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ICC Note: An estimated 20,000 people took to the streets in Bolivia to protest a new law that would restrict religious freedom. Despite a president that came into office on the promise of greater religious freedoms “the new measures grant the government regulatory power over the internal affairs of churches to the point of defining what is and is not a church,” leaders have said. This kind of government involvement in the internal matters of religious groups often leads to outright persecution of those religions.
8/28/2013 Bolivia (Morning Star News) – Protestant church leaders in Bolivia are trying to revoke a new law they say aims to “impose contrary beliefs” and “denies us the right to be a church.”
Asserting that Law 351 is unconstitutional, the National Association of Evangelicals of Bolivia (ANDEB) will file suit this week before the Plurinational Legislative Assembly demanding that it be revoked; Christian leaders argue its re-registration requirements restrict the “rights and religious freedoms of churches.”
The law stipulates a standardized administrative structure for all “religious organizations” that church groups must adopt.
“This would force churches to betray their true ecclesiastical traditions,” Ruth Montaño, legal advisor and former board member of ANDEB told Morning Star News. “The measure deprives them of any autonomy to follow their original faith convictions.”
Churches failing to complete the re-registration within a two-year period would lose their legal right to exist. The ANDEB suit charges that Law 351 aims to “control” churches and “impose contrary beliefs” upon the Christian faith and “denies us the right to be a church.”
ANDEB organized protest marches by an estimated 20,000 people on Aug. 17 in five cities throughout the country to state their opposition to the policies of President Evo Morales’s administration.
At the heart of the demonstrations was opposition to Law 351 for Granting of Juridical Personality to Churches and Religious Groups, passed in March. The statute requires all churches and not-for-profit organizations to re-register their legal charters with the government. This involves supplying detailed data on membership, financial activity and organizational leadership.

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