ADF International

Plaza De Armas, Main Square Of Chile Capital City, Santiago De Chile, Chile

Sandra Pavez v. Chile

Date of most recent action: 21 Jul 2015

Catholic educator challenges Church’s decision to withdraw her eligibility to teach Catholic religion

What’s at Stake:

  • The right to freedom of religion
  • The freedom of the Church to decide who does – and doesn’t – teach its religion


Chile’s laws rightly allow the Church to decide whom it appoints to teach the tenets of its faith. All the Church needs to do is give its teachers a certificate of eligibility, and the certificate is valid as long as the Church doesn’t withdraw it. But what happens when the Church does withdraw it – for valid reasons – and then the teacher challenges the decision at an international court? This is exactly what has happened in the case of Sandra Cecilia Pavez.

Pavez was a Basic General Education professor of Religion for more than 25 years. However, when it became apparent that she was in an open relationship with another woman – in violation of the Church’s eligibility regulations and established Canon Law – the decision was made to nullify her eligibility certificate. René Aguilera Colinier, the vicar for education from the diocese of San Bernardo, wrote to Professor Pavez, informing her of the decision. This meant Pavez could not continue teaching Catholic religion in the educational establishments of San Bernardo.

Pavez then presented a complaint before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in October 2008. She claimed a violation of the right to have no arbitrary interference in private life, as stated in Article 11 of the American Convention on Human Rights, and the right to equality mentioned in Article 24.

ADF International filed a legal brief in March 2015, with the commission formally admitting the case a few months later in July 2015. This case is currently before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, waiting to be admitted. Whatever happens, ADF International will continue to defend the right of the Church to decide who does – and doesn’t – teach its religion.

Our Role in the Case

ADF International filed a legal brief before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights which presented arguments on how the victim’s rights were not violated by the State of Chile.

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Faith-based legal advocacy organization that protects fundamental freedoms and promotes the inherent dignity of all people.