Portuguese Judge Cites Bible as Legal Precedence

The Corruption of Separation of Church and State

Portuguese system fails to provide justice (Photo courtesy of Stanford University)

Portuguese system fails to provide justice (Photo courtesy of Stanford University)

Wayne Chan, Editor

Disclaimer: This is an opinion piece, some information are not to be taken as facts reported by news institutions.

A Portuguese judge sentenced a man who committed domestic violence because he claimed that his wife was guilty of adultery a mere sentence of 15 months on the basis of biblical beliefs.

In 2015, a woman was lured into an ambush where two men, one of them her ex-husband, beat her with studded hammers and baseball bats laced with nails. The two assailants were arrested and charged.

On October 23, a judge gave a suspended sentence of a short 15 month period in prison and a fine tantamount to a slap-on-the-wrist. This punishment does not even begin to correspond to the heinous crime committed. Not only is this a failure to provide justice in light of horrible conduct; however, it is the corruption of the democratic virtues of separation of church and state.

The judge gave a simple explanation to this outrageous sentence: “A woman’s adultery is a very serious attack on the honor and dignity of a man. Societies exist where an adulterous woman is stoned to death.

In the Bible, we can read that the adulterous woman should be punished by death. Not long ago the criminal law (Penal Code of 1886, article 372º) punished, with little more than a symbolic penalty, the man who, on finding his adulterous wife, killed her.”

The first explanation the judge offers is that adultery is of serious detriment to a man’s honor. However, in the eyes of the law, should damage upon honor and pride mitigate subsequent physical and monstrous damage on the human body. More importantly, does it matter the cause of an action if the caused action is of illegality? In other words, if an action, while amoral but legal occurs, should the elicited illegal response then be justified? Of course not, tomorrow if someone labeled me a nerd, insulting my pride, I should not receive a restrained punishment should I react with violence, let alone violence equivalent to assaulting with a baseball bat further weaponized by nails.

I need not be a judge of any judicial system to judge this ruling as a failure. If we were to predicate our judicial systems and legal rulings upon the failures of other societies then the world will cease to advance. Simply because Saudi Arabia implements horrid policies oppressing women, should Portugal or the rest of the civilized world adopt similar policies reflecting these legislative deficiencies?

The judge then attempts to substantiate her ruling by alluding to the Bible. This is just as judicially unjustifiable as deciding a sentence on the basis of another nation’s policies. The Bible should hold as much credence in government as a Dr. Seuss book, which is none. Of course, I say this not to disrespect Christianity or religion in any way, but to champion the concepts of separation of Church and State. Portugal is a society in which the ideas of secularism are respected in government, and this allusion to the Bible as legal precedence is a compromise of that critical governmental ideology. This allusion to the Bible is also a statement of favoring one religion within the system, which is again contradictory to the democratic virtues of Portugal. Even worse, if all legality was determined in the conventions of Biblical premises then Portugal (and basically all of the world) would not be what it is. Therefore, for the judge to confer to the Bible for the judicial process was most illogical and fallacious.

Amanda Chung(11) echoes the same opinion, stating, “I believe the Portuguese judicial system failed to provide adequate justice for the woman. This serves as yet another incident of the systematic oppression of women and the unchecked power of patriarchy in human society. Certain elements of religions should not be strictly interpreted and adhered to, especially when concerning governmental policy, because such ideologies can, at times, be outdated and even primitive. The principle of separation of church and state must be resolutely upheld because to equate Biblical perceptions to codified legality is a violation of the free will we so patronize in contemporary society.”

This ruling truly reflected as a judicial failure within the Portuguese system.