Freedom of Religion


Conflict between CSC rule and religion.


A married woman cohabited with a man. She was charged administratively as she is an employee of the court. The Supreme Court upheld the defense of freedom of religion.


There is no question that the State has an interest in protecting the institutions of marriage and the family or even in the sound administration of justice.


            Be that as it may, the free exercise of religion is specifically articulated as one of the fundamental rights in our Constitution. It is a fundamental right that enjoys a preferred position in the hierarchy of rights – “the most inalienable and sacred of human rights”, in the words of Jefferson. Hence, it is not enough to contend that the state’s interest is important, because our Constitution itself holds the right to religious freedom sacred. The State must articulate in specific terms the state interest involved in preventing the exemption, which must be compelling, for only the gravest abuses, endangering paramount interests can limit the fundamental right to religious freedom. To rule otherwise would be to emasculate the Free Exercise Clause as a source of right by itself.


            Thus, it is not the State’s broad interest in “protecting the institutions of marriage and the family”, or even “in the sound administration of justice” that must be weighed against respondent’s claim, but the State’s narrow interest in refusing to make an exception for the cohabitation which respondent’s faith finds moral. In other words, the government must do more than assert the objectives at risk if exemption is given; it must precisely show how and to what extent those objectives will be undermined if exemptions are granted. This, the Solicitor General failed to do. (Estrada vs. Escritor, AM No. P-02-1651, June 22, 2006).