Wed., Feb. 15, 1978    The Modesto Bee

Argentine edict: All but Catholic

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) -All religions except Roman Catholicism must register with the state or be banned in Argentina, the military government declared in a decree published by newspapers Tuesday.

The decree says registration can be refused, providing effectively for more religious bannings by the two-year-old government of this 90 percent Catholic country which has already outlawed three sects.

The law, partially reproduced by the newspapers, will take effect in a month's time when it is published in the government's official bulletin, the newspapers reported.

Religious sects will then have 90 days to register on an official list to be run by the Foreign Ministry, the decree said.

Religious organizations seen as "injurious to the public order, national security, morality or good habits" can be kept off the register.

The Catholic Church, the official religion in this South American nation of 25 million persons, was not affected, the decree said.

Argentina and the Vatican signed an accord in 1966 reaffirming the church's right to function here.

Last year President Jorge Videla's military regime, which seized power in a 1975 coup, banned Jehovah's Witnesses and two Indian-oriented sects, the Divine Light Mission and Hare Krishna.

The Witnesses, whose beliefs forbid them to salute national flags or do military service, have been banned or jailed in several African countries.

Newspapers published the new law without comment, their usual practice when handling a potentially controversial government action.

Diplomats said they were puzzled by the move, and it appeared to take religious leaders by surprise. "We don't know anything about it," said a Mormon churchman Rudolph Vallis. Other religious representatives were not immediately available for comment.