- Call for ban on religious gatherings in Bio-Bio challenged in court intervention
- ADF International argues ban would violate international law
CONCEPCIÓN, CHILE (27 May 2020) – In Chile, a lawsuit was filed by a council member from the city of Chiguayante, calling for the ban of all religious gatherings in the region of Bio-Bio – one of the most populous in the country – during the corona virus state of emergency. ADF International has filed a friend-of-the-court brief outlining Chile’s obligations under international human rights treaties and its national constitution. It urged the court to uphold the right to freedom of religion and worship and not to allow for discrimination against religious believers.
“Everyone has the right to freely practice their faith in public and in community with others. Although governments around the world have adopted extraordinary and temporary measures to address the gravity of the current pandemic, religious groups should not be targeted and singled out with discriminatory restrictions. So far, courts in Europe have overturned such measures, acknowledging they involve unacceptable infringements on the fundamental right to religious freedom. If measures are put in place to prevent groups of people from gathering for health reasons, they should apply to all areas of society and cannot single out religious groups and hamper religious freedom,” said Tomas Henriquez, Director of Advocacy for Latin America & Caribbean for ADF International and author of the brief.
Corona measures in Chile
In Chile, the government announced a state of emergency during the corona virus pandemic. In several regions, local governments issued orders specifically prohibiting religious activities. Further, in the city of Los Ángeles, health authorities unlawfully targeted the local Catholic Diocese, sealing up all churches. Though challenges to this measure were initially rejected by the courts, an appeal to the press raised awareness. In reaction, health officials reversed course and withdrew the unlawful orders against worship, and church doors were opened once more.
Across the globe, governments have introduced lock down measures to combat the pandemic. Many have restricted the ability of religious communities to meet and worship together. In some countries, these measures have already been recognized as a violation of religious freedom.