.- The Archbishop of Santa Cruz, Cardinal Julio Terrazas Sandova, called on Bolivians this week to defend the right to practice their faith and he reminded President Evo Morales of the difference between a lay State and a secular State that is hostile to religions.
The cardinal’s statements came in response to comments by the country’s Education Minister, Felix Patzi, who said recently he wanted to end the “monopoly” of the Catholic faith in schools and permit the teaching of all faiths, “from oriental religions to those practiced by our native peoples.”
Cardinal Terrazas said the Church would defend, “the universal right to profess a religion. This is unrenounceable and non-negotiable. This is the basis for helping to form a family that is much more united in the cause of the kingdom of justice and peace and to build a country that is not in constant turmoil.”
Bishop Jesus Juarez of El Alto told reporters the government was engaging in “double-speak” with its educational policies. Patzi recently called the Church “colonial” and announced that religion classes in schools would no longer be obligatory. Days later, President Morales contradicted his Education Minister and said religion courses would not be eliminated from public schools after all.
The national secretary of the Bishops’ Committee on Education, Eduardo Gonzales, said the Church does not pretend to be the only religion. He noted that a recent educational congress organized by the Bishops’ Conference of Bolivia affirmed that, “in virtue of religious freedom that is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the [Bolivian] Constitution, parents and teachers have the right to seek a religious education according to their conscience and religious beliefs, and public officials have the duty to guarantee the exercise of man’s inalienable rights, including religious freedom.”