During the 44th session in Geneva, the World Evangelical Alliance denounced the “unreasonably high safety standards for non-Catholic places of worship” in Catalonia, and the need to address the problem of pensions for dozens of retired pastors.
It was the turn of Spain at the United Nations Human Rights Council’s 44th sessions.
The Universal Periodic Review is a mechanism established by the United Nations to review the Human Rights performance of all 193 member states. Each country is examined once every 5 years.
The World Evangelical Alliance, which is one of the organisations making recommendations at the UN in Geneva (Switzerland), thanked Spain for accepting to address two issues.
“The World Evangelical Alliance welcomes Spain’s acceptance of recommendation to bring the Catalonian legislation on places of worship in conformity with international human rights law”, said Markus Stefan Hofer on behalf of the WEA.
“Our reporting has highlighted that regional laws in Catalonia have set unreasonably high safety standards for non-Catholic places of worship”, he continued. “Some municipalities, such as the city of l’Hospitalet de Llobregat, have even adopted harsher and more arbitrary regulations. The result is that most local congregations are unable to meet the requirements and face a risk of being closed”.
The WEA also addressed a long-lasting issue related to evangelical pastors who served during Francisco Franco’s dictatorial regime. “We urge Spain to implement the recommendation that was accepted to ensure freedom of religion or belief, both in law and in practice, to members of religious minorities, with a view to realizing the right to social security for all including protestant ministers who do not have access to the pension system”, the WEA representative said.
“Retired pastors and their family still suffer from the consequences of discriminatory regulations established during Franco’s regime. Despite the European Court of Human Rights finding in 2012 that Spain was violating the right to property, in combination with the right to non-discrimination, this situation is still unresolved until today, leaving dozens of surviving retired protestant pastors outside the pension system. We call on the government of Spain to take rapid steps to definitely remedy to this situation”.
The government of Spain, which had received the human rights recommendations earlier this year, responded to the civil society groups’ requests in a letter sent on 2 July.
In its response, it clearly stated it “accepted” the two recommendations of the WEA.
In a brief answer to the WEA, Spain’s representative Cristóbal González-Aller Jurado, assured that the country fully respects and implements all religious freedom regulations and that “a normative is being prepared for the pastors who were not able to pay contributions” for their pensions.
Watch the statement of the WEA and the response of the Spanish representative: