SEPTEMBER 7, 2021
On August 24, 2021, Jehovah’s Witnesses won a landmark legal victory in Ecuador. The Constitutional Court issued a judgment declaring that the right to freedom of worship was violated in the indigenous community of San Juan de Ilumán of the Imbabura Province. The Court’s decision helps establish the right to freedom of worship for people throughout Ecuador, especially those living in indigenous communities, and sets a precedent that can be used in other countries.
In 2014, community leaders entered a property owned by Jehovah’s Witnesses by force to stop the building of a Kingdom Hall. They also prohibited our brothers and sisters from gathering together for worship and preaching from house to house. Our brothers took the matter to court. However, two local court judges ruled against the Witnesses, claiming that their constitutional rights were not violated.
After exhausting all local means to resolve the situation, the brothers took the case to the Constitutional Court, the highest court in the country. The Constitutional Court declared that the lower courts violated the Witnesses’ legal right to freedom of worship. The community leaders and judges involved were ordered to attend a course on religious and cultural tolerance. In addition, the community leaders were asked to protect the “coexistence of diverse belief systems and cultures, especially in relation to the religious activities” of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Philip Brumley, general counsel for Jehovah’s Witnesses, stated: “We recognize that indigenous rights serve as a shield to protect indigenous cultures, but it would never be appropriate to turn that shield into a sword that hurts the fundamental rights of any citizen.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses in San Juan de Ilumán are grateful to the Court for its decision.
We rejoice to see evidence of “Jehovah’s hand” when our brothers and sisters benefit from legal victories protecting freedom of worship.—Proverbs 21:1.