From .............. HUMAN QUEST
PEOPLE - OPINION - EVENTS
Protestant Minority Battles For Equality
Argentina's Protestant churches have given their support to an interdenominational campaign for a law to give non-Roman Catholic religious bodies equal status with the Roman Catholic Church.
The campaign is being organized by the Argentine Federation of Evangelical Churches (FAIE), the Association of Evangelical Churches in Argentina (ACIERA) and the Evangelical Pentecostal Confederation (CEP), which together represent four-fifths of Protestants in the country.
A unanimous vote at a meeting of 150 protestant leaders at the end of May agreed that a joint committee should campaign for legislation to
"protect all religious expressions, doing away with discrimination and obstructions," according to Eliseo Somoza, vice president of ACIERA.
"We want the State to recognize us as religious entities, with our own specific rights and in equal terms to the Roman Catholic Church," he said.
The government has introduced new strict regulations on the activities of non-Roman Catholic religious organizations, after the failure of a parliamentary bill on religious freedom, which was also opposed by Protestant organizations, to become law.
The new regulations are based on an old law dating from the military dictatorship, which placed restrictions on the expansion of non-Roman Catholic churches.
Non-Roman Catholic places of worship are treated by the authorities in the same way as shops, gymnasiums or ballrooms, and are subject to regulations applying to commercial activities.
Protestant leaders believe that these regulations are part of a reaction to the growth of Protestant independent churches. Protestants account for about 7 percent of Argentina's population of 33.5 million people, but membership has doubled in the past 10 years. Conservative Roman Catholic authorities consider these new churches to be "sects."
Observers have speculated that the government restrictions may be due to the influence of the conservative Roman Catholic movement, Opus Dei, in government.
Ecumenical News International
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