24 June 2006

SC upholds unique marital arrangement

YESTERDAY, the Inquirer carried a story about a landmark Supreme Court decision upholding a unique marital arrangement among Jehovah's Witnesses. As a member of that religious organization, I immediately searched the Supreme Court website for a copy. Unfortunately, it is not yet available, the latest ones having been issued only on June 20, 2006.

However, a copy of an earlier SC decision on the same case can be found at the Chan Robles Virtual Law Library. It lays down the facts of the case, and the bases for this new doctrine. The equally compelling dissenting opinions can also be accessed from the site.

Supreme Court spokesman Ismael Khan, Jr. provides an excellent summary in a September 5, 2003 article that appeared in the Inquirer, the relevant portions of which I took the liberty of quoting below:

The establishment and free exercise clauses are stated quite clearly in Article III, Section 5 of the 1987 Constitution, which provides that no law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The principal purpose of these clauses, which are complementary, is to promote and protect religious liberty. They are imbued with a secular purpose that does not promote or inhibit religion. They are aimed at preventing the government from imposing orthodoxy, or prescribing arbitrary parameters in ensuring freedom of worship.

For example, the fact that we are a predominantly Catholic nation does not justify applying the moral standards of the Catholic faith in judging the moral norms of other established religions.

This principle figured prominently in the resolution of the second case, Estrada vs Escritor (A.M. No. P-02-1651, Aug. 4, 2003). Soledad Escritor, a court interpreter in the Las Piñas regional trial court, was accused of cohabiting with a certain Luciano Quilapio, while they were still married to other persons. Their relationship of 23 years had borne a son. The complainant, Alejandro Estrada, alleged that this constituted disgraceful and immoral conduct under existing laws and civil service rules. In her defense, Escritor claimed that as members of the Jehovah's Witnesses, their living together had the approval of their sect as proven by a Declaration of Pledging Faithfulness which they executed in 1991. By virtue of this act, their union was legitimized by the Jehovah's Witnesses and they were, therefore, to be regarded as husband and wife. Ergo, no violation of any law or rule as this would be an unconstitutional violation of their religious freedom.

Speaking through Justice Reynato S. Puno, eight justices of the Supreme Court, a simple majority, sided with Escritor and remanded the case to the Office of the Court Administrator, and ordered the Solicitor General to examine her claimed religious belief and practice and to present evidence in justifying an exception to prevailing law and jurisprudence governing illicit relations.

In other words, the decision shows that the Supreme Court is prepared to adopt a policy of benevolent neutrality in its interpretation of the establishment and free exercise of religion clauses of the Constitution, unless it can be demonstrably proven that there is compelling state interest that would negate such an accommodation, such as a clear and present danger to established institutions of society and the law.

The far-reaching significance of this decision can readily be gleaned from the fact that if Escritor were not a Jehovah's Witness, her actuations and behavior would indeed constitute disgraceful and immoral conduct, as well as adultery and concubinage, under prevailing law and jurisprudence.


Danny Haszard said...

Dissident JW member speaks out.

The core dogma of the Watchtower organization is that Jesus had his second coming 'invisibly' in the year 1914.Their entire doctrinal superstructure is built on this falsehood.

Jehovah's Witnesses door to door recruitment is by their own admission an ineffective tactic. They have lost membership in all countries with major Internet access because their false doctrines and harmful practices are exposed on the modern information superhighway.

There is good and valid reasons why there is such an outrage against the Watchtower for misleading millions of followers.Many have invested everything in the 'imminent' apocalyptic promises of the Jehovah's Witnesses and have died broken and beaten.

Now if you wanted to know about the quality of a product,would you listen to the seller or a longtime customer?
Respectfully,Danny Haszard http://www.dannyhaszard.com

Willy B. Prilles, Jr. said...

Thank you for visiting, Danny. But much as I respect your opinion, I can't see how it relates to my post above:)

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