a distinct human right, the Humanities & Letters cluster invited Fr. Patrick Riordan, S.J. in a Pakighinabi session, August 3.
Along with Fr. Riordan, faculty members from the departments of Philosophy, Theology, and Islamic Studies engaged in the discussion.
Religious liberty, human dignity
Fr. Riordan first outlined the question, “Is religious liberty a distinct human right?” in his talk.
He mentioned the Article III Section 8 of the concom draft of the Federal Constitution and its separate mandates of the freedom of religion and separation of the church and state.
“Now there are two issues that state in this formulation that they are mirror images of one another; these can be crudely formulated as the protection of politics from the domination of religion, that’s separation of church and state, and the protection of religion from domination of politics,” he said.
Fr. Riordan focused on the exercise of the freedom of religion and protecting it from politics.
“In the Philippine case [we see] how the exercise of religion is expanded to include public expression of belief, as also participation in worship.
“Citizens rights to assemble, to proclaim their commitments and convictions, to declare their loyalties, should be protected and respected regardless of the content of their convictions of loyalties,” Fr. Riordan explained.
He said that the reason why people have rights is because of human dignity.
“The universal declaration of human rights begins by asserting the recognition of the rights and dignity of every person… but the subsequent two major conventions on civil and political rights, economic and social rights, they assert dignity as the basis of rights,” Fr. Riordan said.
He then presented the arguments of the liberal state regarding religion as a distinct human right.
“It is beyond the competence of the liberal state to determine what religion is, and which phenomena fall within the definition, and which fall outside.
“That it must take care not to discriminate, neither [be] in favor for or [be] against any group or any vision of the human good and its laws,” he said.
Fr. Riordan ended his discussion through presenting his arguments on a separate right to religious liberty: history of religious persecution and intolerance, and link to grounds of human dignity.
“…in which the ground for toleration is not skepticism, but of truth and respect for human intellect and conscience as capable for attaining truth.
“The foundational value for dignity is not autonomy, choice, and option for good in a sense of choosing, but grasp of truth, understanding knowledge,” he said.
Miguel Antonio, Philosophy Department shared how the language of religion could contribute to the ground of human dignity.
“In his book, ‘After God’, he would say that what we have to pay attention to with regards to religion is most especially the language that they use, because the language that religions do use say something about the dimension of our existence that ethics and morality don’t necessarily take into account. And this is something that is equally as vital in our search for truth,” he said.
Edgar Nartatez, Philosophy Department said that because religion is inherent, it is a distinctive right.
“Religion is something innate or inherent, it is a distinctive right, I would argue. If the argument is successful, that human nature is by very nature religious… the theological argument… that we are made in the image of God, therefore, we cannot not be spiritual,” he said.
Philosophy and Theology Department faculty Fil-Am Tutor said that it is the moral obligation of a human to ask religious questions.
“It’s just natural for human beings to be asking questions like… ultimate destiny, our connection to the cosmos, and our place in the history; these are religious questions, questions which different religions have offered answers.
“But this moral obligations to ask these questions are not coming from the outside, it’s coming from within, it’s [demanded] by our being human; we’re impelled to seek answers to these questions, because we are beings of meaning. We look for meaning on which we ground our [beliefs in],” she said.
Dr. Arnella Clamor from the Theology Department said that human dignity is both a gift and a task.
“Our being created in the likeness and image of God… [this] is both a gift and a task. A gift, it’s given to us human beings… even the unborn child has a human dignity without even developing the capacity for ethical independence for freedom or will.”
Sh. C. Sultan Uy Ubpon, Islamic Studies Department said that there is no compulsion in religion.
“During the time of Prophet Muhammad, they all coexist with Christians and Jews… God gave us the freewill to choose or to search what truth do you want. It depends on you what religion you will choose; we have freewill. God gave that to us,” he said.