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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 December 2018

Juan Martin Vives*
Director, Center for Studies on Law and Religion, Universidad Adventista del Plata


The Argentine Constitution contains two provisions regarding church-state relations. The first one recognizes the right of all people to the free exercise of religion. The second one provides that the state must financially support the Catholic Church. Based on this latter clause, over the years a complex regulatory scheme has been developed that differentiates that church from all the other churches and religions. Those differences are addressed in this article. The author argues that the religious establishment does not depend only on how the state defines itself (e.g., through a declaration in the constitution), but also on the way in which it treats people based on their religion. If that treatment is unequal—for example, when there are legal privileges only to a single church—then there is a kind of establishment of religion. It has been claimed that the religious establishment is not itself incompatible with religious freedom. In arguing that religious minorities can hold a different opinion, the author offers a brief account of the problems faced by non-Catholic faith communities in Argentina because of the state's unequal treatment. Finally, the author analyzes whether the reasons given to justify the legal differences between religions are acceptable. Otherwise, it could be said that there is discrimination—at least, in a broad sense—against religious minorities. While this article focuses on the Argentine case, the issues addressed are relevant to any country dealing with the unequal treatment of people based on their religion.

Article Symposium
Copyright © Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University 2018 

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1 When it is called “the church,” as a representative of institutionalized religious power, it is a simplification, an abstraction from any particular religious denomination. On the contrary, Argentine scholars often use “the Church” to refer to the Catholic Church. In some contexts, it seems more appropriate to talk about “churches” as a way to highlight the plurality that is always at the base of the religious phenomenon.

2 Floria, Juan Gregorio Navarro, “Derecho eclesiástico y libertad religiosa en la República Argentina” [Law and religion and religious freedom in the Argentine Republic], in Estado, Derecho y religión en América Latina [State, law, and religion in Latin America], ed. Floria, Juan Gregorio Navarro and Pereira, Carmen Asiaín, Panóptico, Colección (Buenos Aires: Marcial Pons, 2009), 5370Google Scholar, at 53.

3 Dirección General de Estadística y Censos de Buenos Aires, La ciudad en los dos primeros censos nacionales” [The city in the two first national censuses], Población de Buenos Aires 4, no. 5 (2007): 7794Google Scholar, at 79.

4 Officially, “Second census of the Argentine Republic.” It was carried out during the administration of President José Evaristo Uriburu.

5 Norberto Raúl Méndez, “El rol de las colectividades árabe/islámica y judía en la Argentina respecto del Medio Oriente (1947/2007)” [The role of the Arab/Islamic and Jewish communities in Argentina regarding the Middle East (1947/2007)] (PhD diss., Universidad Nacional de La Plata, 2008), 29.

6 Officially, “Cuarto censo general de la nación” [Fourth general national census]. It was carried out during the administration of President Juan Domingo Perón.

7 Officially, “Censo nacional de población, viviendas y agropecuario” [National population, housing, and agricultural census]. It was carried out during the administration of President Arturo Frondizi.

8 Various explanations have been offered about the gradual decrease in the number of Muslims: small base populations, small families, geographical isolation, marked imbalance between the genders (and the consequent mixed unions), assimilating pressure of the Catholic environment, schooling in Christian schools. For the period between 1947 and 1960, the reduction factors would be the same, exacerbated by the aging of the population, the intensification of assimilation, and the relative irrelevance of the migratory rate. Jozami, Gladys, “La Argentina del Islam manifiesto” [The Argentina of manifest Islam], Encuentro Islamo-Cristiano, no. 314 (1998): 110, at 6Google Scholar.

9 Mallimaci, Fortunato, Primera encuesta sobre creencias y actitudes religiosas en Argentina [First survey of religious beliefs and attitudes in Argentina] (Buenos Aires: CEIL-PIETTE, 2008)Google Scholar.

10 Including agnostics, atheists, and people without religion affiliation.

11 “Evangelicals” in the original. It includes Pentecostals, Baptists, Lutherans, Methodists, Adventists, and the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God.

12 Mallimaci, Primera encuesta. (All translations from the Spanish are by the author.)

13 Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, Religion in Latin America: Widespread Change in a Historically Catholic Region (Washington, DC: Pew Research Center, 2014)Google Scholar.

14 According to the survey, 55 percent of those who identify themselves as Protestants were raised as Catholics, which shows the demographic transfer that has been taking place between these two religions.

15 Navarro Floria, introduction to Estado, Derecho y religión en América Latina, 11–16, at 12–13.

16 Abdelfattah Amor, Civil and Political Rights, Including the Question of: Religious Intolerance. Addendum: Visit to Argentina, E/CN.4/2002/73/Add.1 16 January 2002, 13–14,

17 Villalpando, Waldo, Hacia un plan nacional contra la discriminación: la discriminación en Argentina [Toward a national plan against discrimination: discrimination in Argentina] (Buenos Aires: Inadi, 2005), 208Google Scholar.

18 In the other extreme, there remains the problem of the total exclusion of religion in society (not just the established religion), or its replacement by other ways of interpreting the world, for example humanist philosophy.

19 Winfried Brugger, “Separation, Equality, Nearness: Three Church-State Models,” in “Nation, Identity and Multiculturalism: A Socio-Semiotic Perspective,” ed. Anne Wagner, Le Cheng, Jixian Pang, special issue, International Journal for the Semiotics of Law/Revue internationale de Sémiotique juridique 25, no. 2 (2012): 263–81CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 265.

20 The cooperation system is sometimes known as “positive nonestablishment.” See, for example, regarding the Spanish system, Gómez-Quintero, Alex Seglers, La laicidad y sus matices [Laicité and its nuances] (Granada: Editorial Comares, 2005), 31Google Scholar.

21 Brugger, “Separation, Equality, Nearness.”

22 Angón, Oscar Celador, Estatuto jurídico de los confesiones religiosas en el ordenamiento jurídico estadounidense [Legal status of religious confessions in the United States legal system] (Madrid: Dykinson, 1998), 47Google Scholar.

23 Lorenzo, Celso Ramón, Manual de historia constitucional argentina [Manual of Argentine constitutional history] (Santa Fe, Argentina: Editorial Juris, 1997), 252Google Scholar.

24 Juan Bautista Alberdi (1810–1884) is known as the “intellectual father” of the Constitution of Argentina. His work, particularly the book Bases y puntos de partida para la organización política de la República Argentina, is widely recognized as the main inspiration of the Constitutional Convention.

25 Alberdi, Juan Bautista, Bases y puntos de partida para la organización política de la República Argentina [Bases and starting points for the political organization of the Argentine Republic] (Buenos Aires: La Cultura Argentina, 1915), 261Google Scholar. Unless otherwise noted, all translations into English are my own.

26 de Vedia, Agustín, Constitución Argentina [Argentine Constitution] (Buenos Aires: Coni Hermanos, 1907), 42Google Scholar.

27 Many authors have opined thus, especially amid the liberals. Among others is, for example, Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, one of the most important intellectual figures of Argentina in the nineteenth century. Sarmiento says that “speaking of denominations, Catholic legislators do not choose between Protestantism and Catholicism. When one wants to establish a state official religion, with the exclusion or the admission of other religions, the legislator says clearly ‘Catholicism is the religion of the state’ … It only remains the economic question that arises from this statement.” Sarmiento, Domingo Faustino, Comentarios de la Constitucion de la Confederacion Argentina, con numerosos documentos illustrativos del texto [Comments on the Argentine Confederation Constitution, with numerous illustrative documents of the text] (Buenos Aires: Talleres Gráficos Argentinos de L. J. Rosso, 1929), 126–28Google Scholar.

The committee responsible for drafting this constitutional clause elaborated a report clarifying that “by this article it is the obligation of the federal state to maintain and sustain Catholic, Apostolic, Roman Church at the expense of the national treasury.” Lorenzo, Manual de historia constitucional Argentina, 223.

The Supreme Court has also followed the same line of interpretation, deciding that Article 2 “is limited to privilege the Catholic Church in its relations with the state by, both supporting and providing economic protection for the expenses of that church, which would be paid by the National Treasury, included into its budget, and therefore subject to the authority of Congress … This interpretation of the scope and content that the constituents would wish the clause under examination had is corroborated by the fact that they swerved from the inveterate texts of the Provisional Statutes of 1815 and 1816, the Provisional Regulations of 1817, and the Constitutions of 1819 and 1826, which expressly established the Roman Apostolic Catholicism as the official religion of the state, by suppressing the expression ‘adopt’ used by Alberdi in his draft.” Corte Suprema de Justicia [CSJN] [National Supreme Court of Justice], 2/9/1989, “Villacampa, Ignacio c. Almos de Villacampa, Maria Angelica,” Fallos (1989-312-I-122) (Arg.) (General Attorney opinion, joined by the Court).

28 Ibarra, Eduardo A., Congreso constituyente de 1852, Constitución de 1853 [Constituent Congress of 1852, Constitution of 1853] (Buenos Aires: Establecimiento gráfico Enrique L. Frigerio é hijo, 1933), 118Google Scholar.

29 de Vedia, Agustín, Constitución Argentina [Argentine Constitution] (Buenos Aries: Imprenta y Casa Editora de Coni Hermanos, 1907), 42Google Scholar.

30 “[After] a bitter argument, it has come out as a result, as a compromise, that is, to regard Catholicism as a preferred religion by the state, that the state pays, but not as a religion that the state embraces, following perhaps the ideas of Royer-Collard, who said, since the state has no soul, it cannot have either religion.’” de Oca, M. A. Montes, Lecciones de derecho constitucional [Constitutional law lessons], vol. 2 (Buenos Aires: Imprenta y Litografía La Buenos Aires, 1902), 135–36Google Scholar.

31 Canclini, Arnoldo, La libertad de cultos: historia, contenido y situación constitucional Argentina [Freedom of religion: history, theme, and constitutional situation of Argentina] (Buenos Aires: Asociación Bautista Argentina de Publicaciones, 1987), 95Google Scholar.

32 Lorenzo, Manual de historia constitucional, 164.

33 Germán J. Bidart Campos, Teoría general de los derechos humanos [General theory of human rights] (México: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1989), 29–30 (“In the political-constitutional aspect, the legal freedom … is a status or situation of the person (and by projection, of society and human groups, in a broad sense) that, assuming free will, balances the dualism ‘individual-state’ … Every individual right is, somehow, a freedom, and so are used daily expressions like ‘individual (or personal) freedoms’ and ‘public freedoms.’ [Therefore, the] right to profess their religion amounts to religious freedom.”).

34 CSJN, 6/4/1993, “Bahamondez, Marcelo S/ Medida Cautelar,” Fallos (1993-316-479) (Arg.) (joint opinion of Justice Cavagna Martínez and Justice Boggiano, section 9).

35 Manual de la Constitución reformada [Manual of the reformed constitution], vol. 1 (Buenos Aires: Ediar, 1996), 151–52Google Scholar. Also, Humberto Quiroga Lavié, Constitución de la Nación Argentina comentada [The Argentine Nation Constitution, annotated] (Buenos Aires: Zavalía, 2000), 77; Badeni, Gregorio, Tratado de derecho constitucional [Treatise of constitutional law], 2nd ed., vol. 1 (Buenos Aires: La Ley, 2006), 532Google Scholar; Montes de Oca, Lecciones de derecho constitucional, 119–20.

36 Although, freedom of conscience is not limited to the realm of religious beliefs, but it includes any type of strong intimate convictions. Dionisio Llamazares Fernández, Derecho de la libertad de conciencia. Libertad de conciencia, identidad personal y solidaridad [The right of freedom of conscience. Freedom of conscience, personal identity, and solidarity], 2nd ed., vol. 2 Tratados y manuales [Treatises and manuals] (Madrid: Civitas, 2002), 12.

37 Badeni, Tratado de Derecho Constitucional, 532.

38 Adolfo G. Ziulu, “La libertad religiosa en los 150 años de la Constitución Nacional” [Religious freedom in the 150th anniversary of the national constitution], Jurisprudencia Argentina, no. JA 2003 II 917 (2003): 917–42, at 920.

39 Norberto Padilla, “Derecho a practicar la propia religión: Argentina” [The right to exercise one's own religion: Argentina], in La libertad religiosa en España y Argentina [Religious freedom in Spain and Argentina], ed. Isidoro Martín Sánchez and Juan G. Navarro Floria (Madrid: Fundación Universitaria Española, 2006), 38–64, at 43.

40 CSJN, 5/8/2005, “Asociación De Testigos De Jehová c. Consejo Provincial De Educación Del Neuquén,” Fallos (2005-328-2966) (Arg.).

41 CSJN, 21/9/1966, “Glaser, Benjamin Abel,” Fallos (1966-265-336) (Arg.).

42 CSJN, “Bahamondez,” Fallos (1993-316-479) (Justice Cavagna Martínez and Justice Boggiano, dissenting, section 8).

43 CSJN, 7/7/1992, “Ekmekdjian, Miguel Angel c. Sofovich, Gerado y Otros,” Fallos (1992-315-II-1492) (Arg.) (majority opinion, section 27).

44 CSJN, 18/4/1989, “Portillo, Alfredo S/ Infr. Art. 44 Ley 17.531,” Fallos (1989-312-496) (majority opinion, section 9). The Court added, “[T]he scope of possible state violence to the internal forum is expanded considerably, covering the not necessarily religious system of values on which the subject builds his own life project. A different interpretation would lead to contradiction to protect the right to freedom of religion, as a way of externalizing the right to freedom of conscience, and not address the latter as an object of protection on itself.” This way, religious freedom and freedom of conscience seem to be mixed again.

45 Gelli, María Angélica, Constitución de la Nación Argentina: comentada y concordada [Constitution of the Argentine nation: commented and annotated], 4th ed. (Buenos Aires: La Ley, 2008), 174Google Scholar.

46 CSJN, 6/4/1993, “Bahamondez, Marcelo S/ Medida Cautelar,” Fallos (1993-316-479) (Arg.) (joint opinion of Justice Cavagna Martínez and Justice Boggiano, section 9).

47 Ibid.

48 Ibid.

49 In Argentina, Catholic religious symbols are often placed in public spaces, from squares and boulevards to schools, hospitals, and courthouses. When challenged about this issue, a then minister of justice opined that “the presence of Christian religious symbols in public buildings reflected the continuing existence of traditions, but did not constitute discrimination.” Amor, Civil and Political Rights, section 61, p. 12. The only time the issue has been analyzed by the Supreme Court was in a case in which the Court itself was sued in order to remove a statue of the Virgin Mary placed in the Courthouse. The Justices decided to remove the statue by an administrative decision, and then in the ruling of the case they found that it was no longer necessary to decide on the constitutionality of the matter. CSJN, 21/11/2006, “Asociacion por los Derechos Civiles y Otros c. Poder Judicial de la Nación,” Fallos (2006-329-IV-5261) (Arg.).

50 Gelli, Constitución de la Nación, 177–78.

51 Diego Lerena Rodríguez, “Principios reguladores del derecho eclesiástico de la República Argentina” [Regulatory principles of law and religion in the Argentine Republic] (PhD diss., University of Barcelona, 2008), 182.

52 For an overview of different classifications proposed, see Montes de Oca, Lecciones de Derecho, 121; Bidart Campos, Manual de la Constitución 1:147–48; Carlos María Bidegain, Curso de derecho constitucional [Constitutional law course], 2 (Buenos Aires: Abeledo-Perrot, 1995), 109; Ziulu, “La libertad religiosa,” 2; Navarro Floria, “Derecho eclesiástico y libertad religiosa en la República Argentina,” 58; Padilla, “Derecho a practicar”; de Vedia, Constitución Argentina, 440.

53 Erik Wolf, Ordnung Der Kirche: Lehr—Und Handbuch des Kirchenrechts auf ökumenischer Basis [Order of the church: teaching and handbook of ecclesiastical law on an ecumenical basis] (Frankfurt: V. Klostermann, 1961). The analysis model proposed by Wolf is more complex. I have taken here only the elements that were necessary for this work. Llamazares Fernández has introduced Wolf's model to Spain. See Dionisio Llamazares Fernández, “Principios, técnicas y modelos de relación entre estado y grupos ideológicos religiosos (confesiones religiosas) y no religiosos” [Principles, techniques, and models of relationships between the state and religious ideological (religious confessions) and nonreligious groups], Revista de estudios políticos, no. 88 (1995), 2961Google Scholar; and Llamazares Fernández and Llamazares Calzadilla, Tratados y manuales [Treatises and manuals], 57–180.

54 Rodríguez, Lerena, “Principios reguladores del,” 165. In the same vein, Alejandro Gancedo, Reformas á la constitución nacional [Amendments to the national constitution] (Buenos Aires: Coni Hermanos, 1909), 910Google Scholar.

55 The idea of “calculated ambiguity” to the Argentine Constitution has been taken from Seglers Gómez-Quintero, La laicidad y sus matices, 11.

56 Ziulu, “La libertad religiosa,” 2.

57 Bosset, Pierre, “Les fondements juridiques et l’évolution de l'obligation d'accommodement raisonnable” [The legal foundation and the evolution of the duty of reasonable accommodation], in Les accommodements raisonnables: quoi, comment, jusqu'où? Des outils pour tous [Reasonable accommodations: What, how, how far? Tools for everyone], ed. Jézéquel, Myriam (Cowansville: Yvon Biais, 2007), 15Google Scholar.

58 Esquivel, Juan Cruz, “Cultura política y poder eclesiástico: encrucijadas para la construcción del estado laico en Argentina” [Political culture and ecclesiastical power: crossroads for the building of a secular state in Argentina], Archives des Sciences Sociales des Religions 54e, no. 146 (2009): 4159Google Scholar, at 51–52.

59 Cod. Civ., arts. 146(c), 148(e).

68 Thus, for instance, Justice Borda has said that there was no inconvenience in granting special benefits to Catholic seminarians and ministers—but not to those from other religions—as the equality before the law “does not apply to religious matters, since the Constitution gives preeminence to the Catholic religion.” Glaser, Fallos (1966-265-336) (Borda, J., dissenting, in part).

69 “When we say that there is religious freedom but not religious equality, we are far from understanding that the Constitution provides an arbitrary discrimination regarding religious freedom of non-Catholic people and communities … . ‘Non-equality’ of religions and churches, without restricting the right to religious freedom on a strict basis of equality among all people and communities, only means that the relationship between Argentina [state] and the Roman Catholic Church is different than that between Argentina [state] and other religions and churches, because it has a special recognition. Hence, we have previously referred to ‘preeminence.’ Could it possibly be expressed through the Latin adage ‘primus inter pares’?” Bidart Campos, Manual de la Constitución, 148.

70 Amor, Civil and Political Rights, section 138, p. 30; see also sections 139–58, pp. 30–34.

71 Amor, Civil and Political Rights, sections 139, 141, p. 30. Thus, it creates a bureaucratic control of the registrations, which (along with the arbitrary actions of other state officials, such as the police), may hinder or obstruct the daily activities in temples and churches. Alejandro Frigerio and Hilario Wynarczyk, “Diversidad no es lo mismo que pluralismo: cambios en el campo religioso argentino (1985–2000) y lucha de los evangélicos por sus derechos religiosos” [Diversity is not the same as pluralism: changes in Argentina's religious field (1985–2000) and the evangelicals’ fight for their religious rights], Sociedade e Estado 23, no. 2 (2008): 227–60, at 249. The enactment of the new Civil Code in late 2015 is supposed to change the registration system. Nonetheless, the Civil Code continues to be unregulated in this regard, and there is no certainty about how the new system will be. Chances are that the minority churches registration system continue to exist.

72 José María Contreras Mazario, El régimen jurídico de la asistencia religiosa a las fuerzas armadas en el sistema español [The legal regime of religious assistance to the armed forces in the Spanish system will] (Madrid: Ministerio de Justicia, 1989), 53.

73 Padilla, “Derecho a practicar,” 52.

74 Lerena Rodríguez, “Principios reguladores,” 165; Gancedo, Reformas, 9.

75 This is the explanation given by the national authorities to the concern raised by the Human Rights Committee regarding the preferential treatment granted to the Catholic Church in relation to other religious denominations. At that time, the Committee expressed its concern about “‘[t]he preferential treatment, including financial subsidies, accorded to the Catholic Church over other religious denominations constitutes religious discrimination under article 26 of the Covenant’” (as quoted in Amor, Civil and Political Rights, section 57, p. 10). In this regard, both the then president and the then secretary of religious affairs explained that “[s]uch subsidies are historically justified because they compensate the Catholic Church for the nineteenth century confiscation of most of its property and income.” Amor, section 57, p. 11.

76 The theory that the budget item currently assigned to subsidize the Catholic Church comes from the confiscations in the early nineteenth century seems to arise from a mid-twentieth-century book by Enrique Udaondo. In that work, Udaondo calculates the value the properties expropriated to the cathedral and several convents by the Buenos Aires government would have had in 1949, to conclude that there is a debt of the federal state with the Catholic Church. He eventually states “The origin of the religious budget item is known: the [Catholic] Church had its own assets and resources. Rivadavia took the real estate of the church, which value was very high, and on December 21, 1822, he abolished those resources, the tithes… . Therefore, the religious budget item is not charity, but duty.” Enrique Udaondo, Antecedentes del presupuesto de culto en la República Argentina [Background of the budget of worship in the Argentine Republic] (Buenos Aires: San Pablo, 1949).

77 Di Stefano, Roberto, “En torno del presupuesto de culto y sus raíces históricas” [About the budget of worship and its historical roots], Revista Criterio, no. 2366 (2010)Google Scholar, There is another element that is essential to define the inappropriateness of keeping the economic support of Catholic Church based on historical reasons. The Catholic Church goods confiscated by the Buenos Aires province's government were of little value. In fact, the set of all goods that different Catholic institutions possessed in the Río de la Plata at that time were very modest. Therefore, it can hardly be justified that up to this day the federal government continues to allocate part of the federal budget to compensate the Catholic Church for properties whose total historical value are not so very important. In this regard, Navarro Floria says that confiscation “was more than compensated by the transfer of a huge amount of goods that since has been made by the [federal] state in favor of the church through dioceses, parishes, religious congregations, and other institutions” Floria, Juan Gregorio Navarro, “Sobre el ‘Presupuesto de culto’,” [On the ‘Budget of worship’] Revista Criterio, no. 2368 (2011)Google Scholar, On the other hand, in his comment, Navarro Floria softens Di Stefano's position referring to continuation of the religious budget item. He argues that, on several occasions, the Supreme Court has held the constitutionality of the subsidy to the Catholic Church. He also argues that the Catholic Church receives contributions for only 6 percent of its total expenditure. However, Navarro Floria states that it is urgent to “develop a serious and consistent proposal that addresses the objections over the current system, and propose a better one for the future.”

78 Between 1820 and 1853, autonomous local governments ruled in what was then called United Provinces.

79 So it is interpreted by Lerena Rodriguez, who argues that the federal state “chooses to sustain a certain religion—the Catholic one—professed by most of the population, which is economically subsidized for being considered ‘valuable and positive’ for society; which does not necessarily mean ‘to make an assessment about the philosophical content of Catholicism,’ or to regard it as ‘the one true religion,’ which would be typical of a denominational thought.” Lerena Rodríguez, “Principios reguladores,” 171. Quiroga Lavie writes, “[I]t is true that the Roman Catholic religion is the religion that creates greater spiritual bonds between the Argentine people. This was what determined the argumentative force to establish provisions for the economic support of this church [in] the Constitution, and that is the ‘strong’ argument used to not innovate in that privilege.” Lavie, Humberto Quiroga, Propuesta para reforma de la Constitución Argentina [Proposal to reform the Argentine constitution], vol. 1 (San Luis: Editorial Universitaria San Luis, 1992), 50Google Scholar.

80 Association of Religion Data Archives, “Argentina. Religious Freedom Indexes,” accessed November 1, 2016, The Government Favoritism of Religion Index is based on the US Department of State's International Religious Freedom reports. It ranges from 0 to 10, where 0 means no favoritism. Argentina scores 8.1, while the Latin America average is 4.7.

81 According to a recent survey, 59.9 percent of the population is in disagreement with the Catholic Church's being the only one receiving federal state funding (the figure rises to 88.3 percent if one considers only people belonging to religious minorities). Carbonelli, Marcos and Mosqueira, Mariela, “Minorías religiosas en Argentina: posicionamientos frente a lo político y al Estado” [Religious minorities in Argentina: positioning in the face of politics and the state], Nómadas. Revista crítica de ciencias sociales y jurídicas 28, no. 4 (2010): 333–45Google Scholar. While it is clear that there is little public support for the exclusive funding of the Catholic Church, there is some uncertainty regarding a possible alternative system. Drawing on two different studies, in both, the proportion of the population that supports the exclusive funding is a meager 12 percent. However, the support for the two main alternatives was distributed: in the first survey, 41 percent thought the best alternative is to fund all religions, while 42 percent thought the state should not provide financial support to any religion. Poliarquía Consultores, “Actitudes y prácticas religiosas en la República Argentina” [Religious attitudes and practices in the Argentine Republic] (Buenos Aires: Exclusiva para La Nación, 2010). In the second survey, the number of those who prefer the state not give financial support to any religion rose to 68 percent. D'Alessio IROL, Estudio sobre religión, sociedad y Estado en Argentina” [Survey on religion, society, and the state in Argentina] (Buenos Aires: CALIR, 2008)Google Scholar.

82 CSJN, 1/5/1875, “Criminal c. Olivar, Guillermo,” Fallos (1875-16-118) (Arg.).

83 Among many others: “Equality before the law means that the law must be equal for equals in the equal circumstances.” CSJN, 12/20/1944, “Nuevo Banco Italiano c. Municipalidad de la Capital,” Fallos (1944-200-424). “The equality principle, presented in section 16 of the Constitution, is nothing but the right not to establish exceptions nor privileges that exclude some people from those in equal circumstances.” CSJN, 9/28/1916, “Santoro, Cayetano c. Frias, Estela,” Fallos (1916-124-122).

84 Ferrajoli, Luigi, Derechos y garantías: La ley del más débil [Rights and guarantees: the law of the weakest], 2nd ed. (Madrid: Trotta, 2001), 7383Google Scholar.

85 Fernández, Encarnación, “Uguaglianza, differenza e disuguaglianza (alcune obiezioni al neoliberalismo)” [Equality, difference and inequality (some objections to neoliberalism)], Per la filosofía, no. 42 (1998): 1626Google Scholar.

86 Campo, Javier Jiménez, “La igualdad jurídica como límite frente al legislador” [Legal equality as a limit before the legislator], Revista española de derecho constitucional, no. 9 (1983): 71114Google Scholar, at 76.

87 Hart, H. L. A., The Concept of Law, 3rd. ed., Clarendon Law Series (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 160CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

88 “[E]quality does not mean that religions cannot be considered differently in different situations, as long as those distinctions are not arbitrary or unreasonable. Indeed, different legal treatment is not necessarily discriminatory, nor does it violate constitutional rights, since factual inequalities sometimes justify unequal treatment.” Prete, Octavio Lo, “The Protection of Religious Freedom by the National Constitution and by Human Rights Treaties in the Republic of Argentina,” Brigham Young University Law Review, no. 3 (2009): 673–95Google Scholar, at 686.

89 In a strict sense, discrimination would be defined by some particular characteristics: (a) the criteria used to distinguish between people is based on immutable individual characteristics, membership in social groups that are difficult or undesirable to leave, or choices that are legitimate for any person to make; (b) discrimination is systemic, it is not purely legal but is also a social phenomenon; and (c) discrimination has an important cultural component, namely the devaluation of people to be ascribed to a particular group, and the subordination of this group as inferior by the dominant group. Fernández, Encarnación, Igualdad y derechos humanos, ventana abierta [Equality and human rights, open window] (Madrid: Tecnos, 2003), 7075Google Scholar.

90 Fernández, Igualdad y derechos humanos, 92–94.

91 Fernández, 92–94.

92 Young, Iris Marion, La justicia y la política de la diferencia [Justice and the politics of difference], trans. Álvarez, Silvina (Madrid: Ediciones Cátedra, 2000), 71Google Scholar.

93 An antecedent of this theory, related to racial discrimination, can be found in Hirabayashi v. United States, 320 U.S. 81 (1943) (“Distinctions between citizens solely because of their ancestry are by their very nature odious to a free people whose institutions are founded upon the doctrine of equality. For that reason, legislative classification or discrimination based on race alone has often been held to be a denial of equal protection.”).

94 Gelli, Constitución de la Nación, 257.

95 See above, note 14.

96 “[A]ll legal restrictions which curtail the civil rights of a single racial group are immediately suspect. That is not to say that all such restrictions are unconstitutional. It is to say that courts must subject them to the most rigid scrutiny. Pressing public necessity may sometimes justify the existence of such restrictions; racial antagonism never can.” Korematsu v. United States, 323 U.S. 214 (1944). The same level of scrutiny is applied to regulations that discriminate among religious groups. The Court said, “[W]hen it is claimed that a denominational preference exists, the initial inquiry is whether the law facially differentiates among religions. If no such facial preference exists, we proceed to apply the customary three pronged Establishment Clause inquiry derived from Lemon v. Kurtzman.” Hernandez v. Commissioner, 490 U.S. 680 (1989).

97 For example, one of these local leaders headed a violent revolution when a provincial constitution granting religious liberty for all was enacted. In support of Catholic exclusivity, his militia used a sadly famous black flag with a red cross and the motto “Religion or Death.” Juan Carlos Zuretti, Nueva historia eclesiástica argentina: del Concilio de Trento al Vaticano II [New Argentine ecclesiastical history: from the Council of Trent to the Second Vatican Council] (Buenos Aires: Itinerarium, 1972), 224. The rebels deposed the governor and burned the constitution in the main square because it “was introduced among us by the hand of the devil, to corrupt us and make us forget our Catholic religion.” Fermín Chávez, La recuperación de la conciencia nacional [The recovery of the national conscience] (Buenos Aires: Peña Lillo Editor, 1983), 29.

98 While there is an interesting discussion of the differential value of religion over other types of intimate convictions, this debate far exceeds the scope of this article.

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