Thursday, March 3, 2011

Another Skirmish with Secularism--Gercio vs. Del Corro

There is no such thing as absolute freedom, and some freedoms must be sacrificed for the sake of others. The question is, where will the authorities draw the line between the rights of LGBTs and those of the religious sector?
There's an unresolved issue in the University of the Philippines, Diliman (UPd). It's small but the questions it raises are anything but.

The Case of Hender Gercio and Dominique Del Corro

Hender Gercio is a self-proclaimed "transexual woman" and a student of European Languages in UPd's College of Arts and Letters. Gercio is also a former president of Babaylan, an officially recognized LGBT organization of the campus. Having "undergone a gender transition," this undergraduate student asserts a female identity and demands to be recognized as a "she."

Unfortunately, such convictions clashed with those of his French Language professor, Dominique Del Corro. Del Corro, an Evangelical Christian, took Gercio aside and after asking about his gender convictions explained to him that she believed that homosexuality was a sin and so could not in good conscience address him as a "she."

That definitely got Gercio's ire. As he later wrote, "My pronouns are MY pronouns. I don't care who your God is, but I will not let you take my gender identity away from me." So, he elevated the issue to the Department Head, Wystan de la Peña.

Much to Gercio's dismay, de la Peña decided in favor of Del Corro.In his own words, 
The chairperson informed me that he cannot require Ms Del Corro to address me as female since my legal gender remains to be male (as it will forever be unfortunately, unless a Philippine gender recognition law gets passed) and that there was no university policy addressing transgender students. He also stated that Ms Del Corro did not violate any of the university rules (i.e. academic freedom, code of ethics).
Gercio now intends to elevate the issue, I suppose to the university level.

The Issue at Hand

Hender Gercio and his Babaylan companions would like to frame this incident as a clash between "progressive thinking and critical inquiry" on the one hand, and "unthinking prejudice and discrimination" on the other. What they fail to recognize, however, is that they have demonized Dominique Del Corro, who by all available accounts did her best to treat Hender with respect and love. By doing so, they have fallen into the same moral and intellectual offense that they accuse Del Corro of committing.

The real issue that I think should concern us Evangelical Christians is that little by little, Filipinos (our leaders, especially) are having to make decisions about the relative places of religious freedom and LGBT rights in our society. There is no such thing as absolute freedom, and some freedoms must be sacrificed for the sake of others. The question is, where will the authorities draw the line between the rights of LGBTs and those of the religious sector (Evangelicals, Catholics, INCs, Muslims, etc.)?

Those of us who are involved in campus and student ministries may be tempted to focus only the impediments that public liberalism has placed upon the spread of the gospel. But on the other hand, history tells us that it was the American colonizers' establishment of a non-sectarian government that enabled the spread of God's word among the Filipinos, in defiance of the Roman Catholic edifice.

The enemy that now confronts us--and it is a well-armed giant that continues to loom larger--is secularism. As I understand it, a secular government goes beyond the limits of non-sectarianism by forcefully (and I stress this word) relegating all religious views to the private sphere of life. In contrast, a non-sectarian society allows religious freedom in the public sphere, so long as it does not inhibit other's right to express their own views. A completely secular society would consider evangelism a legally prosecutable crime, and the evangelist a criminal and danger to society. Non-sectarianism allows free debate between all sectors of society. Secularism only recognizes debate from a standpoint that is, in all practical aspects, non-theistic.

What the Issue Is Not

Finally, let's not make the mistake of thinking of the Gercio-Del Corro case as a black-and-white clash between the LGBTs and the Evangelical Christians. There are LGBTs who are fair enough to recognize Del Corro's right to her personal convictions. Sadly, there are also many professing Evangelicals who disbelieve the Bible's clear and exclusive endorsement of the male-female dichotomy (is there a better term for this, I wonder), whether due to sheer stubbornness, sloppy hermeneutics or whatever reason.

Pastorly Advice

I close with a Psalm and some much-appreciated advice from a fellow-blogger and Evangelical, Ptr. Eyriche Cortez:
I believe this is an open door for us to keep on sharing our faith. Of course, we must make our stance known while at the same time“speaking the truth in love.” (Ephesians 4:15a, ESV) Lies triumph when we say nothing about the truth. So, let us speak up. This is still a free country, right?
Brethren, pray that this issue would create more light than heat.

Psalm 49:9-14

9 Within your temple, O God,
   we meditate on your unfailing love
10 Like your name, O God,
   your praise reaches to the ends of the earth;
   your right hand is filled with righteousness
11 Mount Zion rejoices,
   the villages of Judah are glad
   because of your judgments.

 12 Walk about Zion, go around her,
   count her towers, 
13 consider well her ramparts,
   view her citadels,
that you may tell of them
   to the next generation

 14 For this God is our God for ever and ever;
   he will be our guide even to the end.

Do you have any news or insights about this controversy? Please do share with us by leaving a comment. :)

Sources: GMA News, Outrage Magazine, Babaylan Statement, Babaylan BlogPtr. Eyriche Cortez, Margaret Faith Cao (This is a good one!)

Related Posts: Assurance of Faith

Helpful Resources:
  1. How Did This Happen? WHy Same-Sex Marriage Makes Sense to So Many by Albert Mohler
  2. "Now it is the Other Way Around"--The Moral Revolution in Full View by Albert Mohler
  3. Wisdom for Nationhood: Righteousness Exalts a Nation by Noel Espinosa
  4. Ravi Zacharias on Secularism.


  1. i shared her story to you a few weeks ago....nikki is a dear friend of mine...let's continue to pray for her...

    Praise God for this opportunity like in Acts 5:41"...rejoicing that they were being counted worthy [dignified by the indignity] to suffer shame and be exposed to disgrace for [the sake of] His name."(Amplified Bible)

    I also gave her that verse Psalm 48:14

    For such is God,Our God forever and ever;

    His guidance is ever present...

    It's time to make a stand...Nikki is firm in her convictions... by God's grace this will result to more gospel opportunities...

    yes. she did say, "homosexuality is sin"...BUT it did not stop there.."There is forgiveness found in Christ"...

    her hope is that they won't focus on that one statement alone["homosexuality is sin"], but hear the whole message of the gospel...and why she's not willing to give in to such demands for the sake of Christ...

    God is faithful.God is sovereign. God is good.

    let's all intercede for her...i pray that the UP Christian Community would also be there to encourage her...

    [btw, classmate ko si kuya eryche cortez sa isot before...actually si nikki din classmate ko sa isot..]

  2. I think this is a good site.

    I know Nikki, too.

    But I'm sorry I can't reveal my identity.
    For my protection and hers.
    (because you already know what's going on.)

    I swear to God and to the damnation of my soul
    that I want to defend Ms. del Corro from all
    these people who are against her. But I can't
    do that because I have made a word and trust is
    involved. I would very much want to but even she
    hasn't given her side yet so I think it wouldn't
    be appropriate to make the first move.

    I'm really on her side for this issue, and since
    I can't stand to her, I let my prayers be
    with her. That's the most powerful thing
    I could do.

  3. @bocobo: Thank you for supplying what was lacking in my post, ate. Yes, we must also remember the other side of sis.Nikki's conviction: there is forgiveness in Christ!

    @ Switzerland: Thanks for your support, and let's continue to look for God's hand in all these things.

  4. I recently asked bocobo about Ms. Del Corro's case, and apparently nothing much has happened. These things will take time, I guess. I wonder how this all relates to the LGBT rights bill that Ladlad is trying to push in congress? I think it's safe to assume that Babaylan is in touch with its counterpart in the legislature.

  5. I commend Ms. Del Corro for being firm in her convictions...may God bless her faithfulness

  6. I have to disagree with the definition of secularism here.I do not believe that secularism will prosecute theistic beliefs so much as making way for, and respecting other beliefs. Not everyone is Christian, Catholic, or religious here in the Philippines, thus, there is a need for laws that will apply to all, not just to the majority.

    In one sense, secularism may assert the right to be free from religious rule and teachings, and the right to freedom from governmental imposition of religion upon the people within a state that is neutral on matters of belief. (See also Separation of church and state and Laïcité.) In another sense, it refers to the view that human activities and decisions, especially political ones, should be unbiased by religious influence.[1] (See also public reason.) Some scholars are now arguing that the very idea of secularism will change.[2] from

    Read more:

  7. One doesn't need to flash the separation-of-church-and-state card here. Bertrand Russel's referential theory of meaning might be invoked here by the homosexual saying that the meaning of the pronoun must be defined by a reference to sexual preference. BUT the teacher might invoke that the meaning refers not to preference but to his legal gender status. We resolve this impasse by appealing to the law without any reference to religious language.

    The law says you're a fella, so what the hella?

    -- John Pesebre

  8. To Miam Fabian: Thanks for your thoughts and sharing that quote from Wikipedia.

    While we still have to wait and see how secularism develops in our country, there ARE examples in other countries of how secularism has already lead to discrimination of the religious sector. For example, in the UK, an elderly Christian couple were brought to court for refusing to provide a one-bed room to an unmarried couple. In countries like Turkey, secularism has been used to justify state control over religious activity, such that those who hold religious gatherings without authorization from the government can be (and have been) legally prosecuted.

    I think that the quote you used also illustrates my point: "[Secularism] refers to the view that human activities and decisions, especially political ones, should be unbiased by religious influence." That sounds like a neutral statement, but it actually places the government in a position of power over the religious bloc. People will retain the right to religious conviction in the private sphere, but no longer in the public arena.

  9. Dear Kito,

    You sound like you are card-stacking. While there are instances like what you mentioned, you still have yet to prove that secularism is hostile against religion or religious blocs. There are more instances of religions and religious belief violating human rights and are hostile to other beliefs that do not agree with it.

    Take the example of Westboro Baptist church.

    That case you mentioned about a British couple...they chose to open their house as a business, which is a secular entity, and thus subject to the state's laws which include anti-discrimination laws.

    I would like to see different religions and beliefs treated equally in the public arena which has a different set of rules.Though I am Evangelical, I do not want to impose my beliefs as a state standard/policy/or law. I personally feel strongly about that.

    From Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis,
    "Before leaving the question of divorce, I should like to distinguish two things which are very often confused. The Christian conception of marriage is one: the other is the quite different question -- how far Christians, if they are voters or Members of Parliament, ought to try to force their views of marriage on the rest of the community by embodying them in the divorce laws. A great many people seem to think that if you are a Christian yourself you should try to make divorce difficult for every one. I do not think that. At least I know I should be very angry if the Mahommedans tried to prevent the rest of us from drinking wine. My own view is that the Churches should frankly recognise that the majority of the British people are not Christians and, therefore, cannot be expected to live Christian lives. There ought to be two distinct kinds of marriage: one governed by the State with rules enforced on all citizens, the other governed by the Church with rules enforced by her on her own members. The distinction ought to be quite sharp, so that a man knows which couples are married in a Christian sense and which are not".

    By the way, Ravi Zacharias is not an expert on secularism.

    "Turkey's definition of secularism is "laïcité" and does not call for a strict separation of religion and the state, but describes the state's stance as one of "active neutrality." Turkey's actions related with religion are carefully analyzed and evaluated through the Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı (English: Presidency of Religious Affairs). The duties of the Presidency of Religious Affairs are "to execute the works concerning the beliefs, worship, and ethics of Islam, enlighten the public about their religion, and administer the sacred worshipping places".[2]".

    Thus, the example of Turkey is not genuine secularism as originally defined.

  10. Before responding to other comments, I just want to recall a few basic principles that I think should underlie Evangelical thinking on this issue. With all the different side issues that can pop up, I hope Evangelicals can keep our eyes fixed on Christ all the while.

    (1) God hates self-righteous pride more than the most rabid liberal activist.(Ps. 51:17)

    (2) God hates all sin and calls all believers to humbly confess our own sinfulness. We are to boast only in what Christ has done to save us from sin and death. (Eph.2:1-10)

    (3) Meanwhile, believers are to submit ourselves to the Lordship of Jesus Christ without reservation or shame (Mk.8:38). We are to be molded in the likeness of our Lord (Rm.12:1-2), and to treasure Him above all else (Mt.13:44).

    (4) God commands us: "Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead EXPOSE THEM." (Eph.5:11)

  11. We are only having a difference of opinion. Why would you need to quote Scripture unless you feel you cannot give evidence to your claims outside of using the Bible? What about non-Evangelicals? This is not a mere issue relating to evangelicals but has possible implications on national policy, gender roles, universal rights, etc.

    Am I this self righteous, sinful, stubborn person who takes part in unfruitful works? I don't mind if I am labeled as such so long as I feel I stood up for what I thought was right.

  12. Sister Miam,

    Your responses have given me a lot to think and research about. Unfortunately, it's more than I have time for right now, with work, studies, church ministry, and all that stuff. I try to process information carefully and choose my words wisely, which takes time. Sorry to disappoint you if you've been expecting an immediate response. I DO hope to address your points some time in the future.

    As for me being concerned with Evangelicals, primarily, you're right on the button. This blog, CROSSviews, addresses Bible Evangelicals. You have to choose your target group.

    Finally, since you've identified yourself as a disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ, it's my responsibility as a brother to point out that the Bible never elevates conscience (what we think is right) above the revealed moral will of God (commandments, Biblical examples, etc.).

    "For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God. ... For Jews demand signs and Greek seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified..." (1 Cor. 1:17ff)

    "For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels." (Lk.9:26)

    Scripture is our life and breath, and a source of pride. We shouldn't be ashamed to refer to it as our final authority. That being said, again, the only reason I didn't respond directly to your earlier points was that I need more time to consider and do research.

  13. Still waiting, Kito.