South American Faith Groups Fight LGBTQ Threat to Religious Liberty

News: World News
by Martin Barillas  •  •  May 14, 2021   

Lesbian ex-nun demands reinstatement in religious teaching role

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SANTIAGO, Chile ( - Interfaith leaders of South America have united in a fight for freedom of religion endangered by the homosexualist agenda.

Sandra Pavez, a former Catholic nun

A May 6 friend-of-the-court (amicus curiaebrief signed by Jewish, Christian and Muslim faith leaders expressed concern over the Pavez v. Chile case that is now before a tribunal based in Costa Rica.

The case concerns a teacher, Sandra Pavez, a former Catholic nun who had taught religion courses for 20 years in a Chilean school, but was deemed unfit to continue in that role when it was discovered she was in a lesbian relationship. Because Chilean courts have upheld the right of faith organizations to judge the suitability of their educators, homosexual advocacy groups have supported the appeal of the case to an international human rights tribunal in hopes of overturning the lower courts' rulings.

This case put religious liberty into doubt.

The 15-page statement to the court from the faith coalition told the tribunal:

[It is] fundamental ... for the Honorable Court to resolve this case by also examining the rights of children and of parents for their children to receive the religious and moral education that accords with their convictions, for freedom of religion in both the individual and group dimensions, as well as the right to association.  

"This case put religious liberty into doubt. Religion classes are of a confessional nature. The teachers represent that religion. Therefore, it is for the religious communities to decide who is suitable or not," insisted lawyer Soledad Bertselsen, who is advising the various faith communities, according to Chile's El Mercurio newspaper.

Local observers fear that if the tribunal rules in favor of Pavez, separation of Church and State would be endangered in Chile and throughout Latin America. 

The tribunal heard arguments in the case May 12–13. A decision is expected sometime this year. 

Fighting Catholic Orthodoxy

In Chile, parents receive vouchers from the national government that can be used in private and religious schools. To receive the subsidies, private schools must set aside at least 15% of their seats for "vulnerable" students. Decree 924 of 1983, issued by Chile's Ministry of Education, requires all schools to offer optional religion classes in accordance with the student's religion. Teachers of religion must have a certificate of suitability issued by "the corresponding religious authority." The decree empowers the religious authority to revoke the certificate.

In 2007, the diocese of San Bernardo, Chile, revoked Pavez's government-required "suitability" certificate, having noted that she publicly admitted to living in a lesbian relationship with another woman. The diocese determined she is not a suitable "witness to Christian life" and thus released her from teaching religion classes at Cardinal Antonio Samoré High School, where she had taught for two decades. The school, however, promoted her to a job as inspector general, where she remains.   

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Pavez sued the San Bernardo diocese, claiming that her civil rights had been infringed. A lower court in Chile ruled that banning Pavez from teaching Catholic doctrine to Catholic students was neither illegal nor arbitrary. When Chile's Supreme Court sustained the lower court's ruling, Pavez appealed in 2008 to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) with help from Chile's Homosexual Movement of Integration and Liberation (HMIL). 

The IACHR, which is part of the regional Organization of American States — of which the United States is a partner — agreed with Pavez that she has a "right" to teach Catholic religion "despite her Church's objection." Moreover, the IACHR opined that faith communities may not require teachers in private or religious schools to live according to Church teachings. The IACHR called the situation "unjust discrimination" and demanded Pavez be reinstated as a teacher of religion. It passed the case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (I/A Court), which heard the case this week. 

Religious Freedom In Peril

The decision, according to the faith coalition's brief, will determine "whether states will respect the right of parents to have their children receive a religious education that is consistent with their convictions." The petitioners wrote that neither Pavez nor the IACHR make any reference to this threat. According to the petitioners, at the center of this case is "autonomy of religious communities to qualify, without interference from the State, the suitability of professors of confessional religion classes."  

There are important commonalities across international, American and European law in protecting the right of religious communities to autonomy in their internal affairs.

If the I/A Court should rule in favor of Pavez, the coalition argues, "multiple human rights of different actors will be violated, especially religious freedom. By omitting these rights from its report ... the IACHR ignored the principles of interdependence, indivisibility and equal hierarchy of rights, which are recognized by public international law in general, as well as international human rights law." 

The various faiths in Chile have received support from outside the region. The Becket Fund, a nonprofit law firm that defends religious liberty, offered an amicus curiae that also argues religious liberty is at stake in the case. 

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"We argue that there are important commonalities across international, American and European law in protecting the right of religious communities to autonomy in their internal affairs," read its brief, "particularly as it relates to religious teaching." 

Becket told the tribunal there is an international standard for the "right of religious communities to choose who can teach their doctrine without interference from the State. This standard is crucial for the protection of religious liberty." 

The Alliance Defending Freedom International (ADF) offered yet another amicus in the case and has launched a petition to the I/A Court. ADF hopes that the court will consider "all the interests and rights involved, since we know that what it decides in this case may create ramifications that will extend to the exercise and enjoyment of our rights in the states we live in." 

What it decides in this case may create ramifications that will extend to the exercise and enjoyment of our rights in the states we live in.

The decision, the campaign warns, may determine whether religious schools "will be able to ensure that their religious educators fulfill their obligation of fidelity ... that they voluntarily profess." 

Anger From Pro-Gay Groups

According to El Periodista of Chile, on May 9, Rolando Jiménez Perez of the HMIL termed the Chilean courts' decision:

an unprecedented act of lesbophobia, where the State and religions will unite for the first time in history in an international trial to deny equal rights on account of the sexual orientation of a person. This powerful abuse once re-victimized teacher Pavez and made explicit an inordinate and virulent hatred against LGBTIQ + people."

He told El Periodista that he hopes that the I/A Court will sanction Chile.   

Rolando Jiménez Perez

Jiménez urged:

To those who speak of morality and undertake this attack against the teacher Pavez, it is good to remind them that the one who first prevented her from doing classes in Chile in 2007 was the then-vicar for education of the archdiocese, René Aguilera Colinier ... the same one who confessed to having abused a minor. ... These [insisting religious groups' self-determination] are the ones who, in short, said nothing against a priest who abused children, but today stand against a teacher with an impeccable career and loved by the entire educational community. 

In 2010, following accusations that he had grabbed a boy's buttocks at a confessional, Fr. Colinier hanged himself in his rectory. 

Brief Signatories

Signing the faith coalition brief were: Cdl. Miguel Cabrejos of Peru, Bp. Santiago Silva of Chile, Cdl. Celestino Aós of Chile, Bp. Juan Ignacio González of Chile, Metropolitan Sergio Abad of the Orthodox Church of Chile, Bp. Emiliano Soto of the National Evangelical Union of Chile, Abp. Hector Zavala of the Anglican Church of Chile, Bp. Francisco Javier Rivera of Chile's evangelical organizations, Fuad Musa Poblete of the Muslim Community of Chile, and Rabbi Eduardo Waingortin of the Jewish community.

--- Campaign 32075 ---


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