Died: Ruth Montaño, Religious Freedom Fighter for Non-Catholic Bolivians

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Cochabamba lawyer secured passage of 2019 landmark law protecting evangelicals and other religious minorities from discrimination in Andean nation.

Until her death last month at the age of 63, Bolivian attorney Ruth Montaño had done perhaps more than any living person to advance the rights of religious minorities in her Andean homeland.

A specialist in constitutional law and permanent legal counsel to the National Association of Evangelicals of Bolivia (ANDEB), the Cochabamba-based lawyer spent more than two decades defending Christian believers and congregations against discrimination and injustice.

Her greatest professional accomplishment was undoubtedly the passage in September 2019 of Religious Liberty Law 1161.

Montaño served as chief legal architect of the landmark legislation, “one of the greatest achievements of the evangelical church and ANDEB in our country’s history with respect to religious freedom,” said ANDEB president Munir Chiquie.

The product of nine years of research, litigation, and negotiation with the government of former president Evo Morales, the law guarantees the independence of churches and other faith communities from government interference in their internal affairs.

The law prevents secular officials from dictating how non-Catholic churches must organize their activities, choose leaders, and manage their finances. It also reestablishes the right of churches and mission organizations to open and maintain schools, clinics, and other holistic social ministries—a right that had been denied them for nearly a decade.

According to Chiquie, the most important provision in Law 1161 was the creation of a new legal identity for churches, synagogues, mosques, and other faith communities. These groups now enjoy official status as “religious organizations.”

“This law established a whole new judicial environment …

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