A person said to be immoral is shunned by the community. It seems to occupy the top position in relation to other kinds of depravity. As if being labelled a criminal is way lighter than being labeled immoral. But what is really meant by the term immoral or immorality? Immorality is a ground for the termination of the services of employees both in the government and private sectors. With respect to institutions run or operated by religious denominations, the standards they set or define as immoral has clashed with the secular definition adopted by our laws and courts. Obviously, the church has a definition of immorality based on its doctrines or teachings but since there is the policy of separation between the church and state, the legal or jurisprudential definition does not necessarily follow that of the church. The case of Inocente vs. St. Vincent distinguished the definition from that of the church. This is a case where the employee was dismissed by the employer which is a religious institution mainly on the ground of immorality. If the definition of immorality is the same with that of civil law or jurisprudence then the dismissal may be justified but if not, then it is illegal and the employee must be reinstated.
What is immoral conduct?
The Supreme Court said: “Immorality pertains to a course of conduct that offends the morals of the community. It connotes conduct or acts that are willful, flagrant or shameless, and that shows indifference to the moral standards of the upright and respectable members of the community.”( G.R. No. 202621, June 22, 2016) The standard is the one prevailing in the community and not necessarily that which is set by the church or its doctrines. But what the community considers as immoral may have been actually shaped or influenced by the church. What makes the Court’s definition difficult to completely comprehend is the absence of any code or law that clearly defines what action is considered immoral or otherwise. The SC continued to say: “Conducts described as immoral or disgraceful refer to those acts that plainly contradict accepted standards of right and wrong behavior; they are prohibited because they are detrimental to the conditions on which depend the existence and progress of human society.” The employees’ sexual relationship is not in itself immoral since both of them are not married. More so, their sexual relations were between consenting adults and since not prohibited by any law these natural “encounters” cannot in themselves be a ground for dismissal from work because they are not what the law considers as immoral conduct. The Court also clarified that: “The determination of whether a particular conduct is immoral involves: (1) a consideration of the totality of the circumstances surrounding the conduct; and (2) an assessment of these circumstances in the light of the prevailing norms of conduct, i.e., what the society generally considers moral and respectable, and of the applicable laws.” Finally, we have been given this guidance from the highest tribunal: “We thus reiterate that mere private sexual relations between two unmarried and consenting adults, even if the relations result in pregnancy or miscarriage out of wedlock and without more, are not enough to warrant liability for illicit behavior. The voluntary intimacy between two unmarried adults, where both are not under any impediment to marry, where no deceit exists, and which was done in complete privacy, is neither criminal nor so unprincipled as to warrant disciplinary action.”