Silver Spring, Maryland, United States | ANN staff

Members of Peru's congress voted last week to approve legislation guaranteeing the religious liberty of all citizens, a freedom already recognized by the South American country's constitution.

The act comes a year after more than 40,000 Peruvians gathered in the country's capital, Lima, for a festival in support of burgeoning religious liberty there.

The law guarantees free public and private exercise of religion, except where such expression infringes on the freedoms or fundamental rights of others, or where public order or welfare is threatened, religious liberty advocates said.

Specifically, the act protects students' religious convictions and requires state educational institutions to respect those convictions, assuring that a student's practice of faith does not affect his or her academic grades, said Edgardo Muguerza Florián, who directs Public Affairs and Religious Liberty for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Peru.

It also prohibits any "action or omission" discriminating against a person because of religious belief and recognizes religious pluralism, assuring that all faiths enjoy the same "rights, obligations and benefits," Florián said.

Adventist Church representatives have worked for broader religious liberty protections in Peru for more than a decade, meeting with government officials and faith representatives in the country.

"We are very pleased to see that our work may have played a role in the passage of this historic law," said John Graz, director of the world church's department of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty.

Graz said the legislation is a testament to the efforts of all defenders of religious freedom in Peru. The country's religious liberty movement has a long history, making the continued protection of religious freedom there an important investment, he said.