The Year of the “Orange Handkerchief” for State-Church Separation in Argentina · Global Voices русский Français


Activists of the Federal Campaign for Separation of State and Churches in Pride March, June 2018. Photo by Leonardo Miranda Quiroga, posted on Instagram and used with permission.

In January 2021, after the legalization of abortion in Argentina, the orange handkerchief movement, the symbol of the campaign for State-Church separation, emerged with renewed strength.

Within weeks, the group behind the orange campaign received numerous inquiries and new support through their social media profiles. He also launched information campaigns, provided information on the process of official departure from the church and shared complaints of abuse of power, genocides, religious interference in education and the law, and child abuse or its concealment. They also gave interviews to personalities from different social and political sectors.

We are aiming for the definitive separation of State and Church! Join our movement from your province! #secular state #LegalAbortion2020 #Itwillbecomelaw #Orange #priests #differentmaterials #secularism #equality – Feed. Campaign for State/Church Separation (@CampEstadoLaico) January 2, 2021

With the slogan “Church and State: different things”, this campaign fights for the establishment of a secular Argentine state that does not allocate public funds to the Catholic Church. Above all, the movement wants a state where religious beliefs – Catholic or otherwise – do not shape policies that affect the full exercise of rights. It’s not just religious lobbying, but history shows that lawmakers have used religion as a reason to vote against basic human rights, such as divorce, same-sex marriage, gender identity law, abortion rights, and comprehensive sex education. In return, they receive support (and votes) from people who share those beliefs.

Nicolás Panotto is theologian and general director of Otros Cruces, an NGO that defends religious freedom in harmony with democracy. He explains the campaign boom:

At the start of 2018, there was a generalized indignation at the conocerse over los 130 million pesos (unos 4.6 million dólares) que el Estado argentino otorga a la iglesia católica para cubrir los sueldos de la curia, los estudios de Seminaristas y otros gastos” pero el debate sobre el aborto ha mostrado que la vinculación orgánica entre Estado e iglesia sobrepasa lo financiero, y mete la cola como a determining factor y exclusyente en el tratamiento de políticas públicas, donde los intereses particulares (entre ellos religiosos) no deberian ser condicionantes.

Already at the beginning of 2018, there was general outrage when we learned of the 130 million pesos (about $4.6 million) granted by the Argentine state to the Catholic Church to cover the salaries of the curia, seminary studies and other “philanthropic” activities. expenses. But the abortion debate has shown that the inherent relationship between state and church goes beyond the financial, since it interferes in the treatment of public policies, where the individual (and the religious) interests should not be decisive.

One could therefore say that the orange campaign was born from the “green tide” fighting for the right to abortion. The Orange campaign quickly became visible during the first debate in 2018 on the law on the voluntary termination of pregnancy, where it reacted to the strong pressure of the church during the debates and the vote as well as the speeches marked by the religion that prevailed among the opponents. the law.

When it comes to separating the state from the church, we tend to think only of the Catholic Church. However, the campaign emphasizes “the churchare(plural). The latest survey of religious beliefs in Argentina, carried out by CONICET, shows that the number of people professing Catholicism is decreasing, while the number of people practicing the Evangelical religion, with much more conservative doctrines than Catholic, is increasing. This gives Latin American leaders and representatives a greater push for political and social power: in 2019, they presented more than 200 candidates on the electoral lists for various positions.

The fight for a secular Argentine state dates back to the beginning of the republic in the 1800s, followed by another fight after 1950. This recent campaign began with a Facebook group created in 2018 by Taty Barranco, feminist activist and rights activist people, diversity, and gender. The aim of the group was to bring together people who felt uncomfortable or aggrieved by the imposition of religious dogma in public and private educational settings.

Coming from Salta, one of the most religious and conservative provinces in Argentina, Taty spoke to Infobae about the strong religious influence in his life:

Mi mamá creció en el campo, en un lugar muy conservador de Salta. Fue criada por una mujer muy religiosa, que siempre ejerció su violencia psicológica con un rosario en la mano. […] Quedó embarazada de mí a los 19 años, y la violencia por parte de esa mujer empeoró. So that? Por el dogma religioso y moral que dice que si te quedas embarazada joven sos una prostituta.

My mother grew up in the countryside, in a very conservative part of Salta. She was brought up by a very religious woman, who always psychologically abused her with a rosary in her hand. […] She got pregnant with me when she was 19 and this woman’s violence got worse. Why? Because of religious and moral dogma that says if you get pregnant young, you’re a prostitute.

In a few days, the Facebook group created by Barranco reached 40,000 members, which raised the need to organize and divide up the tasks. Together, and inspired by the green handkerchief, they imagined the design and color of the scarf. This is how the orange handkerchief was born.

Gradually, they created regional committees and movements to spread activism and diversify the campaign nationally and geographically. Its members are of all political, social and even religious affinities, but with a common vision: that religious institutions and beliefs must be limited to individual life choices and kept apart from public affairs that affect the lives of citizens in their whole.

One of the focal points of the campaign is apostasies – the formal renunciation of connection with the Catholic institution consecrated in the sacrament of baptism. It is an individual but very important symbolic action, and many people approach the campaign asking how to apostatize and stay to support the cause.

Another focal point is the Secular Public Space initiative, which records and denounces the presence of religious monuments and symbols in non-religious public spaces, such as squares, parks, courts, hospitals, train stations and stations. metro, offices, universities and public schools. .

Because it is a self-organized group, it still has no legal status nor does it receive financial support from the state, sympathizers, or individuals. The group is made up of people who volunteer their time and knowledge and who organize themselves mainly through social networks.

They recently joined the coalition of Argentine Secular Organizations (OLA), created in March 2021, in the hope of joining forces and ending the privileges of religious institutions and their representatives by repealing all laws and decrees , including Article 2 of the National Constitution, which states that “the federal government supports the Roman Catholic apostolic faith”, to eliminate pecuniary benefits paid from the pocket of the state (i.e. from its taxpayers).

For now, the orange campaign is focused on spreading activism, building awareness, attracting activists and supporters, building alliances, and informing and educating the public with varied, high-quality material through their accounts on TwitterFacebook and Instagram, hoping to grow and spread throughout Latin America, as the green tide did.

Although they have made significant progress this year, the system they seek to change is still very strong, and it is so deeply embedded in the social and cultural matrix that it is sometimes invisible to many people. The group’s goal was first expressed by Barranco in an interview with medium La Tinta:

Our interest viralizar información and install the debate, porque lo que no se ve, no exist.

We have an interest in making the information viral and initiating the debate, because what is invisible is unknown.


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