ISSUE: Whether or Not the State could penalize respondent for such conjugal arrangement
FACTS: Escritor is the Court Interpreter of RTC Branch 253 of Las Piñas City. Estrada requested an investigation of respondent for cohabiting with a man not her husband and having a child with the latter while she was still married.Estrada believes that Escritor is committing a grossly immoral act which tarnishes the image of the judiciary, thus she should not be allowed to remain employed therein as it might appear that the court condones her act. Escritor admitted the above-mentioned allegations but denies any liability for the alleged gross immoral conduct for the reason that she is a member of the religious sect Jehovah’s Witness and Watch Tower Society and her conjugal arrangement is approved and is in conformity with her religious beliefs.
DECISION: No. The State could not penalize respondent for she is exercising her right to freedom of religion.
RATIO DECIDENDI: The free exercise of religion is specifically articulated as one of the fundamental rights in our Constitution. the State has not evinced any concrete interest in enforcing the concubinage or bigamy charges against respondent or her partner. Thus the State’s interest only amounts to the symbolic preservation of an unenforced prohibition. Furthermore, a distinction between public and secular morality and religious morality should be kept in mind.