The Minister in Ecuador (Dawson) to the Secretary of State

No. 1621

Sir: I have the honor to advise the Department that Mr. George Kinkel, an American missionary residing in Guayaquil, has through the Consulate General inquired if the Legation can use its good offices with the Ecuadoran Government with a view to obtaining permission for three missionaries to reside in Ecuador. The circumstances as submitted to the Legation are as follows:

Mr. Kinkel represents an organization known in Guayaquil as the Uníon Misionera Evangélica and which, according to my information, is maintained by the Gospel Missionary Union with headquarters in Kansas City. This organization desires to send to Ecuador as missionaries Miss Edith Kruse, Miss Mabel Alton, and Miss Alice Schlueter. The Ecuadoran Consulate General in New York, to which application was made for visas, stated that special permission would have to be obtained from the Ecuadoran Minister of Government. On October 19, 1934, Mr. Kinkel applied to the Minister of Government for the necessary permission in a communication in which he stated that, while his organization calls its representatives missionaries, they are not “religiosos” (members of any religious order); and that they teach the poor to read, etc., giving them spiritual instruction concerning a better life. Under date of October 25, the Minister of Government informed Mr. Kinkel that he had telegraphed the Governor of Guayas authorizing the entrance of the three ladies in question for a period of forty days.

Mr. Kinkel has requested the Consulate General to bring the matter to the attention of the Legation in the hope that authorization for a longer residence can be obtained.

In reply, I have informed the Consulate General that the Legation is unable to take any action without instructions from the Department and that the circumstances are being brought to the Department’s attention.

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Ecuadoran Legislation.

It is presumed that the action of the Minister of Government in granting permission for only forty days was taken under a decree of September 22, 1927,1 which reads in translation as follows:

  • Art. 1. It is declared that by Art. 5 of the Law of Worship (Ley de Cultos) there is definitively prohibited the immigration, individual or collective, of foreign religious persons (religiosos), whatever may be the Religious Community, Order, or Congregation to which they belong.
  • Art. 2. It is likewise declared that the prohibition set forth in Art. 6 of the said Law refers also to the foundation or establishment of Religious Communities, Orders, or Congregations and Novitiates in the towns where they did not formerly exist.
  • Art. 3. The Minister of the Interior and Police, who is charged with the execution of the present Decree, may, in exceptional cases, permit the entrance of a foreign religious person (religioso) into the country for a period which shall not exceed forty days.

The foregoing decree was issued for the purpose of clarifying Articles 5 and 6 of the Law of Worship of October 13, 1904, which read as follows:

  • Art. 5. In conformity with the Constitution, the immigration of religious communities is prohibited.
  • Art. 6. The foundation of new religious orders is likewise prohibited as is also the novitiate for the future in convents providing for perpetual retirement or a contemplative life.

As will be observed, Articles 5 and 6 of the Law of Worship refer specifically to religious communities or orders. Art. 1 of the decree of September 22, 1927, prohibits the immigration of “religiosos”, a word which in its broader sense may mean a “religious person” and is used more specifically as designating members of religious orders. That the decree is directed primarily against members of religious orders would seem to be indicated by the phrase “whatever may be the Religious Community, Order, or Congregation to which they belong” as well as by the text of Art. 5 of the Law of Worship. However this may be, it appears that in practice the Ecuadoran Government has interpreted the decree of September 22, 1927, as prohibiting the immigration of clerical persons, both regular and secular, and that the decree has been rather strictly enforced against the clergy of the Catholic Church. On the other hand, it seems that for many years Protestant missionaries have experienced little or no difficulty in entering Ecuador for residence.

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Attitude Towards Protestant Missionaries.

The recent action of the Minister of Government in reply to Mr. Kinkel’s application would seem to indicate a change in the official attitude towards Protestant missionaries.

I have discussed the matter with Mr. John D. Clark, a British subject, who has resided in Ecuador for a number of years on behalf of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, of New York City. This is the most important of the Protestant missionary organizations represented in Ecuador. Mr. Clark informs me that up to very recently persons sent to Ecuador for missionary work by his organization experienced no difficulty in obtaining visas from Ecuadoran consular officers in the United States and were admitted without question on arrival. He states, however, that in August of this year the local authorities in Guayaquil were criticized for having admitted without special permission Mr. Robert B. Brown, a member of the New York Board of the Alliance, who visited Ecuador temporarily, and whose admission as a tourist was subsequently authorized by the Minister of Government. Early in September, the Guayaquil authorities detained pending authorization of the Minister a missionary, Mr. D. F. Siemens, who had previously resided in Ecuador and was returning from a vacation in the United States. Mr. Siemens had been granted a visa by the Ecuadoran consular representative in Los Angeles and his readmission was eventually authorized by the Minister of Government.

Mr. Clark believes that there is a tendency on the part of the authorities to interpret and apply existing legislation more strictly as respects Protestant missionaries. He said that this might be due to opposition to their activities on the part of either Catholics or Socialists.

In discussing the matter with Mr. Clark, I made it very plain that I was merely seeking information and that he must not assume that the Legation would be in a position to take the matter up with the Ecuadoran Government.


While it might appear that there is some room for argument as to whether Protestant missionaries are “religiosos” within the meaning of the decree of September 22, 1927, it is probable that the Ecuadoran Government will hold that the interpretation of Ecuadoran legislation is a question for its decision and that, if it chooses to place restrictions on the entrance of Protestant missionaries, it has the right to do so provided there is no discrimination as respects nationals of different countries.

I am inclined to doubt if it would be advisable or serve any useful purpose for the Legation to make any representations, informal or [Page 215] otherwise, in behalf of Mr. Kinkel or in any other similar cases in which Protestant missionaries may be denied permission to reside in Ecuador.

In this connection, it may be recalled that, although a liberal, the present President of Ecuador was elected with the support of the Conservative Party which is ardent in its attachment to the Catholic Church.

Respectfully yours,

William Dawson
  1. Ecuador, Registro Oficial, September 24, 1927, p. 4366.