Free speech has its own limits

Carlos Celdran may face a prison term with a maximum of 1 year+ after a Manila court found him guilty of “offending religious feelings". (Courtesy of Carlos Celdran's Facebook)

Carlos Celdran may face a prison term with a maximum of 1 year+ after a Manila court found him guilty of “offending religious feelings”. (Courtesy of Carlos Celdran’s Facebook)

A Manila court found famous tour guide and reproductive health advocate Carlos Celdran guilty of “offending religious feelings”, according to a statement made by Celdran himself on Twitter.

Celdran was charged with violating the Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code for “offending religious feelings” during an ecumenical meeting at the Manila Cathedral in September 2010 when he unfurled a post with the word “Damaso”,  in reference to the villainous priest in Rizal’s famous novel “Noli Me Tangere.”

He is expected to serve his sentence with a maximum of 1 year+ in prison.

I was not surprised that Carlos Celdran was sentenced for a prison term as what he did of expressing his resentment against the Catholic bishops was a deterrent to the freedom of expressing religious beliefs without disruption. Although I understand and affirm what Carlos Celdran has been fighting for, but we need to set our limits on how to express our resentments against someone we never like. For me, it is a reasonable one that if we resent someone or something, we should find a proper venue where we can express our resentments, not directly attack someone in person or an institution with its premises. We should think that our enemy or an institution we never like deserves utmost respect like how we respect ourselves.

Although the maximum prison term of 1 year+ for Carlos Celdran is too much, but what the law says should be followed not only by Celdran but also by us.

The lessons of the verdict on Carlos Celdran are we should know the limitations on how and what to express our resentments against someone or something. Freedom of self-expression, free speech, or assembly should co-exist with freedom of practicing religious beliefs. If we cannot balance those things, I think there would be more resentments from both sides of an religious-related issues where having resolution or compromise may be impossible.


4 thoughts on “Free speech has its own limits

  1. The crime committed by Carlos Celdran was intrusion into the private place of the Roman Catholic Church. He could have shout at high heaven all his opposition and charges against the RCC in public park or in his own house but not in their property like their house of worship.

  2. What Celdran did was foolish and counterproductive rather than smart.

    He knew the possible consequences of what he did–storm the church and protest there heavily by waving an insulting placard complete with costume antics.

    He should have maintained his boundaries. He should have stopped right there outside by the doors of Manila Cathedral. As I’ve said, “he entered the house of his enemies and ridiculed them there.”

    He even alienated many fellow freethinkers, and his actions turned off many similar-minded freethinkers and even atheists.

    What did he achieve? Drew attention to himself? to the issues? Provided awareness?

    Yes, he did achieve these things; however, he could have achieved more if he was smart enough to know also the repercussions of every move that he would make.

    Now, he’s in jail, he becomes less useful, less functional, and less able in further pursuing his causes. Yes, he could still do something for the cause–whatever cause he was really trying to serve–but there in jail, it could be really a challenge.

    Some will say that people like Celdran, who would do anything–even have himself jailed–just to pursue their worthy causes should be lauded and praised.

    Yes, of course, many now would laud and praise him for what he did. But many others would also feel that what he did was foolish.

    But the questions are…

    Would you do the same or a similar action which has a big possibility that you will land in jail?

    Wouldn’t you think first of your own safety thus giving you more ability to undertake your plans?

    Celdran and people like him can learn a lot from Sun Tzu’s ‘The Art of War.’

    1) Don’t create better opportunities for the enemy.
    2) On open grounds, don’t stand in the way of the enemy.
    3) Don’t enter the house of the enemy and then ridicule him there.

  3. God is omnipotent and created everything therefore he doesn’t need your money or wealth but the “CHURCH” does.

    God is divine and powerful but RELIGION is man made and business.

    If the money collected through “DONATIONS” will be shared it can send every child to college, give homes to the homeless, feed the starving people and dress the naked.

    if the Vatican will be sold(trillions of dollar) it can end the poverty of a 3rd world country.

    1/4 of the collected donation is enough to pay the bills of a church and the people inside it, and the remaining money should have been shared to less fortunate people, how ironic that in the bible, Jesus said to a rich guy to give all his wealth to the poor and follow him but today’s preachers is doing the exactly opposite

    A priest ran over a child and killed her but the parents doubted to sue him because he’s a priest, so being part of a religion right now can make an exception that will not make you a criminal.

    there are many priest who molested children and many more lascivious acts but didn’t went to jail, however Carlos Celdran goes to prison because he just OFFENDED a RELIGION? how ironic that we acknowledged JOSE RIZAL our national hero but didn’t realized that he was the CARLOS CELDRAN back then by writing novels like NOLI ME TANGERE(touch me not) and criticizing many DAMASO(notorious priest) alike?.

    How ironic that we filipinos are the most religious people in asia but we are also the most corrupt and most of us are living below poverty line. that’s because corrupt government officials uses religion and it’s corrupt religious officials to be on their side when doing some corrupt activities just like smuggling where a priest named Cristobal Garcia became a headline of big news companies like CNN and even national geographic by smuggling ivory products where the source is labeled endangered.


    proud to be an agnostic christian.

  4. okay lang yun karapatan at obligasyun niyang gawin ang alam niyang tama ng kung yun pananampalataya niya na dapat ng gawin…sabi nga sa kasulatan..kung alam mong dapat ng gawin at mabuti iyon sa iyong paniniwala gawin mo….magkakamali kalang sa husga ng kapwa at hatol ng tao..pero sa taas at sa iyong konsensiya hindi go..go..go

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