Religions in Argentina Ordered by Government To Register or Face Ban

BUENOS AIRES, Feb. 14 (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 today.

The decree says the Government can turn down a group's, registration, thus providing effectively for more religious bannings. The two-year-old regime has already outlawed three sects.

The law, partly reproduced by the newspapers, will take effect in a month, 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.

Those considered "injurious to the public order, national security, morality or good habits" can be kept out of the register.

Catholicism, the official religion in this nation of 25 million people, 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 Rafael Videla's military regime, which seized power in a 1976 coup, banned the Jehovah's Witnessess and two India-oriented sects, the Divine Light Mission and Hare Krisna.

Foreign diplomats said they were puzzled by the new decree, and it appeared to take religious leaders by surprise. "We don't know anything about it," said Rudolph Vallis, a Mormon churchman.

The Foreign Ministry has had a list of religions since 1950. However, the new decree says faiths already registered must register again. It said the move was to establish "effective control" by the authorities over non-Catholic religions.

Copyright The New York Times
Originally published February 15, 1978