SU-510/98. Restriction of the religious freedom of members of indigenous communities



In this case, the claimants –conformed by the legal representative of the church Iglesia Pentecostal Unida de Colombia (IPUC) and 31 indigenous of the Arhuac Community– demanded the protection of their fundamental rights to life, personal integrity, free development of personality, freedom of conscience, religious freedom, freedom of expression and personal freedom, supposedly violated by multiple Arhuaco authorities.


In the action, the plaintiffs alleged that during the past 39 years, in which the church has settled in the area, various natives became members of the religious community. Those indigenous had been subjected to abuse by the Arhuac authorities, such as the prohibition of worshiping God under the sanction of arrest, the confiscation of biblical texts and personal items, physical punishment, among others. On the other hand, the Arhuac authorities outlined that the allowance of the religious practices of the church inside their territories will threat the existence of the Arhuac community itself, menacing the fundamental rights of that conglomerate to integrity, identity and cultural diversity.

The Constitutional Court developed a study tending to determine the real level of impact that the religious practices of the IPUC could have on the indigenous cultures, and concluded that only the indigenous authorities were empowered to allow proselytism on their territories, and in that order of ideas, confirmed the decision adopted by the ad quem, that denied the claimant’s pretensions.