By Leslie Ann Aquino
A Catholic prelate is in favor of a bill seeking to make Bible-reading mandatory in all public and elementary schools.
Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes, former head of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Episcopal Commission on Biblical Apostolate, said he was for the passage of the bill in order for more people to know about the Word of God.
“This is very good. I hope this gets approved. A good news for us to read the Good News of God,” he said in an interview.
Father Conegundo Garganta, executive secretary of the CBCP Episcopal Commission on Youth, also welcomed Minority Leader Bienvenido Abante Jr.’s filing of House Bill 2069 or the Mandatory Bible Reading Act, which seeks to make Bible reading a part of the curriculum of public schools.
“This is great news and relevant act. This will support the Presidential Proclamations on the significance of the Bible which we celebrate every year especially during the months of January,” he said.
However, Kalookan Bishop Pablo David said while there was nothing wrong about religious instruction being allowed in public schools, it should be done in a manner that would be “respectful” of the students’ religious affiliations.
“I would understand making Bible reading mandatory in schools run by Catholcw, Protestants, Evangelicals, Pentecostals etc. It will not be right to make Bible reading mandatory for students in publoc schools who are Muslims, Buddhists, Animists,” he said.
David added: We are a country that respects religious freedom.
He said they were “happy enough that our public education has not yet assumed the ideology of western secularism” which totally forbids religion in public spaces and institutions.
“Proof to that is the fact that Catholic students are allowed to receive religious instruction (catechism) in public schools, just as Muslim students are allowed to receive instruction in the Muslim faith through the Madrasah,” David said.
But, he said it would be great to include an elective subject in the Bible in Junior and High School.
“It would be great idea to include an elective (meaning optional) subject on the Bible in Junior or High School, if only to get students to appreciate how most, if not all our good human values are drawn from this sacred book,” said David.
Under the bill, English and Filipino subjects in public elementary and high school, shall include the reading of, and discussion and examination, on the Bible.
For Muslim pupils and students, such subjects shall include the reading of, discussion, and examination on the Koran.