A pair of Chilean pastors who were wrongfully arrested for holding religious gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic have won their legal case, setting a landmark precedent for future religious freedom cases in the country.
In June, legal firm Alliance Defending Freedom filed a request for emergency cautionary measures with the Inter American Commission on Human Rights after it became apparent that Christian pastors were being prosecuted for violating the Covid-19 health guidance despite the fact there was no blanket ban of religious services and gatherings.
The pastors involved in the case were said to have been observing the government-mandated precautions to minimise the risk of transmission. A court recently ruled that their arrest was unconstitutional and administered upon the grounds of an illegal administrative act.
In response to the ruling, Tomas Henriquez, the Director of Advocacy for Latin America & Caribbean for ADF International, said: “We welcome this decision by Chilean courts to set a precedent for religious freedom. The pastors adhered to all of the Covid-19 health regulations while holding religious services. They were targeted by health authorities and arbitrarily arrested based on unconstitutional restrictions on religious services.
"Though health regulations are in place, there is no ban on religious services. This would be a grave violation of the fundamental rights Chile is committed to in a range of international human rights agreements and in its constitution. This decision marks a precedent for Chile in protecting the right to freedom of religion from prohibitions on public worship under the pretense of extraordinary circumstances."