“Changes in Legal Protections for Conscientious Objection” – Paraguay, 7-9 July 2016

International Center for Law and Religion Studies Associate Director Professor Gary Doxey and Senior Fellow and Regional Advisor for Latin America Scott Isaacson participated in the XVI Symposium of the Latin American Consortium for Religious Freedom, held at Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic University, Campus Alto Parana, in Hernandarias, Paraguay, from 7 to 9 July 2016. The conference, titled “Changes in Legal Protections for Conscientious Objection”, took place with the institutional support of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Ciudad del Este in the person of the assistant bishop Msgr. Pedro Collar (ordinary member of the Consortium). The overall organization of the symposium was delivered by Prof. Abog. Juan Jose Bernal (also a regular member of the Consortium) and colleagues from the host university.

The inaugural session was held in the Aula Magna of the University, in a solemn session begun with the National Anthem followed by a collective prayer. The opening words were spoken by Mr. Rector of the Catholic University of Our Lady of the Assumption, Pbro. Dr. Narciso Velazquez, who marked the need for “consorciarnos” to search for Religious Freedom. Also giving welcoming remarks were the Vice Director of the Campus of the Catholic University, Ing. Ladislao Aranda, and the Dean of the Faculty of Law Abg. Gloria Martinez Mendieta, who recalled that the law is what helps human beings to live in society, and must be commensurate with the nature of human beings, respecting their essential freedom. The Director of Campus Ministry Father Ernesto Zacarias brought a reflection from a religious perspective on behalf of S.E.R. Msgr. Pedro Noguera Collar, who due to episcopal commitments could not be present.

The opening speech of the conference was given by the President of the Consortium, Prof. Carmen Asiaín Pereira (Uruguay), who after thanking the organizers and the host university, addressed the theme of the conference: freedom of conscience and historical changes in legal protection of conscientious objection.

The General Rapport was given by Prof. Juan Navarro Floria (Argentina), who noted that the right to conscientious objection has become an essential topic in the relation of State and Religions and Religious Liberty. Starting from the principle that the State must respect the conscience and conscientious objection is a human right without exception, he emphasized contemporary tensions between proponents and those who defend their restriction in effect. He did a survey of their treatment by Latin American constitutions, a disparity of situations, with a tendency to recognition as autonomous right to par in other cases there is an open negative arises. Rather than proposing claims, he raised prompt questions of research and debate that would follow: the right to conscientious objection is it directly applicable since the International Law of Human Rights and the Constitution, or it is necessary that an internal law regulating ?; Is it enough that their motivation is individual conscience, or must be based on a religious mandate ?; Does the law may impose conditions for their exercise ?; Is this legitimate? He highlighted the roles of jurisprudence and the inter-American human rights system and relieved old and new areas of exercise of conscientious objection, including institutional ideology. He insisted the proposal to draft an international or regional convention on religious freedom.

See the Website of the Consorcio Latinoamericano de Libertad Religiosa for the original report of this event in Spanish.