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The school ‘breached’ the contract by allowing trans-woman blogger Sass Sasot to speak at graduation rites at Church of God premises. But was the condition prohibiting LGBTQ people legal?

WHAT HAPPENED. Blogger and transgender woman Sass Rogando Sasot was addressing graduates of a high school in Cavite on Friday June 3, where she was the opening speaker when a religious group, owner of the place, turned off the lights and the security system. sound system.

Another version of the story says that Sasot was the guest speaker. It was also unclear how long she continued her speech, even with dead electricity, before she was kicked off the stage.

Church of God World Missions Philippines, owner of the site in Dasmariñas City, has granted its use to the school, Southern Philippines Institute of Science and Technology (SPIST) in Imus City, provided that:

(a) the “sanctuary” (facility) must not be used “for political purposes”;

(b) the church will not allow any LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) person “to perform a special number or even be a guest speaker” on its podium or pulpit;

(c) the school must donate a “reasonable” amount “to cover the upkeep of the church”.

NON-PROBLEMS. The apparent non-issues, which do not affect the rights of the parties in the User Agreement, are Sasot’s qualifications to be a speaker and whether she has used the forum for politics. Most likely, she didn’t make the second, because the campaign was over. As for the choice of speakers, it is the right of the school to choose; besides being no ordinary blogger, she has a master’s degree in politics.

Even the use of the church pulpit – which Sasot claimed she did not because she used the podium brought by the school – may not matter if it is true that an oral agreement followed the written contract between the parties, which clearly stated a total ban on any LQBTQ artists.

REMULLA FINDS ‘DISCRIMINATION.’ Cavite Governor Jonvic Remulla defended the transgender blogger and staunch supporter of President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Monday, June 6. Due to Sasot’s role in the event, light and sound were cut and, according to a report , later, Sasot was interrogated. by a Church of God staff member to come off stage.

Remulla said Cavite “does not condone discriminatory acts against members of the LGBTQ community.” He cited a Cavite City ordinance that makes it illegal to discriminate against any person or group of people on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

NOT THE “BAWAL BASTOS” LAW. A lawyer in a public comment cited the Safe Spaces Act (Republic Act No. 11313 of 2018), which defines “gender-based sexual harassment on streets, public spaces, online, in places work and in educational or training establishments.

Was the Church of God guilty of violating the “Bawal Bastos” law? By imposing this condition on LGBTQ people performing on his church premises, did he commit a crime or at least impose an illegal condition in his contract?

If he was guilty, committed a crime or imposed an illegal condition, he must not be under the Safe Spaces Act.

Acts listed in the “Bawal Bastos” law include, among others, “swearing, wolf whistling, whistling, prying eyes and intrusive stares”, and others, all involving comments and statements that constitute “an invasion of a person’s personal space or a threat to the person’s sense of personal security.

THE CHURCH IS BASED ON THE CONTRACT. Bishop Anthony Velasco, senior pastor of the Church of God, pointed out in an official statement that the terms were specific in the written contract and had been re-agreed in a meeting between the church administrator and school staff.

Pastor Velasco said the school representative paid the deposit the day before the graduation ceremony and was told that if the condition was violated, the church would turn off the lights and sound for the deal. The school was told to look for another venue or change the speaker. The SIPSST representative “apologized” and chose to change Sasot, Pastor Velasco said.

The main question would be whether the church would be guilty of discrimination under the city ordinance cited by Governor Remulla. If the condition of the contract were invalid, it would render the action against Sasot abusive.

Those who support Remulla’s view can say the condition was against the law and not binding on the school. The church may argue that the condition was agreed to in good faith and that SIPSST violated the agreement and trust of the Church of God.

RELIGION AS “SHIELD”. Religious freedom is apparently invoked by the Church of God. Pastor Velasco said the school should respect the belief of the church, even if it is bad for others, just as the Church of God respects school institutions and the LGBT community. Velasco said LGBTQ people are “human beings and for that reason we have to respect life.”

But clearly, the pastor and his church’s “respect” for LGBTQ people does not include any member of the band on stage and performing in their “sanctuary.”

Governor Remulla lamented the religious group’s use of its faith as a “shield to spread hatred and bigotry” when a church “should be one of compassion and tolerance.” Those who acted against Sasot, Remulla said, “were using the Bible in the most dangerous way possible,” using it “in the context of a 2,000-year-old culture.” (The oldest biblical text found is around 2,700 years old, according to History.com.)

A judicial resolution of the case would inevitably require examining religious freedom in conflict with gender equality.

SASOT NOT A PROTAGONIST. Blogger Sasot is not a party to the contract between the Church of God and the school. She was only a guest, although she could consider herself legally aggrieved by the embarrassment caused by the expulsion from the stage, preceded by the blackout and the silent microphone.

But her being a rabid supporter of Marcos Jr. caught national attention at an otherwise minor local event in remote Cavite. The residual passion from the May 9 election has not helped to dampen the noise around the issue on social media.

But the main problem of religious freedom versus gender equality is as serious as it gets. This can happen anywhere in the country where the boundary between the opposing rights is not clearly drawn and where the contenders hold their respective positions.

In the Cavite controversy, the school could have used another venue, as there must be others elsewhere. Or the Church of God could have simply refused. After all, renting out his sanctuary for an event is not his job or his business.