The Long Road to Religious Freedom in Peru

Article excerpt

I. INTRODUCTION

When the Brigham Young University Law Review published the article Antecedents, Perspectives, and Projections of a Legal Project about Religious Liberty in Peru,1 we did not imagine that parliamentary discussions regarding the approval of this bill would be postponed for such a long time.2 This seemed unthinkable when considering the significance of the purpose of the regulation, which is to achieve the full exercise of religious freedom and other related fundamental freedoms. These proposals acknowledge the multicultural reality of Peru and the growing membership of religious organizations outside the Catholic Church. Many of these organizations currently constitute important factors in social development, particularly because of their commitment to participate in charitable activities that benefit the less fortunate sectors of the population.

It is not the intention of the authors of this Article to ignore the importance that the Catholic Church has had and continues to have as a molding element of our society. Neither is it the authors' intention to diminish the Catholic Church's work for the benefit of the less fortunate, for that would be inaccurate. Simply put, we wish to reflect on the fact that the coexistence of the Catholic Church with other religious organizations - based on different principles and dogmas, yet with the same purposes as the former - demands that legislative efforts be aimed at establishing rules and regulations that would allow for the consolidation of secularism for a State proclaimed as such in the Political Constitution of Peru.3 This means guaranteeing the right of all persons, whether individually or collectively, to profess a religious belief, and guaranteeing equal treatment of the different religious organizations by applying the principle of equality before the law.

Now, nearly eight years after embarking on the journey toward religious freedom, we warn that the road to promulgation of a new legal act is still beset by challenges. Indeed, on June 9, 2008, the Commission for the Constitution and Regulation of the Congress of the Republic of Peru debated the approval of the Draft Opinion for Proposition 1008/2006-CR, known as the Religious Freedom and Equality Act.4 This Draft Opinion recommended approving said bill, but with a substitute text.5 As far as the approval of this opinion is concerned, the commissioners' discussion basically centered on two aspects: The first deals with the definition of the concept of "religious entity," along with the requirements that a group of persons needs to meet to be considered an entity. The second aspect relates to the rules and regulations for tax exemptions for religious entities, which involves elucidating the first aspect of the discussion. In the end, the Commission did not approve the draft opinion.

On July 8, 2008, Congressman Raúl Castro Stagnaro of the National Unity Party presented the national Congress with Proposition 2560/2007-CR This bill proposes the promulgation of an act called the Religious Freedom Exercise Act.6 Thus far, the bill has been sent to the Commission for Constitution and Regulation of the Congress of the Republic for analysis and ruling. In our opinion, although this last legislative proposition was noteworthy, it actually turned out to be unnecessary. During the session on June 9, 2008, the Commission for Constitution and Regulation of the Congress of the Republic already determined the flaws that marred the Substitute Text for Proposition 1008/2006-CR. It would now be necessary to modify the parts of the bill that constituted the very grounds for terminating any further discussion of the matter.

Thus, at present, the Commission for Constitution and Regulation of the Congress of the Republic of Peru has two bills pending analysis and ruling, both of which refer to the same topic the exercise of religious freedom and the treatment that the State must seek to grant religious entities - which will delay even further the promulgation of this important Act. …