Gays rally around tour guide iconoclast, ask for repeal of religious law

GAY rights activist group ProGay Philippines protested the sentencing made by a city court that convicted controversial tour guide Carlos Celdran for the crime of offending religious feelings, saying that the 1930 law is archaic and defeats equal protection of free speech rights.

Goya Candelario, ProGay spokesperson, said that the one year jail sentence is way too harsh for a misdemeanor and because of this, the group called for the repeal of Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code. Celdran, was arrested and jailed in September 2010 for disrupting an assembly of clerics who were gathered in the Manila Cathedral to discuss plans to oppose a women’s health bill in Congress. The provision states: “In a place of worship or during the celebration of any religious ceremony, shall perform acts notoriously offensive to the feelings of the faithful.”

Celdran, who guides tourists at the ruins of the colonial fort in Manila, is also a vociferous critic of mall developers who tear down heritage buildings. A Wikipedia entry describes Celdran as a bisexual man and he has even joined gay groups in protests against the Roman Catholic church.

The ProGay leader said that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) citizens of the Philippines have been very forgiving towards Roman Catholic leaders despite years of verbal abuse in the name of religion inflicted on their community.

“In contrast, for example, Bishop Teodoro Bacani¬† attacked the religious views of a Christian denomination that celebrated same-sex weddings, and we just patiently explained to the bishops that freedom of religion should be respected. This is so much different from what happened to Celdran, who is now bound for jail. Bishops should lead by example, do not do unto others!” Candelario said.

In June 2011, Bishop Bacani reacted negatively to reports of a gay wedding in Baguio City and called for the prosecution of the pastors of the LGBT church for conducting those weddings and getting their pastoral licenses revoked.

“Bacani even called the weddings kadiri (disgusting) and against the word of God, but he forgot that not all Filipinos are Roman Catholics and that any church leader should respect the religious beliefs of other Christian denominations,” Candelario added.

ProGay urged the RC church to be more open to a new dialogue of understanding between the church and groups that are becoming alienated from its teachings to prevent ugly confrontations and find a way to move forward.

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