Controversial bill for religious freedom approved by Congress’ Constitutional Commission

A controversial bill for religious freedom was approved by Congress’ Constitutional Commission this week, immediately sparking controversy, though it is still pending a ratification vote by the full legislature.

If passed into law, the bill would guarantee all of Peru’s religious minorities freedom of religion, and would prohibit schools from requiring non-Catholic students to take Catholic religion classes. It would also allow tax exempt status for non-Catholic churches.

According to the U.S. Department of State’s 2008 Report on International Religious Freedom, although Peru’s “Constitution specifically prohibits discrimination based on religion, the Catholic Church receives preferential treatment in education, tax benefits, immigration of religious workers, and other areas, in accordance with a 1980 agreement” signed with the Vatican.

All work-related earnings of Catholic priests and bishops are exempt from income taxes. Some Catholic clergy receive additional remuneration from the State and each diocese receives a monthly institutional subsidy from the Government.

The 2006 National Continuous Census determined that 85 percent of Peru’s population is Catholic and 11 percent Protestant. The remaining 4 percent includes Adventists, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Israelites of the New Universal Pact.

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