The OSA Bibliogate

Paragraph 3 of Section 9 of Republic Act 9500, otherwise known as the UP Charter of 2008, states that “[t]he national university recognizes the separation of Church and State. It shall guarantee religious freedom and shall not discriminate on the basis of religion.”

The law that has given mandate to the University of the Philippines is very clear: religious freedom is guaranteed; hence the University should not endorse or at least seemingly endorse a specific religion. 

But believe it or not, Christian Bibles were distributed to incoming freshmen during the campus tour.

Don’t get me wrong, guys. I am not an Atheist. I am hugely Catholic (well it’s more of a physically literal description rather than a spiritually figurative one); in fact I have been serving the Church since 1998 as a music minister. Yet, I still find it rather off that UP, an institution of a secular nature, through the Office of Student Affairs (OSA), allowed to have Bibles distributed to incoming freshmen.

Again, the provision on RA9500 as stated above is very clear. UP upholds the separation of Church and State. The republic, despite being the most predominantly Catholic country in Asia, does not endorse Christianity as its official religion in recognition of the principle of the Separation of Church and State as stated in the 1987 Constitution (Article II Section 6); the University of the Philippines, mandated by the law to be the country’s national university, likewise observes the principle.

So isn’t the distribution of Bibles a clear violation of the law? Whether it’s the Bible, the Qu’ran, the Old Scriptures, or even the teachings of Gautama, Confucius, or Lao Tzu, the bottom line is that OSA sided with a particular religious denomination over the others. Shouldn’t the OSA rather give away student guides or at least a campus map? 

Moreover, wouldn’t a Muslim student find it quite offensive that s/he is given a Bible instead of a Qu’ran? If it’s the other way around, wouldn’t a Christian student find it offensive as well that s/he is given a Qu’ran instead of a Bible? 

The OSA is mandated to be “essentially a service unit… that provide services for physical, academic, financial, social, cultural, recreational, emotional, moral, spiritual welfare as well as civic leadership.” Though the mandate mentions spiritual welfare, the entire mandate only provides for OSA to provide services or avenues for the student’s spiritual welfare but not provide the spiritual welfare per se (there’s a big difference right?). The mandate may have allowed students to hold prayer meetings inside the campus and charter a religious organization but that does not authorize OSA to take over religious tasks, so as to avoid alienating one or more religious denominations. Why not leave the religious tasks to these religious organizations and/or the churches within and adjacent to the UPLB community?

 

Postscript:

According to Article 177 of the UP Code, “[m]embers of the teaching staff enjoy academic freedom; Provided, however, That no instructor in the University System shall inculcate sectarian tenets in any of the teachings, nor attempt either directly or indirectly, under the penalty of dismissal by the Board of Regents, to influence students or attendants at the University System for or against any particular church or religious sect or political party.

Also, De La Salle and Ateneo, known to be bastions of Catholic education in the Philippines, do not give out Bibles to students. 

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