Appointment of key Solís minister is challenged

The Sala IV constitutional court said Tuesday night that it would study the status of the new minister of the Presidencia.

The minister is Melvin Jiménez Marín, who also happens to be a Lutheran bishop.

The administration of  Luis Guillermo Solís has contended that a constitutional  bar to appointing religious persons to the post of ministers applies only to members of the Roman Catholic faith.

But an appeal by a citizen raised the question.

The appeal is based on Article 142 of the Costa Rican Constitution that says clearly that to become a government minister a person must be in the secular state. There is no reference to the particular religion. In Spanish the line reads ser del estado segular.

A valid candidate must be Costa Rican by birth or have become a naturalized citizen and lived in the country 10 years. The candidate must be 25 years or older.

Jiménez has been a bishop since April 2008.

The Poder Judicial which issued the statement from the Sala IV only said that the appeal was filed by someone named Orozco. There was no indication when the constitutional court would actually study the case and take a vote.

The person is most likely Justo Orozco, who just completed a term in the legislature.  Orozco is an opponent to gay marriage, and in 2012 Jiménez was critical of his position in a pastoral letter he sent to fellow Lutherans. He told them not to be afraid of changes.

Although the decision appears to be a slamdunk, the court has taken strange detours in the past. For example, it said that Óscar Arias Sánchez could run for a second presidential term even though the Constitution at the time forbade this. Basically the court threw out the constitutional prohibition.

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