Congratulations to the people of Costa Rica in choosing Carlos Alvarado Quesada as the President Elect of their country. In doing so, they chose tolerance over religious dogma. The main issue of the campaign was same sex marriage. Quesada’s opponent was an conservative, evangelical pastor who is against same sex marriage along with abortion and sex education. Quesada campaigned for same sex marriage to be legal and called for tolerance. He won with 60% of the vote compared to 39% for the pastor. Although the main issue was same sex marriage, this is a win for us in the atheist community. We always benefit when tolerance is championed and human rights are protected.
This election marks an important victory as Central America is still a region influenced heavily by religion, both Catholic and evangelical. El Salvador has one of the world’s toughest abortion laws. It prosecutes women for having abortions and they can face up to 50 years in jail. There are even reports of women who miscarry finding themselves facing long prison terms.
Guatemala has an evangelical President who reportedly brings in religious leaders to speak to government employees. There was also an attempt to make it mandatory to teach religion in schools but fortunately that bill failed. Even in socialist Nicaragua, Roman Catholic bishops are often called by state officials for their opinions on various issues.
Quesada said the election in Costa Rica was a reflection of what is happening in the region. He might be right. Humanist groups in Central and South America feel their movement is on the rise. There is talk of a regional Humanist conference in Peru for this year. Elections fought on tolerance and growth in secularism are surely what this region needs.