Chile’s Movement for Homosexual Integration and Freedom(MOVILH) criticized their nation’s Ministry of Education’s handling of the case of Sandra Pavez, a lesbian religion teacher who was denied teacher re-certification by the catholic Church. She lost her teaching credential after Church officials learned Pavez was a lesbian even though she had been teaching religion for 21 years at a public elementary school. A 1983 Ministry of Education decree requires all religion teachers to possess an aptitude certificate issued by a religious authority. The San Miguel Appeals Court ruled against Pavez’s claim that the Church’s refusal violated her constitutional rights.
At a meeting held between MOVILH and Church authorities, the Minister of Education failed to appear and together with the lackluster support given Pavez by government officials, it is apparent they do with to challenge the Catholic Church on such issues. MOVILH notes that recently the Ministry of Education took a strong stand to protect the right of teenage mothers to attend graduation ceremonies, but on an issue of sexual rights there is an unusual silence. Education Ministry official, Maria d la Luz Silva, said the Ministry is still seeking to meet with Pavez and MOVILH before making a decision on the case. MOVILH is using this issue to fight for new legislation that would remove the Catholic Church from deciding who can or cannot teach in public schools.
The United States has been lucky to avoid such confrontations because of our historic separation of church and state. To those who wish to allow religion to enter public schools, this case should come as an awareness of things that are best avoided.