“We are not asking for privilege, it is about justice”

Evangelical leader explains the discrimination of Spanish Protestant pastors who could not contribute and are now without a pension. “We can wait no longer”.

Daniel Hofkamp , Evangelical Focus

Protestante Digital · 05 APRIL 2024 · 14:15 CET

Photo: <a target="_blank" href="https://unsplash.com/es/@apostolosv">Apostolos Vamvouras</a>, Unsplash, CC0.,
Photo: Apostolos Vamvouras, Unsplash, CC0.

Over 200 Spanish evangelical pastors are still waiting for a ruling on their right to pay contributions.

Carolina Bueno, executive secretary of Federation of Evangelical Religious Entities of Spain (FEREDE), told Spanish news website Protestante Digital, how after over 20 years, despite a condemnatory ruling by the Strasbourg Court, no steps have been taken to end the “discrimination and injustice” towards Protestant pastors and their families.


Unable to pay contributions

The issue dates back to the Franco dictatorship, when “the pastors were not allowed to pay contributions. That caused them many problems, and when they reached retirement, neither they nor their families could get a pension”, explained Bueno.

That situation continued until 1999, when pastors were allowed to contribute. However, “no provision was made for those who, because of their age, would not have time to contribute in order to qualify for a pension”.

Those pastors and their families “were unprotected because the transitional regime that was allowed for the Catholic Church was not approved”. That led to a lawsuit by one of the pastors, Francisco Manzanas, who won his case in court.


Other groups

In addition to Catholic religious groups, Basque teachers, who were not allowed to pay contributions during Franco's regime, were also compensated.

The government recognised those teachers “as having paid contributions for the years they taught, and approved a budget item to compensate them”, pointed out Bueno.

However, “our pastors have not been able to receive any of this. In 2018 we carried out a study, finding that there are around 300 people affected. Many are old people who were not able to contribute.

“There are also widows, and active pastors, who are contributing now, but cannot get one hundred percent of their pensions due to the lack of recognition of part of their work”.


Court rulings

In addition to the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights, in 2017 the Supreme Court also ratified that herders should be properly compensated.

“However, we have not seen any solution since then, while the herders are passing due to their age”, lamented Bueno.

“We are not asking for privilege, it is about justice”

Carolina Bueno, executive secretary of Federation of Evangelical Religious Entities of Spain. / FEREDE


Mediation work

Since 1999, FEREDE has insisted on this issue at every meeting with the government, as well as seeking legal channels and media pressure, without achieving the desired result.

There have been approaches with the current government, and even Félix Bolaños promised in 2021 to resolve it.

“They started to draft a Royal Decree, but it has been paralysed since 2022, and the text still does not solve the problem, because they have to pay the pastors for the pension that they have not received”, underlined Bueno.


Three requests

The evangelicals made three very specific requests to the government: “first, a proper Royal Decree, which does not oblige the pastors to pay the capital cost, or at least to subtract the pension they have stopped receiving”.

If the Royal Decree is not achieved, another solution would be “to set aside an item in the national budget for the government to pay the contributions, as compensation”.

The economic amount “would not be significant for the volume that is allocated to several causes in our country”.

Finally, FEREDE calls for “an act of public reparation to recognise the discrimination suffered by pastors for so many years”.

For the general secretary of FEREDE, “it is about justice, it is not a privileged treatment or a question of favours”.

“The cause of the evangelical pastors is painful, we can wait no longer. Many are dead. The situation must be addressed. A government that is concerned about memory, we believe it can be sensitive to this issue”, concluded Bueno.

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