/ 19 December 2022

SENATOR Robinhood Padilla filed a measure that will protect the students’ free exercise of religion in educational institutions.

Senate Bill 1609 or the proposed Protection of Students’ Religious Belief Act provides penalties for violations of students’ right to religion.

In his explanatory note, Padilla said that the Constitution protects and allows the free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship without discrimination or preference.

In fact, he added, the Constitution allows religion to be taught in public elementary and high schools within the regular class hours by instructors designated or approved by the religious authorities of the religion to which the children belong.

“Over the years, there have been accounts of how educational institutions fall short, if not totally fail, in distinguishing students by the basis of religion and similarly, prescribing religious classes in their curriculum that are offered to all students in general,” Padilla said.

“However, the problem arises when students are compelled to enroll in religious classes and attend academic activities that interfere with their religious tenets and practices,” he added.

Under the measure, no student shall be required to be taught with, to be enrolled in, or to take a religious value, lesson, subject, or course different from his or her religion by an educational institution without the written consent of the student.

Once enacted into law, any person violating its provision shall pay a fine of P500,000 or suffer a penalty imprisonment of not less than six years, or both.

If an offender is a public official, officer, or employee, he or she shall pay a fine of P500,000 and imprisonment of not less than six years but if offender is a corporation, organization, or any similar entity, the officials or employees directly involved shall pay a fine of P2 million or suffer a penalty of imprisonment of 8 years.