SignaturesRafael Palomino

Legalized" companies

Western societies are intensely juridified. State law invades everything. Citizens are crowding the courts, waiting for the oracle of justice to solve their problems.

May 1, 2021-Reading time: 2 minutes

Photo: ©Bill Oxford

A few years ago, many problems were solved without the need to go to a judge or a court of law. This was possible because there was a shared moral substratum. This is not the case today.

Religious groups cannot escape this juridification. And not because religions want it, but because what Carl Schmitt called "motorized legislation" (i.e. the unbridled production of state norms to fix everything) is present in sectors of civil society that were previously entrusted to the free arrangement of individuals and groups, including the religious sector.

That is why, in view of the judicial news that populates the press, I am increasingly convinced that churches do not only need fervent believers, exemplary ministers of worship or beautiful places of worship. They also need good lawyers. And no small dose of legal mindedness.

One example among many. On February 22, 2021, the Spanish Supreme Court had to rule, in the face of a resolution of the Spanish Data Protection Agency unfavorable to the Jehovah's Witnesses, on what specific personal data of a former member can be kept by a religious denomination. What is less important is the ruling, ratifying that only the minimum data can be kept so that the religious denomination can fulfill its purposes. What is more important is the substantive debate. That is to say: it could be argued, not without some foundation, that religions are autonomous or independent of State Law: they enjoy autonomy in the management of their internal affairs, the libertas ecclesiae that made its way in the Middle Ages against the temporal power. But at the same time, every action carried out by a religious group or a part of it has a juridical dimension that cannot be ignored, indeed, that must be taken into account... This leads us to a delicate operation of demarcation of competences between the sacred and the profane.

The authorRafael Palomino

Professor of State Ecclesiastical Law

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