The president of Bolivia heeded the clamor of Christians and reversed a new law prohibiting evangelization in the country.
Through Twitter, Bolivia President Evo Morales said the new Penal Code of Bolivia may have caused some confusion. He announced that the government decided to repeal the new code which restricts religious freedom, reports Premier.
Under Article 88.1 of the new Penal Code, “whoever recruits, transports, deprives of freedom or hosts people with the aim of recruiting them to take part in armed conflicts or religious or worship organizations will be penalized 7 to 12 years of imprisonment.”
The National Association of Evangelicals in Bolivia said the new Penal Code “is imprecise, ambiguous, badly written, contradictory and its punitive power can constitute state abuse.” It claimed that there was not enough participation of the citizens when the new law was drafted, according to Evangelical Focus.
Evangelicals in the country denounced the ban. Several groups held protest rallies, prayer meetings, fasting and various spiritual intercessions to show their dismay over the evangelism ban. They urged the government to cancel the biased law.
Leading the religious groups was the National Association of Evangelicals in Bolivia (ANDEB). ANDEB asked the government to revise the law to reflect “the social reality of Bolivia.” It added that the law must be equal to all citizens of Bolivia regardless of social class and religious belief.
ANDEB said the new Penal Code “is imprecise, ambiguous, badly written, contradictory and its punitive power can constitute state abuse.” It claimed that there was not enough participation of the citizens when the new law was drafted, according to Evangelical Focus.
The group pointed out that religious organizations such as the evangelical Christian churches in Bolivia are “recognized by the Bolivian state, and, therefore, legal entities.” ANDEB added that Article 88.1 is susceptible to misinterpretation and could be used to discriminate or threaten religious minorities.
Meantime, the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) sent a letter to the Bolivia’s Legislative Assembly condemning the evangelization ban. Part of the letter said, “The ambiguity of these laws could lead to unintended restrictions on religious freedom and to the direct persecution of churches and individuals of faith.”
To calm the fears of Christians, President Morales announced on national TV that changes to the Penal Code are forthcoming.