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30,000+ call on Inter-American Court to affirm religious freedom and parental rights

  • Human rights organisation ADF International submitted a brief signed by citizens from 18 Latin American and Caribbean countries calling for protection of religious freedom
  • Upcoming Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruling will affect right of parents to direct religious education of their children

Washington D.C. (May 31, 2021) – Are religious freedom and parental rights under threat in Latin America? At least 30,000 citizens in 18 Latin America countries think so. ADF International has submitted a brief to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in the case of Pavez v. Chile. The brief demonstrates that freedom of religion is a human right worthy of the highest protection. It urges the judges of the Court to uphold this fundamental right as guaranteed by the American Convention and the Inter-American System for the Protection of Human Rights.
“We hope that the Court will respect the fundamental nature of freedom of religion and belief. This includes the autonomy of faith communities to choose their teachers and the right of parents to have their children receive a religious education in accordance with their convictions,” said Tomás Henríquez, Director of Advocacy, Latin America and the Caribbean, ADF International. “Never before has a case on freedom of religion or belief and the rights it protects been brought directly before the Inter-American Human Rights Court.”
The brief is supported by more than 30,000 signatories from all over Latin America and the Caribbean. This includes parents, people of faith of various denominations and other concerned citizens. They have signed to express their support for the protection of religious freedom and the rights of parents to direct the religious education of their children. The brief demonstrates that international law protects the autonomy of religious communities to decide who may teach their beliefs in their name.

Continued employment, different capacity

Ms. Sandra Pavez taught Catholic religion classes in San Bernardo, Chile. When the local diocese learned that Ms. Pavez had entered into a same-sex relationship, they informed her that they could no longer certify her as eligible to teach the Catholic faith on the church’s behalf. She was able to continue her employment, however, uninterrupted, in a different capacity; even enjoying a promotion to become a member of the school’s management team.
Despite this, Ms. Pavez took legal action against the church in different instances in Chile, claiming to have experienced discrimination. When the Supreme Court upheld the church’s freedom to certify its teachers and the right of parents to have their children taught religion by someone who lives in accordance with their faith, she filed her complaint against Chile at the Inter-American Court.

Landmark case on religious freedom

Given the international scope of the Court’s jurisdiction, this is a case of concern to millions of people in the American states. The ruling could have a significant impact for people of faith. The court will determine whether Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, evangelical or any other religious school can ensure that those appointed to teach that religion live by what they are teaching. Thus, a broad coalition of organizations and religious communities have come together to defend this fundamental right and call on the Court to uphold the State’s laws. This coalition includes the Jewish, Muslim, Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant communities from Chile, as well as the head of the Council of Catholic Bishops of Latin American (CELAM), all of whom have filed a historic joint brief with the Court.

“Human rights law guarantees the right of parents to direct the moral and religious education of their children in accordance with their own convictions. Accordingly, religious classes should reflect this guarantee. This includes the appointment of teachers who are faithful representatives of those beliefs. Freedom of religion and belief is at stake for parents in the Americas. It is vital that the Court act to protect this fundamental freedom,” said Robert Clarke, Deputy Director of ADF International.

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