There are some who throw tomatoes and eggs at us, some who call us a sect, some who call us witches," Francisco José Martinez shouts in a sermon to 300 Spanish Gypsies after a loud round of snappy, flamenco-style worship.

"But let's not be cowards-take up the torch of the gospel and live consecrated, apart and holy."

This is one congregation that does not have to work at living apart. As with most of Spain's 300,000 evangelicals, the marginalized Gypsies of the charismatic Philadelphia Church in Madrid are shunned as religious fringe in predominantly Roman Catholic Spain.

Although new laws have expanded religious liberty, such guarantees have yet to translate into greater acceptance of evangelicals within Spanish society, according to Pedro Tarquis, spokesperson for the Federation of Evangelical Religious Entities of Spain (FEREDE), an umbrella organization.

"Overall, Spain is very antireligious," Tarquis says. "But there is the feeling that if there's going to be religion, the only serious religion to be recognized will be Catholicism."

However, the Protestant population in Spain, which is 90 percent evangelical, is at its highest point in history, Tarquis says. But more than 400 years after Spain led the bloody Counter Reformation, Protestant evangelicals are routinely portrayed in the media as heretical cult members.


LEGAL STANDING: An estimated 80 percent of evangelical churches closed by force under Gen. Francisco Franco's 36-year regime that ended in 1975. In 1980, evangelicals won full legal rights to worship. In 1992, additional easing of restrictions gave full legal footing to minority religions, including evangelicals. "The problem is that we signed accords with the state, but not with society," says journalist and ...

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