Salvadoran President Funes vetoes required Bible readings in schools

[Translation of an article from El Faro of San Salvador for July 27. See also “El Salvador: The congressmen and the Bible” posted here on July 10.]

By Sergio Arauz

After almost a month of debate throughout the country, President Mauricio Funes, who initially supporting the bill enthusiastically, has rejected a measure that would require the daily reading of passages from the Bible in all schools of the country.

The president argued that requiring the reading of biblical texts goes against the constitution by violating the religious freedom established in the document.

In addition, the president stated in a six-page document that he is vetoing the measure out of respect for parents’ rights to decide about their children’s educations and respect for the religious liberty of teachers, parents and students…

When they approved the bill late on Thursday, July 1, congress members issued it as a matter of public safety, the origen of the effort being the conclusion that punitive and preventive measure against crime had failed and therefore it was necessry to teach morals in the schools. The next step was that the morals should be those taught in the Bible.

The “Law to authorize the reading of the Bible in the education system” immediately placed President Mauricio Funes on a collision course with Vice President Salvador Sánchez Cerén, who had told the representatives earlier that he opposed the measure becaue he considered it unconstitutional.

Funes did not hesitate to react with enthusiasm for the law, announcing that he would support it with pleasure if it would help to reduce the crime level. “I am in agreement with the reading of the Bible in the schools,” he said, adding that he would not hesitate to sign it if it would be usefull in the effort to reduce crime. The Cahtolic Church, through Monsignor Luis Escobar Alas urged him to veto it, as did the pastor of the protestant Tabenáculo de Avivamiento Internacional, Carlos Rivas.

Other religious figures, like Reverend Edgard López Bertrand of the Tabernáculo Bíblico Bautista, had demanded that the government support the bill…

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