Indexed on: 21 Dec '18Published on: 01 Aug '18Published in: The Journal of law and religion
The Argentine Constitution contains two provisions regarding church-state relations. The first one recognizes the right of all people to the free exercise of religion. The second one provides that the state must financially support the Catholic Church. Based on this latter clause, over the years a complex regulatory scheme has been developed that differentiates that church from all the other churches and religions. Those differences are addressed in this article. The author argues that the religious establishment does not depend only on how the state defines itself (e.g., through a declaration in the constitution), but also on the way in which it treats people based on their religion. If that treatment is unequal—for example, when there are legal privileges only to a single church—then there is a kind of establishment of religion. It has been claimed that the religious establishment is not itself incompatible with religious freedom. In arguing that religious minorities can hold a different opinion, the author offers a brief account of the problems faced by non-Catholic faith communities in Argentina because of the state's unequal treatment. Finally, the author analyzes whether the reasons given to justify the legal differences between religions are acceptable. Otherwise, it could be said that there is discrimination—at least, in a broad sense—against religious minorities. While this article focuses on the Argentine case, the issues addressed are relevant to any country dealing with the unequal treatment of people based on their religion.