Academic journal article Brigham Young University Law Review

The Protection of Religious Freedom by the National Constitution and by Human Rights Treaties in the Republic of Argentina1

Academic journal article Brigham Young University Law Review

The Protection of Religious Freedom by the National Constitution and by Human Rights Treaties in the Republic of Argentina1

Article excerpt

I. RELIGION IN ARGENTINE SOCIETY

Argentina is a religious society with long-held faith in God. This religious tradition has been a characteristic of the Argentine people since the beginning. To this day, nearly two hundred years after the start of Argentina's march toward independence, religion continues to be a crucial part of Argentine life.

A recent study by an accredited scientific organization and several of the nation's leading universities is quite revealing on this matter.2 According to the study, 91.1% of those surveyed said they "believe in God,"3 and they defined their religious affiliations as follows: Catholic (76.5%), Evangelical (9%),4 Jehovah's Witness (1.2%), Mormon (0.9%), and other religions (1.2%). The remaining 11.3% of respondents claimed to be "indifferent."5

Despite evidence of the advance of a worldwide culture encouraging the exclusion of religion from society, or in other words, one that objects to the public presence of anything related to a belief in a faith, this study reveals that Argentina remains a religious society that believes in God.6 The data also support the idea diat Argentina is dominated by a Christian culture, with Jesus at the top of the "ranking" of beliefs.7 That is, 91.8% of those surveyed claim to believe "much or somewhat" in Jesus Christ, with 84.8% believing in the Holy Ghost, 80.1% in the Virgin Mary, 78.2% believing in angels, 76.2% believing in Saints, and 64.5% believing in energy.8

However, we must note that the survey also reveals the existence of a complex process of religious deinstitutionalization. This is confirmed by the fact that more than half of the population says that tiiey relate to God "without intermediaries," and also by the fact that a large majority of the population exhibits a certain discrepancy between their own conscience and the official doctrine upheld by the religion to which they claim to belong - especially when it comes to controversial topics such as abortion, sex education in schools, the use of contraceptives, and women in the priesthood.9 This religious deinstitutionalization was highlighted by responses concerning attendance at religious ceremonies. Of the respondents, 76% reported that they either "seldom" or "never" visit places of worship, while only 23.8% said tiiey attend "very frequendy."10

Thus, it is clear that matters of religion can present us with a complex phenomenon; for example, a person may define him or herself as belonging to a particular organized religion and say that he or she frequendy attends places of worship, but at the same time chooses to relate to God "on his or her own terms," and, on certain topics, he or she may believe in his or her own conscience and make decisions contrary to the postulated doctrines of his or her church or religious community. Such a person might explain it as such: "I belong to a religion and attend worship services, but I go when I want to, and there are some teachings of my religion that I do not adhere to." In short, individuals such as this live their religion "in their own way."

Finally, the study concludes with the topic of "public confidence in institutions." This is an especially important topic in a country like Argentina, where the credibility of these institutions, particularly those in the political sphere, has been weak for many decades. In general, all of the percentages were low, but it was a religious institution - the Catholic Church - that had the highest rated confidence level of those surveyed (59%).n The remainder of the institutions on die survey were ranked as follows: media (58%), Armed Forces (46%), police (42%), legal system (40%), Evangelical churches (39%), Congress (36%), unions (30%), and lastly, political parties (27%).12

II. RELIGIOUS FREEDOM, THE NATIONAL CONSTITUTION, AND HUMAN RIGHTS TREATIES

The Constitution of Argentina was first adopted in the year 1853. 13 Consistent with Argentina's religious tradition, this "theistic" constitution invokes the name of God in its preamble. …

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