Jail for ‘offending religious feelings’


Manila - A Filipino man was sentenced to two months in jail Monday for disrupting a Catholic Mass to protest the Church's opposition to family planning legislation.

Carlos Celdran, 41, was found guilty of “offending religious feelings” when he barged into Manila Cathedral in September 2010.

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Bishop Robert Finn, of Kansas City, Mo., leaves a meeting at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' annual fall assembly in Baltimore, Monday, Nov. 14, 2011. Finn was indicted in October for waiting five months to tell police about hundreds of images of alleged child pornography that were found on a priest's computer. He is the highest-ranking church member in the sex abuse scandal to face criminal charges. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Celdran had shouted: “Why are the poor not allowed to practice family planning?” according to the news website abs-cbn news.

The tour guide was protesting the Catholic Church's opposition to proposed reproductive health legislation that called for contraceptives to be made available especially to poor women.

The law was approved in December after being blocked for 13 years by the Church and other groups in the mainly Catholic country.

Defence lawyer Marlon Manuel said they would appeal the conviction and work to repeal the relevant section of the penal code.

“This proves that any parish priest can put you in jail if he is offended,” he said.

Celdran was convicted of violating a law that provides sanctions against anyone who “in a place devoted to religious worship or during the celebration of any religious ceremony, shall perform acts notoriously offensive to the feelings of the faithful.”

“I'm not going to take this sitting down,” Celdran told a Manila cable news channel. “We will take it to the highest court. It's alarming in terms of freedom of speech. People can no longer speak out.”

Human Rights Watch issued a statement saying, “Nobody should be jailed for voicing out an opinion or position, especially on a subject that concerns the lives of millions of Filipino women and mothers.” - Sapa-dpa

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