Congressmen quarrel over God
Row over bill banning religious symbols in state offices heats up
A ruling Liberal Party congressman who claims to be a devotee of the Black Nazarene, a life-sized sculpture of Jesus Christ carrying the cross, has criticized opposition lawmaker Raymond Palatino for proposing a law that would ban religious symbols and ceremonies in government offices. Roilo Golez yesterday accused Palatino, a Kabataan Party congressman, of being an atheist and violating the constitution after introducing the Religious Freedom in Government Act in Congress. “How this measure will help build a just and humane society is beyond me,” Golez said, citing the president’s oath of office that ends with the phrase "so help me God." Palatino, who says that he and his family are Catholics, defended the bill by arguing that the state must remain neutral when it comes to religion despite the Philippines’ Catholic majority. “The state cannot be seen to favor one religion over the other,” he said, adding that the proposed act would help to defend freedom of religion in the Philippines. “It is not my intention to offend any religion and to ban God,” he added. The bill as it stands would ban religious ceremonies, events and symbols from government offices and their perimeters.