AMERICA/ECUADOR - Bill to establish the "Council of Religious Freedom and Equity": for the Church it interferes in internal decisions

Quito (Agenzia Fides) - The Catholic Church in Ecuador criticized the draft law on religious freedom and religious equality, which suggests among other things, the creation of a "Council of Religious Freedom and Equity", because this can become an instrument of interference in the internal decisions of the various religious groups. His Exc. Mgr. Guido Iván Minda Chale, Auxiliary Bishop of Guayaquil, told the local press: "it is surprising that a secular State like Ecuador, which promotes the separation between Church and State, now intends to create a Regulatory Council" . Some politicians (not Catholic) have challenged the Bishop’s statements, stating that this Council does not want to interfere but to ensure the rights, promote policies to be developed in the religious field of the country. Religious groups want the law to be clearly defined, and what in writing what this Council can and cannot do. Meanwhile, indigenous leaders and evangelical pastors have started dialogues with institutions such as the Brotherhood Evangelical Church of Ecuador and the Ecuadorian Episcopal Conference, for the discussion of the bill to be held today, January 20, in the National Assembly. The Feine (Council of peoplesand of Evangelical Indigenous organizations of Ecuador) is one of the most involved in the process of the construction and processing of the bill. The Feine recalls that the ultimate goal is to allow a proper process of law and improve assistance from the State to religious institutions of the country, in a fair and equitable manner. Manuel Chugchilán, President of the Feine, has highlighted the need to form a permanent committee of surveillance during the legislative process for the approval of the law, this is why he has met various church groups of various religious denominations. The situation in Ecuador is complex because, as Mgr. José Mario Ruiz, a former President of the Ecuadorian Episcopal Conference warned, speaking to a newspaper in the capital, El Universo, on August 5, 2011, the secularism of this law "is exaggerated and claims to impose a religion without God". According to information gathered by Fides, the initial draft stated that the public space is not used for religious activities, meaning the procession of the patron Saints of all cities. Another key question concerns Catholic schools and Catholic priests and women religious clothing. (CE) (Agenzia Fides 20/01/2012)