- Judges unanimously rule that COVID-19 restrictions have been applied in a discriminatory manner against people of faith
- Right to worship should be respected through any future lockdowns
SANTIAGO DE CHILE (26 March 2021) – On 25 March, the Chilean Supreme Court unanimously ruled that COVID-19 restrictions have been applied in a discriminatory manner against believers. The landmark ruling comes on the eve of Holy Week and recognizes that freedom of religion cannot simply be suspended. The Court is expected to order the government to change its discriminatory regulations.
ADF International supported the legal organization Comunidad y Justicia, which filed legal challenges in all of Chile´s jurisdictions. They questioned the constitutionality of the government’s restrictions, which prevented people of faith from fully exercising their right to freedom of worship.
“People of faith can rejoice. They now have the assurance that their right to exercise their faith freely will be protected. The Court has clarified that the freedom to worship in person is a fundamental right, worthy of the highest protection, and cannot simply be withheld. The church has so much to offer society at a time of grief and suffering, and the Chilean people should not be denied access to church services. We are encouraged that this is a unanimous decision of the Supreme Court, which will help protect this fundamental right in Chile for years to come,” said Tomás Henríquez, a Chilean lawyer and Director of Advocacy, Latin America and the Caribbean for ADF International.
“Comunidad y Justicia filed these legal challenges to ensure that people of faith are no longer arbitrarily and illegally prevented from living out their beliefs. For Catholics, attending Mass in person and receiving the Eucharist, are essential expressions of their faith. The Supreme Court’s decision contributes to the effective recognition of an essential right that cannot be suspended. Freedom of religion must be protected and promoted by the State as an indispensable requirement for the achievement of the common good,” said Alvaro Ferrer, Executive Director of Comunidad y Justicia.
Latin America faces further challenges to religious freedom
Latin America also faces further challenges to religious freedom. In the case of Pavez v. Chile, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights will soon hand down a landmark ruling with the potential to impact 35 American countries. The Court will determine whether Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Evangelical, or any other faith-based schools may ensure that those appointed to teach the faith live according to the things they are teaching. The Court will decide whether the right of parents to direct the religious education of their children will be respected. Find out more about our Religión Libre campaign.
“Parents, and the religious communities they belong to, should be free to pass on their faith to their children and decide who will teach it on their behalf. International law clearly protects the autonomy of religious communities. The church plays an important role in society, and society benefits from strong and autonomous religious communities,” said Tomás Henríquez.