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Argentina: Contemporary Affairs
President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s relationship with Argentina’s Catholic Church has been strained due to her outspoken support for gay marriage and the perceived leftism of her government’s agenda. In July 2010, Argentina’s Senate legalized gay marriage at the urging of President Fernández. The Catholic Church, along with Evangelical and Protestant groups, organized massive protests against the legislation. The Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Bergolio, issued a plea to lawmakers to oppose the vote, calling the effort “a move by the father of lies to confuse and deceive the children of God.” Argentina’s Synod of Bishops, in a rare political statement, called upon Catholics to oppose politicians who supported the bill. Fernández called the Church’s tactics “medieval,” and publicly snubbed the Church by declining to attend the Independence Day Mass, presidential attendance at which is considered a ceremonial tradition. Despite these public disputes, the Argentine government has also been criticized from the left for its close institutional relationship with the Catholic Church, as Argentina’s political and judicial branches maintain strong ties with the Church. A push for further separation of church and state was demonstrated in May 2012 when a local court in Argentina’s Salta Province banned Catholic religious education in the region’s public schools, striking down a provincial law that had mandated such education. Catholic bishops criticized the ruling, arguing that individual students ought to be able to opt out of religious education instead of banning the material for all students.