News

Portugal: High Court decision favors Adventist members

Portugal: High Court decision favors Adventist members

Lisbon, Portugal. July 18, 2014 [Paulo Sérgio Macedo, CD EUDNews]. Constitutional Court’s Historical Sentences widen interpretation of the Law of Religious Liberty, regarding the keeping of a weekly day of rest and the respective exemption from work for r

July 30, 2014 | Paulo Sérgio Macedo, PARL Director of the portuguese Union,CD EUDNews

Lisbon, Portugal, July 18, 2014 [Paulo Sérgio Macedo, CD EUDNews]. Constitutional Court’s Historical Sentences widen interpretation of the Law of Religious Liberty, regarding the keeping of a weekly day of rest and the respective exemption from work for religious motives.

The Law 16/2001, Religious Liberty Law, in spite of the enormous progress acknowledged regarding the protection of the freedom of conscience, cult and religion in Portugal, in its article 14th establishes some conditions of which verification depends the exemption from work on the weekly day of rest, and its interpretation by some employers, throughout time, has caused obstacles and difficulties to Adventist employees. Because of one of those conditions (number 1, a)), which states that workers have the right to suspend their work during the weekly days of rest for religious motives, if they work in a system of flexible working hours, several employees, not having that system but working in shifts, had this right denied, even when they fulfilled all the other conditions.

Throughout past years, the Portuguese Union of Seventh-day Adventists has tried to sensitize public authorities for these difficulties and for the urgency of pondering the need to change this article as to allow that the spirit of openness, which is at its base, be respected. This effort had an echo in the answer of His Excellency, Mr. Ombudsman, who found reasons to question the Ministry of Justice, and this one, in its turn, the Religious Freedom Committee, which, at this moment, has the reflection on this theme on its agenda.

On the other hand, every time that its support was asked for, the Portuguese Union of Seventh-day Adventists has tried to give its members the information and the instruments leading to the awareness of the private employers, in the cases where difficulties of exemption of working on Saturday appeared.

For all these reasons, the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Portugal has been watching with some anticipation two factual cases in which this problem was raised, both of them centered on the matter of knowing if a Seventh-day Adventist employee, working in a labor regime other than labor flexibility – in both cases, a shift regime – would be entitled to have the exemption of work on Saturday, as a day of rest for religious motives.

After the normal course through the different levels of justice Courts, being it that, in all these instances, the sentences were contrary to this demand, the two cases came to be analyzed and decided by the Constitutional Court. In both cases, this Court considered that the rule in question, article 14th, number 1 a), should be interpreted as to include also the work in a shift system, besides revocating the previous decisions contrary to these two Adventist employees, so that those decisions be reformulated bearing this interpretation in mind. The cases will, from now on, continue their normal procedures, waiting for those decisions to be rendered by the competent Judicial Courts.

The Portuguese Union of Seventh-day Adventists rejoices on this decision, not only because of the favorable consequence for the two members involved, but also for the deepening of the concept and practice of religious liberty, for which the Law 16/2001 has so much contributed in our country and for the fulfillment of which spirit we acknowledge the efforts of the official authorities, political and judicial, namely the Constitutional Court.

We thank God for His care and protection, and we always ask Him for the discernment to understand the reality of time, the strength and the boldness to live up to it, conscious that, the whole of it, in peaceful or stormy times, is an opportunity to witness. Because, His, is a Spirit “of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).

pictures: 1. The facade of the Adventist Church in Lisbon: 2. Paulo Sérgio Macedo, PARL Director of the portuguese Union;

Back to list