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Parents concerned ahead of religious freedom case at top human rights court of the Americas

  • Inter-American Court of Human Rights to hear landmark religious freedom case Pavez v. Chile
  • Judges to decide whether religious communities are free to decide who will teach religion on their behalf

SANTIAGO (5th March 2021) – Will the decisions of parents be respected when it comes to the religious education of their children? The Inter-American Court of Human Rights will soon answer this question for 35 American countries in the landmark case of Pavez v. Chile.

The ruling could have a significant impact on people of faith across the region. The Court will determine whether Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Evangelical or any other faith-based schools may ensure that those appointed to teach the faith themselves live according to the things they are teaching.

“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, Chilean lawyer and Director of Advocacy, Latin America and the Caribbean for ADF International.

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, contrary to the teaching of the Catholic church, they informed her that they could no longer certify her as eligible to teach the Catholic faith. She was able to continue her employment, however, uninterrupted, in a different capacity; even enjoying promotion to become a member of the school’s leadership team.

Nonetheless, Ms. Pavez took legal action against the church, claiming to have experienced discrimination. When the Chilean Supreme Court upheld the freedom of the church to certify its teachers, and parents to have their children taught by someone living in accordance with their faith, she filed her complaint against Chile at the Inter-American Court.

Families petition court to protect parental freedoms

The decision holds significant interest for parents who turn to religious schools for the faith-based instruction of their children. Human rights group ADF International has submitted a third-party intervention to voice the concerns of religious families, who fear that such schools will face a crisis of integrity, should their religious instructors not adhere to the tenets of their faith. Families have rallied around ADF International’s #ReligionLibre campaign, which is gathering signatures to present to the Court. Find out more.

“Human rights law guarantees the rights of parents to direct the moral and religious education of their children in accordance with their own convictions. Consequently, religious classes must reflect this guarantee, including through the appointment of teachers who are faithful representatives of those beliefs. Freedom of religion and belief is at stake for parents across the Americas. It’s vital that the Court acts to protect this fundamental freedom,” said Robert Clarke, Deputy Director of Advocacy for ADF International.

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