New parties Ciudadanos and Podemos share their views about religious freedom and minorities. They would end the privileges of the Roman Catholic Church.
The Spanish general elections will take place next Sunday, December 20. These will be the most open elections in Spain´s democratic history, because of the impact of the emergent parties Ciudadanos and Podemos, which are threatening the power of the traditional parties: the conservative PP and the socialist PSOE.
Spanish website Protestante Digital is making a series of interviews with all the most important Spanish parties, specially focusing on the vision and ideas that each party has, regarding all kind of religious issues.
Director of Evangelical Focus and Protestante Digital Pedro Tarquis interviewed the representatives of the two emerging parties. He talked with them about religious freedom, finishing with the Roman Catholic Church´s privileges and the importance of a 'religious transition', which would make the separation between religion and the state a reality.
RELIGIOUS EDUCATION AT SCHOOLS
Although Spain is an non-confessional state, public schools still offer the possibility of studying specific religions in their education programs.
Ignacio Aguado, spokesman of Ciudadanos, believes that “religion should be known, but in a History of religion class”, because “ the spiritual part belongs to the private life.”
José Ramón Lopez, the representative of Podemos, affirms that “people should have access to religious education at their own churches, but it must not be in schools anymore.”
FREEDOM OF SPEECH
The debate about freedom of speech and the limits of “the right to offend” is a hot topic all around Europe, with the Muhammad and the Charlie Hebdo cartoons as clear examples.
When asked about how to deal with this, Aguado states that “not everything is acceptable, and the freedom of speech ends when the rights of others start.” Ciudadanos defends “clear rules and organisms which watch over the observance of that respect.”
Podemos argues that “it should not be anything that forbids the freedom of speech, beyond what the courts say.” We should take steps towards religious and conscience freedom, to normalise it”, Lopez adds.
RELIGIONS´ SELF- FINANCING
When Spaniards file their Income Tax Return , they have the chance of giving money to the Catholic church, because of an agreement between Spain and the Vatican in 1979. The other option available is giving the money to “social services”, which will be received by NGOs.
Both Ciudadanos and Podemos, told Protestante Digital that they stand up for the self-financing of all religions.
Aguado explains that the transition will consist in “reducing the amount it can be given in Income Tax Return, and looking for alternatives, so that all confessions will be able to be financially independent.”
Podemos believes that , during the transition, “the direct financing of the Catholic church should finish, as well as the financing that the rest of the faiths, including evangelicals, received by other organisms.”
Both also recognise that they have not thought yet about the tax exemption of the donations for the religious communities.
The two parties also agree on the necessity of having state funerals every time there is a catastrophe like the terrorists attacks in France or the Germanwings plane crash. Nowadays in Spain, all the state funerals are organised only by the Catholic church.
Ciudadanos points out that “the way they do it in USA, considering all the different faiths, and even asking the victims´families what kind of funeral they want, it is the way which respects the religious reality of Spain better.”
López explains that “Podemos will present a new freedom of conscience law”, so that the state “will have its own funerals, and if the victims are believers, besides the recognition of a state funeral, we will facilitate them the organization of the religious funeral.”
“RELIGION MUST BE RESPECTED”
The Ciudadanos´spokesman finishes the interview affirming that they “believe religion is a fundamental and spiritual fact that is real and must be respected.”
“This must be guaranteed with rules and rights […] acting quickly every time it is not respected”, Aguado adds.
“A TRANSITION PROTECTING BELIEVERS”
“In Spain, if you are catholic you have some rights, if you are protestant , you have others, and if you are mormon, your rights are different. That is crazy”, said Podemos representative to Protestante Digital at the end of the interview.
“Religious freedom is a fundamental right, and we want to do this transition specially protecting believers.”
Next Sunday, there will be many evangelicals among the voters, and the the Spanish Evangelical Alliance (AEE in Spanish), as in previous elections, has prepared a document to help Christians “vote wisely.” “To be salt and light for our society Christians not only need to just vote, they need to do it wisely”, they explain.
The Guide “will not tell you which party you should vote for, but helps you to choose through God´s Word.”
Fourteen authors, “all authorised voices in each topic, and believers with a deep love for the Word”, as the Vice President of the AEE affirmed, have participated in the creation of the guide, which talks about current hot topics like international relations, religious freedom, education, justice, culture, and more, from a Christian perspective.
You can read the full guide here (Spanish).