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Colombia Creates Small Separation of Church and State

In what seems like an incredibly obvious development, but probably isn’t to everyone, the nation of Colombia has prohibited judges from quoting Bible verses to justify their rulings, saying that their rulings must be made on the basis of secular reasoning and the country’s constitution.

Colombia’s constitutional Court has told a lower court judge that religious precepts cannot be used as the basis for a ruling or other decisions, issuing a directive that applies to all judicial officers in the country.

The high court said quotations from religious texts cannot be used in legal arguments or judgments to directly support the reasoning for a decision. It did say religious quotations can be used to explain a point of view…

Judicial authorities “are obliged to respect the principle of secularism that characterizes the Colombian state,” said the constitutional Court, which is the guardian of Colombia’s constitution. Decisions “must be devoid of any expression suggesting a bias based on religious beliefs or personal convictions of the judicial officer,” it added.

Not perfect, but it’s a start.

Comments

  1. steve oberski says

    Next thing you know judicial authorities will rule that you can no longer throw suspected witches into the nearest pond.

  2. Ben P says

    I strongly suspect that a non-Christian judge, following the many examples of his peers, based a ruling on his own scriptures and judiciary went ape shit.

    Eh, Central America isn’t like the United States really. Most central American countries have Catholicism as either a de facto or de jure state religion. But much like say, England, becoming a state religion tamed the religion itself and you have many fewer evangelicals than in the United States.

    One result of this is, particularly among indigenous groups, there’s actually a relatively high tolerance of other religions. Many indigenous peoples in central america practice an interesting blend of catholicism and traditional religion.

    On the other hand, whereas atheists are relatively common in europe, open atheists are likely to get an even more confused reaction than they often do in the United States. “you don’t believe in any god? wha…how?”

  3. Ben P says

    There’s an NPR interview that says that “Bob Dylan’s song lyrics are used more than any other writer’s in court opinions and briefs.”

    I have seen “you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows” used in a judicial opinion, but never thought of using it. No other dylan quotes come to mind.

    I’ve quoted the rolling stones in a brief “you can’t always get what you want,” when making the argument that, although plaintiff feels they’ve been wronged, the law doesn’t allow what they want to do.

    It’s pretentious but I’m also partial to quoting Macbeth when an opposing counsel takes the “pound on the table” approach (using angry rhetoric in place of any substantive argument). “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” The astute will note the full line is “it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” I leave the idiot part out, leaving it for the reader to infer.

  4. kerrietiedemann says

    I’d have to agree with BenP @#4’s view. Colombia is predominately catholic and evangelist protestants are not always welcome. I just don’t see most of our people getting into any tizzy over this. Now try to legalize abortion and then you’ll hear an uproar.

  5. says

    zippythepinhead “There’s an NPR interview that says that ‘Bob Dylan’s song lyrics are used more than any other writer’s in court opinions and briefs.'”
    To be fair, any time the judge mumbles it’s counted as a Dylan lyric.

    kerrietiedemann “I’d have to agree with BenP @#4′s view.”
    Yeah? Well I have to disagree with it. Colombia isn’t in Central America. So there!

  6. Michael Heath says

    Ed reports:

    [The Columbia courts’] rulings must be made on the basis of secular reasoning and the country’s constitution.

    Ed quotes the ruling:

    . . . legal arguments or judgements . . . must be devoid of any expression suggesting a bias based on religious beliefs

    If Ed in the first quote I offer here is correctly reporting what the Columbia courts are ordering, that’s a position I’m highly confident the U.S. currently could not get passed. When we consider many U.S. policy arguments which are turned into law, their premises are based solely on religious beliefs, e.g., restriction of gay rights, abortion, and our governments’ current promotion of the Christian religion along with the trivial promotion of other religions.

    If we used only secular reasoning and the plain meaning of the U.S. Constitution, gays’ rights would be protected, a women’s rights to choose would be protected weeks later than it is now (where sometimes females’ rights even prior to conception aren’t protected), and government would have no involvement in religion than being one of this culture’s biggest enablers and promoters.

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