International Religious Freedom Report 2002
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice.

There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom during the period covered by this report, and government policy continued to contribute to the generally free practice of religion.

The generally amicable relationship among religions in society contributed to religious freedom; there are a number of government- and privately sponsored activities that contribute to interfaith understanding.

The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government in the context of its overall dialog and policy of promoting human rights.

Section I. Religious Demography

The country has a total area of 35,672 square miles, and the population as of 2001 was estimated to be 10 million. More than 80 percent of the population above the age of 12 identify with the Roman Catholic Church; however, a large percentage state that they do not participate actively in church activities. Approximately 4 percent identify with various Protestant denominations (including about 250,000 Evangelists) and approximately 1 percent with non-Christian religions. Less than 3 percent state that they have no religion.

Practitioners of non-Christian religions include about 35,000 Muslims (largely from Portuguese Africa, who are ethnically sub-Saharan African or South Asian), approximately 700 Jews, and very small numbers of Buddhists, Taoists, and Zoroastrians. There is also a Hindu community of about 7,000 persons, which largely traces its origins to South Asians who emigrated from Portuguese Africa and the former Portuguese colony of Goa in India. Many of these minority communities are not organized formally.

Over 100,000 Eastern Europeans have immigrated to Portugal in the past 2 years. Many are Eastern Orthodox. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) reports 35,000 members. Brazilian syncretistic Catholic Churches, which combine Catholic ritual with pre-Christian Afro-Brazilian ritual, such as Candomble and Umbanda, also operate in small numbers, as do the Seventh-Day Adventists. The Igreja Universal do Reino de Deus (the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God), a proselytizing church that originated in Brazil, also exists. The Church of Scientology has approximately 200 active members, primarily in the Lisbon area.

Foreign missionary groups, such as the Mormons, operate freely.

Section II. Status of Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice. The Government at all levels strives to protect this right in full, and does not tolerate its abuse, either by governmental or private actors. The Constitution forbids discrimination based on religion.

The Government is secular. Other than the Constitution, the two most important documents relating to religious freedom are the 2001 Religious Freedom Act and the 1940 Concordata (as amended in 1971) between Portugal and the Holy See.

The Religious Freedom Act, passed in April 2001, created a legislative framework for religions established in the country for at least 30 years, or those recognized internationally for at least 60 years. The Act provides qualifying religions with benefits previously reserved for the Catholic Church: full tax-exempt status, legal recognition for marriage and other rites, chaplain visits to prisons and hospitals, and respect for traditional holidays. It allows for each religion to negotiate its own Concordata-style agreement with the Government, although it does not ensure the acceptance of any such agreements. The Act also called for an independent consultative commission within the Justice Ministry to oversee the application of the Act. Some religions protested the fact that the Catholic Church, although exempt from the Act, was granted membership on the Commission. The Act specified that rules must be established within 60 days after its passage; however, the Government has not yet created rules enabling this legislation.

The Catholic Church maintains a separate agreement with the Government under the 1940 terms of the Concordata. In order to comply constitutionally with the Religious Freedom Act, the Government began negotiations with the Vatican to amend the Concordata; these negotiations continued during the period covered by this report. The Vatican is seeking to remove language requiring it to consult the Government when appointing bishops, as well as language outlining its role and responsibilities in former Portuguese possessions. In the interim, the existing Concordata remains in force.

Public secondary school curriculums include an optional course called "religion and morals." This course functions as a survey of world religions and is taught by a lay person. It can be used to give instruction on the Catholic religion; the Catholic Church must approve all teachers for this course. Other religions may set up such a course if they have 10 or more children in the particular school. For example, the Evangelical Alliance established 191 classes in 129 schools during the 2001-02 school year. Under the 2001 Act, each religion may approve the course's respective instructor.

Under the Concordata, major Catholic holidays also are official holidays. Seven of the country's 16 national holidays are Catholic holidays; these 7 holidays do not impact negatively other religious groups.

The Diocese of Leiria-Fatima is seeking funding to establish a cable television station.

The Government takes active steps to promote interfaith understanding. Most notably 5 days a week the state television channel (Radiotelevisao Portuguesa 2) broadcasts "A Fe dos Homens"--"The Faith of Man"--a half-hour program consisting of various segments written and produced by different religious communities. The Government pays for the segments, and professional production companies are hired under contract to produce the segments. Religious communities send delegates to a special television commission, which determines the scheduling of segments. The television commission has operated on the general rule that religious communities eligible for the program are those that have been operating for at least 30 years in the country or at least 60 years in their country of origin. The Catholic Church receives 22.5 minutes of programming time per episode, while the remaining 7.5 minutes is divided among the other religions. The Evangelical Alliance receives two 7.5-minute segments per week, while other participating religions receive approximately one 7.5-minute segment per month. Religious faiths also work together to schedule programming on the "Caminhos" ("Paths") broadcast every Sunday morning.

Lisbon City Hall provided matching funds for completion of the city's mosque, which was not completed at the end of the period covered by this report. The municipality also provided matching funds for the restoration of Lisbon's 19th century synagogue, considered a building of historic significance. The municipality of Lisbon also provides the opportunity for the religious communities to participate in summer festival events.

In October 2001, the Islamic community of Lisbon, along with the municipality of Lisbon, sponsored a conference entitled "Dialogue among Civilizations: the Contributions of the Religions," which brought together members of the Islamic, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, and Baha'i faiths for discussions concerning historical perspectives, culture, citizenship, ethics, and faith. The President of the country and the Mayor of Lisbon also participated.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

Government policy and practice contributed to the generally free practice of religion. The Catholic Church receives some preferential treatment; for example, chief chaplaincies for the military, prisons, and hospitals remain state-funded positions for Roman Catholics only. The Papal Nuncio is always the dean of the diplomatic corps. The Church of Scientology, although recognized as a religious association since 1986, does not benefit from the 2001 Religious Freedom Act, as it has not been established in the country for 30 years or recognized internationally for 60 years, as required under the law. The Church's leaders are concerned that exclusion from the benefits accorded under the Act may have a negative impact on their ability to practice their faith; however, they reported no discrimination or opposition during the period covered by this report.

There were no reports of religious prisoners or detainees.

Forced Religious Conversion

There were no reports of forced religious conversion, including of minor U.S. citizens who had been abducted or illegally removed from the United States, or of the refusal to allow such citizens to be returned to the United States.

Section III. Societal Attitudes

There are amicable relations among the various religious communities. Participation among the various faiths in crafting the programming schedule for "A Fe dos Homens" has facilitated greater understanding and enhanced mutual respect. Many communities conduct "open houses" or sponsor interfaith education seminars.

The residents of the Azores archipelago, although overall traditionally very Catholic, are also quite tolerant of other faiths. Both Mormon and Baptist missionaries are active on the islands. They are well treated and participate in Azorean social life.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government in the context of its overall dialog and policy of promoting human rights. U.S. Embassy representatives discuss issues and problems of religious freedom with government officials, members of the National Assembly, broadcasting executives, and leading religious figures.