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Bishops of Costa Rica demand respect for their freedom of expression

.- The Bishops’ Conference of Costa Rica is demanding that the right to freedom of expression of Bishop Jose Francisco Ulloa of Cartago be respected after he was sanctioned by the country's Electoral Supreme Court for telling Catholics to vote in accord with their faith.

On May 3 the court ordered  Bishop Ulloa to pay damages for telling Catholics not to support political policies that go against Christian principles and said he violated article 28 of the Constitution, which says members of the clergy cannot engage in political propaganda for religious motives.  The bishop was sued by members of the Movement for a Secular State.

The Costa Rican Bishops’ Conference warned that “this exception to freedom of expression found in paragraph 3 of article 28 in the Constitution is a form of hateful discrimination, which must be reformed in accord with the universal doctrine of Human Rights.” The bishops also expressed their solidarity with Bishop Ulloa and his actions to defend his rights.

They rejected the court’s decision, saying Bishop Ulloa was fulfilling his mission as a pastor to provide guidance during a political season.  “He never imposed his opinions on the faithful, nor did he say that ignoring them would be a sin,” the bishops said.

During the Mass last September, Bishop Ulloa told the faithful, “We are facing a political campaign in which we must carefully choose who is going to govern us. We are now finding out which candidates deny God and defend principles that go against life, marriage, and the family. Therefore, we must be coherent with our faith and cannot give them our vote in good conscience.”

In their statement, the Costa Rican bishops also criticized a request by the court that Archbishop Hugo Barrantes of San Jose, as president of the conference, instruct the other bishops to “remain within the boundaries outlined by this resolution, during future electoral cycles.”  As president of the country's bishops' conference, they said, he does not have the jurisdictional authority over other bishops in their dioceses to implement such a request.

The bishops reiterated their “respect for the Costa Rican legal order, which is informed by the doctrine of Human Rights and Natural Law.” They also reaffirmed that they will not back down in their mission to proclaim the Gospel, “preaching the absolute value of Human Life, the values of the family and the Social Doctrine of the Church in fidelity to Christ and to our nation.”

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