Faith and Spirituality

Take a guess: Filipinos from which religion are most opposed to divorce?

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

Take a guess: Filipinos from which religion are most opposed to divorce?
Clue: It’s not the Roman Catholic Church

While Catholics are the most vocal against the divorce bill now pending in Congress, Filipinos from another religion hold much stronger feelings against this proposed measure.

According to a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey released on Friday, May 31, Filipinos from the homegrown Christian church Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) are most opposed to divorce.

INC members registered a net agreement score of -10 (“moderately weak”) in response to the question, “Married couples who have already separated and cannot reconcile anymore should be allowed to divorce so they can get legally married again.” 

The net agreement score is the percentage of respondents who agree minus the percentage of respondents who disagree.

The INC – established in 1914 by Felix Manalo, a former Catholic who later moved to other Christian churches – prohibits divorce in accordance with biblical teachings.

The church, which is politically influential because it often votes as a bloc during elections, has 2.8 million members across the country, according to the latest government census. It is known for its strictness in implementing its rules.

The net agreement score of INC members was 10 to 20 points lower than other religions.

Catholics posted a net agreement score of +20 (“moderately strong”), in a statistical tie with Christians at +21 (“moderately strong”).

Across the Philippines, factoring in Filipinos from all religions, the net agreement score was +19 (“moderately strong”).

The survey was conducted using face-to-face interviews with 1,500 adults from March 21 to 25. The error margin for national percentages was ±2.5%.

The religion argument

Divorce is now one of the most hotly debated topics in the Philippines after the House of Representatives approved an absolute divorce bill on third and final reading on May 22. After the bill hurdled the House despite staunch opposition from the Catholic Church, the next battleground is the Philippine Senate.

In House deliberations on the divorce bill, lawmakers who voted against the measure argued that it has no place in a predominantly Catholic country. 

Based on the 2020 Census of Population and Housing, 78.8% of Filipinos belong to the Roman Catholic Church, followed by 6.4% who subscribe to Islam and 2.6% who are members of the INC. Many others belong to different Christian churches.

[The Wide Shot] The problem with ‘I am Catholic, I say no to divorce’

[The Wide Shot] The problem with ‘I am Catholic, I say no to divorce’

“I voted no to the divorce bill because I believe in the sanctity of marriage. The Philippines is largely a Catholic country and I believe that our laws are there to serve a majority of the Filipino people,” said an actor-turned-lawmaker, Leyte 4th District Representative Richard Gomez, to explain his negative vote.

Ironically, fewer Filipino Catholics support divorce compared to previous survey periods, according to the SWS. The net agreement score of +20 in March 2024 is lower than the +30 in June 2023 and +46 in March 2023. So what “majority of the Filipino people” is Gomez talking about?

But should lawmakers, in the first place, factor in religious beliefs in the legislative process?

Let’s talk about it in the #faith chat room of the Rappler Communities app. – Rappler.com

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email pat.esmaquel@rappler.com