One day after Costa Rica’s Supreme Elections Tribunal (TSE) ordered Catholic and evangelical churches to stop making political pronouncements in the midst of the country’s heated election cycle, evangelical leaders are pushing back.
The daily La Nación reported that Juan Carlos Retana, lawyer for the Evangelical Alliance, has announced he will promote a bill to limit the interpretation of Article 136 of the country’s Electoral Code, which prohibits the use of religion in propaganda in favor of any specific party or candidate.
The lawyer criticized the Elections Tribunal ruling, arguing that the text “says, basically, that only mentioning God and conscience induces someone to vote [a certain way]. It’s not… that they castrate us as believers simply for using the word God in a phrase related to political issues,” Retana told the daily. “I believe we must limit the actions that, in my opinion, the Supreme Elections Tribunal has violated” with its ruling.
In the ruling he referred to, released Tuesday, the TSE indicated that a document distributed by Catholic leaders and evangelical pastors before the first round of the country’s presidential elections on Feb. 4 constituted “a threat to the free exercise of the right to vote.”
The document in question was circulated in January, when the candidacy of evangelical preacher and then-legislator began to gather steam thanks to his pronouncements against gay marriage. It was published during a day of prayer and called on the Costa Rican population to “meditate before God and their consciences their vote for president, vice president and legislators.”
“TSE magistrates determined that the joint statement mixed political and election activity terms with religious expressions, which, through their combination, represented a threat to the free exercise of the right to vote,” the TSE ruling stated.
Costa Rica’s Election Code states that “any form of propaganda that, based on people’s religious beliefs or invoking religious motivations, incites the citizenry in general or specific citizens to adhere to or separate from any party or candidate, is prohibited.”