Argentina is country on the southern cone of South America. The country obtained its independence from Spain in 1816. Argentina is a federal republic with an established constitution, an elected two chamber Congress and an elected president acting as head of state.

Systemic Discrimination
Mostly Satisfactory

Constitution and government

Argentina’s constitution does recognise the right to freedom of religion and worship, but not in a broadly secular and inclusive way. The constitution explicitly states that the federal government “supports the Roman Catholic apostolic creed.” The Catholic Church is afforded a preferential legal status, not only above other organizations with a religious or secular worldview, but any other organization of civil society. While it stops short of being the official state religion, Catholicism is the predominant religion in Argentina and does benefit enormously from tax subsidies, funding for Catholic schools, and other forms of economic and general support. For example, Bishops and other members of the Catholic Church Hierarchy received $40m in wages and pensions in 2013.

Non-Catholic religions must register with the Secretariat of Worship, the government organization responsible for dealing with all other religions, in order to publically worship. They then receive tax-exempt status.

Belief Demographics

Data from 2008, shows 76.5% of Argentines are Catholic, followed by 11.3% who consider themselves ‘indifferent,’ including atheists and agnostics. 9% are evangelical and 3.3% are ‘other.’  While freedom of religion is largely protected, the Catholic Church receives extensive support from the government through generous subsidies.

Education and children’s rights

2015: the end of secular education

In August 2015, the National Congress of Argentina sturck down Education Law 1420, which had previously guaranteed the secularity of education in the country. The General Common Education Law 1420 was integral to eradicating illiteracy in Argentina, establishing free, compulsory, universal, and secular education. Article 8 restricted religious education to extracurricular classes, by parental permission, to be taught by a credentialed representative. The Education Law had previously been altered or suspended, but always eventually reimplemented it in its original form.

Catholic influence on religious and moral education

£4.5bn subsidies were given to Catholic schools in 2013. Public education is secular, although the federal system in Argentina means it can vary from province to province. For example, in the Salta province, a law was passed in 2008 making Catholic education compulsory for all students. It has since been modified by the province’s Supreme Court, allowing children to opt-out and have alternative classes, but the lessons still take place.

Likewise, there are reports of the Church having significant leeway in its own religious schools, which it uses not only to push Catholicism, but to avoid teaching sex education or about contraception.

According to a report by the Argentine Coalition for a Secular State (CAEL), the Church:

“…carries out an arbitrary, explicit, and systematic obstruction of the implementation of the national plan for sex education for children and youths contemplated in law 26,150 … in some provinces they have even confiscated textbooks in the name of Catholic morals.”

In a country where 15% of babies are born to teenage mothers (up to 25% in some poorer provinces) the Church has lobbied strongly, and quite successfully, to have high school children not learn about contraception.

Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values

Freedom of speech is generally protected in Argentina, however there are some important caveats. There are also a number of different newspapers and media outlets, expressing a variety of different views, although there are isolated reports of police attacking and detaining journalists at protests, and in one case the governing ordering an interview with an ex-minister, critical of the president, to be suspended mid-broadcast.

Highlighted cases

In 2005, abortion rights supporter and self confessed “militant atheist”, Carmen Argibay, was nominated to the Argentinian Supreme Court.  The Catholic Church and anti-abortion groups opposed the appointment, with Pró-Vida (an anti abortion group) president Roberto Castellano stating that Argibay did not represent Argentinian women because she was single, childless and due to that fact that most women were not “abortionist or against God.” Argibay, responded: “I believe that saying up front who one is or what one thinks is an indication of honesty, which is the first step towards impartiality. My beliefs, or lack thereof, should not interfere in the judicial decisions I take.” (Argibay died of emphysema in May 2014.)

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