The constitution and laws provide for freedom of religion and the right to profess freely one’s faith. The constitution provides that the government will grant the Roman Catholic Church preferential legal status, but there is no official state religion. By law, public schools are secular, but private schools run by registered religious institutions are eligible for government subsidies. The government continued its investigation into the 1994 terrorist bombing of the Argentina Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) community center. In December a federal judge indicted former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner on charges of “aggravated concealment” for allegedly attempting to cover up possible Iranian involvement in the AMIA bombing. In September Vice President Gabriela Michetti at the UN General Assembly urged international support for the country’s demands that Iran cooperate in the continuing investigation of the AMIA attack and the 1992 terrorist bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires. On September 20, the Gendarmerie completed a forensic report concluding that Alberto Nisman, the special prosecutor in charge of the AMIA bombing investigation, was murdered in 2015. In July the Secretariat of Worship of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) submitted a draft religious freedom bill to the lower house of congress. The legislation would eliminate the requirement that non-Catholic religious groups register with the government to receive the same benefits accorded to the Catholic Church, allow for conscientious objection based on religious grounds, and protect religious dress, religious holidays, and days of worship. There was considerable debate regarding the bill within the government and society at large, which continued throughout the year.
In May several human rights organizations, including the Madres de Plaza de Mayo, criticized the Catholic Church for organizing an event calling for reconciliation between relatives of victims killed by the former military governments and 1970s-1980s military regime officers. Interreligious organizations such as Religions for Peace continued to exemplify the value of religious diversity and to take joint action in addressing common societal challenges. These groups worked to increase opportunities for multireligious action on common societal challenges. Jewish and Muslim community representatives also conducted various cultural events to promote interreligious harmony, including a “hummus festival” that attracted hundreds of participants held in Buenos Aires in September.
Embassy officials met with senior government officials, including with the secretary of worship, officials in the MFA’s human rights office and in the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, to discuss ways to promote religious diversity and counteract religious discrimination. Embassy outreach efforts included regular meetings with religious and community leaders to discuss interfaith collaboration and to encourage the increased participation of religious communities in embassy-sponsored scholarship and educational programs.