Proposals protecting religious freedom presented to the Constitutional Assembly of Chile

ROSARIO, Argentina – More than 18,000 people supported a proposal to include a debate on religious freedom and rights of conscience in the process of drafting Chile’s new constitution, a task given to 155 people elected for this task.

The proposal was presented in October by an interfaith group coordinated by Catholic Bishop Juan Ignacio Gonzalez, member of Opus Dei. Every Chilean is allowed to make a proposal, but for it to be discussed by the Constitutional Assembly, at least 15,000 Chileans must go online and vote for it.

The interfaith proposal includes three articles supported by Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, Jewish and Muslim leaders, as well as three indigenous peoples, including the Mapuche, the largest in Chile.

We speak specifically of freedom of conscience and religion, which includes “its free exercise, the freedom to profess, maintain and change religion or beliefs, as well as the right to associate, profess and disseminate any religion or belief. convictions, both in public and in private, provided that they are not contrary to morals, good morals or public order.

The second article stipulates that religious denominations and beliefs are recognized as subjects of law and enjoy full autonomy, cooperation agreements are authorized, religious traditions have the right to build new places of worship, “exempt of all kinds. taxes ”, and intentional damage to these places and to those who exercise their religious rights“ will be considered a violation of the human rights of those concerned ”.

Finally, parents and guardians should have the right to determine the religious, spiritual and moral education of their children.

“The religious denominations present in Chile, the Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican churches, the various evangelical denominations, the Muslim and Jewish communities and three indigenous groups with their beliefs, saw that it was necessary to regulate freedom in a much more concrete way. of worship and conscience, ”said Gonzales Node by phone Tuesday.

The initiative will now be discussed by the constitutional assembly, but this does not guarantee that the three articles will be incorporated into the final draft, and this document will have to be approved by another referendum.

Gonzales pointed out that about 85 percent of Chile’s total population are represented by the leaders who drafted the initiative, saying it’s because “Chileans are religious by nature. They may not be Catholics, Evangelicals, or Muslims, but they are religious and concerned about religious freedom.

The prelate also affirmed that the religious leaders do not ask “for the protection of religions, but for the protection of what religion means in the social order”.

“If we want to protect indigenous peoples, who are obviously an essential part of our nationality; if we want to protect the people who are suffering, who are a very important element in our country; we must also protect the religious fact, which is a social reality which is above all others because it is part of the essence of human nature, ”said Gonzales.

The question of freedom of conscience, the bishop said, could arise if the president-elect keeps his promise to legalize abortion and euthanasia, as many religions and faiths believe that human dignity must be protected and guaranteed. from conception to natural death, and cannot in conscience participate in an abortion or assisted suicide.

Gonzales said religious leaders fear religious issues may not be seen as important by some members of the Constitutional Assembly.

“For example, the president of the convention, Elisa Loncon, considers that Christianity is a foreign imposition, an evil present in Chile only because it was part of the process of invasion of Europe towards America”, a he stressed.

“With this standard, the right of indigenous peoples to live and practice, individually or collectively, their beliefs is also safeguarded,” said the bishop.

The religious leaders’ proposal is the third so far to gain popular support for consideration. The other two are “Será ley” which seeks to legalize abortion as a constitutional right, and “Con mi plata no”, an initiative to protect the property of retirement savings.

The new Chilean constitution is presented by some as a “reinvention” of the country. It comes after months of protests against several grievances in 2019.

The Constitutional Convention is the constituent body responsible for drafting a new constitution after a national referendum was held in October 2020. The body met for the first time on July 4, 2021. The draft is expected to take nine months, with a possible extension of three more months.

Chile’s current constitution was written in 1980, by people chosen by its then military ruler, Augusto Pinochet. It opened up the country to mining investments and made it possible to buy and sell water rights. The country has prospered by exploiting its natural resources, making it one of the richest countries in Latin America. However, frustrations have grown over inequalities, with mineral-rich areas becoming “sacrifice zones” of environmental degradation. All of this contributed to the frustration that led to the constitutional referendum.

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