.- During a visit to a school in the southern city of Jaen, Spanish President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said that in a non-sectarian state like Spain, “no morality, no religion can be imposed on the law” and that faith should be restricted to private life.
While conversing with a group of students from the school, Zapatero said faith has no rights in the public square and that it belongs strictly in the private sphere. “You cannot legislate faith, faith is something inside of each person, and we legislate in a way which, I believe, in a democracy must broaden individual rights as much as possible and recognize as much as possible the plurality that society has,” he stated.
While he acknowledged that Spain has an important relationship with the Catholic Church and that the Constitution establishes that special relationship, Zapatero rejected what he called the “imposition” of religious and moral values on laws.
“What we must be clear about is that a non-sectarian country is a country in which civic values, from all points of view, establish that no morality or religion can be imposed on the law,” Zapatero claimed.
“We must extend rights to the maximum and recognize all types of plurality,” he continued, such that “no religious faith can impose its beliefs on society.”
Zapatero said the law must respect all religious confessions and should grant special consideration to those of the majority. Nevertheless, he insisted that specific moral beliefs should be conveyed neither through education nor through civil laws.
The Spanish president affirmed that students have the right to receive religious instruction in public schools, but the government has opted to make such courses voluntary. Religion, he claimed, is not a subject of knowledge that prepares a person for professional life, but rather it is an individual matter of faith, which should be respect but which cannot be proven. “That is the reasonable balance in a democratic system and a non-sectarian state,” he said.