Vlado Mirosevic MP: The Liberal project and freedom of religion in Chile

Being liberal entails a commitment to the right of each and every person to develop their life project in such a way that it allows them to achieve the greatest possible personal fulfillment, as long as in doing so one does not harm others. In contemporary Chilean society the conservative tradition is still very powerful and influential so putting our credo in to practice remains difficult – but Partido Liberal de Chile is up for that fight!

Conservative powers have imposed themselves by force in Chile for 150 years. In fact the conservative tradition constitutionally shaped my country based only on 2 simple values: authority and ownership. Ownership, above all else, serves the protection of the wealth over a commitment to guarantee the autonomy of citizens; freedom was not one of the constituent principles of the Republic of Chile.

Today we Liberals understand the urgency for the protection of freedom across Chile in all of its component parts (socially, politically, and economically). During the second half of the 20th century there were no political parties in Chile that fully explained and defended freedom; this was exactly the period in which Chile witnessed a major cultural weakening of freedom within our democracy, a development which, in 1999, coincided with the country coming close to electing the world’s first Opus Dei president.

Progressives still have much work to do in advancing freedom of religion due to the selfish ways in which conservative influential powers in Chilean society have utilized their freedom.

Each time they came to power since the 19th century, the conservative forces have used the state to impose the Catholic religion on Chilean society. Perversely, each time a non-conservative coalition democratically won power with an aim to advance secularizing the state, the conservative forces understood that their only chance was to use the freedom of religion to limit the state’s actions, but with very little commitment to the free development of the individual.

As liberals in Chile we are working together to promote secularization. With our vote and support a bill was recently approved that allows abortion in cases when the pregnancy poses a vital risk for the mother, when the pregnancy is a result of sexual assault, and when the embryo or fetus suffers a congenital or genetic alteration of a lethal nature that makes it incompatible with life outside the womb. With the approval of the bill, Chile no longer appears on the list of countries (that includes the Vatican) in which abortion is illegal under any circumstance. We have also succeeded in abolishing the right of private schools (those which have a religious orientation but receive public funding) to exclude family types that do not harmonize with the ideology of the school. In addition to this we recently successfully managed to get civic education reincorporated into the school curriculum (while religion has always been a mandatory part of the curriculum of Chilean schools).

A liberal voice has clearly seen progress being made over past years but there is still a lot of work to be done. Publicly funded private Chilean health clinics with a religious orientation, for example, still have the right to deny treatment to a woman requesting a termination of her pregnancy. That the roots of the main objections to regulation and decriminalization of euthanasia rest in the sanctity of life, rather than the individual, demonstrate that we are not there yet.

For Chilean liberals our historic role consists of advancing the secularization of the state and promoting a culture of tolerance and the free development of personality. In this context freedom of religion plays a key role, not only because of the way it has been used by and in the interest of the conservative forces in our country, but also because of the confusion it has created among non-conservatives. For example, in January 2018 a group of non-conservative members of parliament supported a proposal to publicly finance the visit of the pope to Chile on the basis of arguments in favor of freedom of religion. In doing so, PLC argued, they insufficiently took into account the fact that the secular state demands a more neutral attitude.

Vlado Mirosevic MP, PLC, Chile

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