Speech of President Quezon on separation of Church and State, September 4, 1936

His Excellency Manuel L. Quezon
President of the Philippines
On separation of Church and State

[Delivered at a Dinner in Honor of Archbishop Michael J.O’Doherty
at Malacañan Palace, Manila, September 4, 1936]

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Many years ago, I was one day agreeably surprised in my office in the Office Building of the House of Representatives in Washington by the visit of a bishop of the Catholic Church. I say I was agreeably surprised because up to that time no bishop of foreign blood had ever called on me, or, as far as I knew, on any other Filipino official. I was all the more surprised because at the time it was publicly known that I belonged to the Masonic Society and I had no reason to believe that this fact was ignored by my distinguished visitor.

The bishop came to tell me that he had just been appointed Bishop of Zamboanga and that he felt it his duty, which he was glad to perform, to pay his respects to the representative of the Filipino people in the Congress of the United States, and I accordingly expressed by appreciation for his gracious courtesy. That was the beginning of my acquaintance which later ripened into real friendship with His Grace, Archbishop Michael O’Doherty, whom it is my pleasure to honor tonight on the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of his consecration as Bishop of the Catholic Church.

I mention this incident because, as far as I have had occasion to observe his conduct, it is typical of his attitude toward Filipino officials and non-Catholics. It shows that even at the time when the intervention of Filipino officials in the Government of the Philippines was more or less nominal, Archbishop O’Doherty recognized the importance that should be given Filipino officialdom by those who re sided in these Islands, and even by those who were not connected with the Government. It also shows his tolerance towards non-Catholics and his willingness to give them their due. My friendship with Archbishop O’Doherty really developed after he had become the Archbishop of Manila and, I must add, a good many years prior to my rejoining the Catholic Church, the faith of my fathers. I was Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of the Philippine Islands and elected to the 33rd degree of the Scottish Rite Masonry, the highest rank to which a Mason can aspire, when our relations became very friendly.

I will not presume to tell the bishops how they should conduct themselves towards the non-Catholic population of these Islands. That is their affair, and, I take it, they know more about it than I do. But since the friendship that developed between Archbishop O’Doherty and myself while I was still a Mason did no harm to the Church and did some good to the Government, it may be presumed that there was nothing wrong in that relationship. Nothing can stir up the passions and prejudices of men more effectively than religious intolerance, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness. History is replete with telling evidences o this fact, and we should not lightly disregard its lessons.

Under the present Constitution of the Philippine Commonwealth, just as under the Jones Act, and in fact eve since the American flag was first hoisted over these is lands, the separation of the Church and the State, and the freedom of worship are guaranteed. The State has nothing to do with the Church, nor the Church with the State. I am a Catholic as everybody knows, I, who, to the time being, is at the head of this Government. As an individual, I worship my God in accordance with my own religious belief. But as the head of the State I can have no more to do with the Catholic Church than I can with a Protestant denomination, the Aglipayan, the Mohammedan, or any other religious organization or sect in the Philippines. And no authority of any church has any right to interfere with the affairs of the Government.

We should be thankful that there is here this separation of the Church and State and freedom of worship. The Church itself is better off when entirely disconnected from the Government, and the Government in turn when disassociated from the Church.

Lastly, I want to say that the Catholic Church and every church in fact can be and should be of great help to the Government and the people of the Philippines. The Catholic Church stands for law and order, for respect and obedience to constituted authority for public and private morality, for human brotherhood, and its influence in this regard will be helpful to our country, especially at this time.

It is not my intention to take advantage of this occasion to deliver an elaborate speech. I am only honoring a friend, as well as the head of the Church, whose teachings are professed by the large majority of Filipinos. I congratulate His Grace on the twenty-fifth anniversary of his consecration as Bishop and wish him a long life.

 Source: Presidential Museum and Library