The constitution and other laws and policies protect religious freedom. The constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion as well as inciting religious discrimination and inflaming religious hatred and intolerance.
The Religious Freedoms Act codifies the government’s respect for religious freedom, legal status and rights of churches and other religious communities, rights of members, process of registration with the government, rights of registered churches and religious communities, and responsibilities of the government’s Office for Religious Communities. In June 2010 the Constitutional Court annulled provisions of the act relating to the payment of social security contributions for priests in hospitals and prisons, as well as provisions relating to registering with the government. Although the court gave parliament a period of one year to change these provisions, no changes have been proposed.
The constitution and military law provide for conscientious objection to military service based on “religious, philosophical, or humanitarian belief.”
There are no formal requirements for recognition of religious groups by the government, and activities of religious communities are unrestricted regardless of whether they register with the government. However, religious communities must register with the Office for Religious Communities if they wish to be legal entities, a status that entitles such groups to rebates on value added taxes. Religious communities must submit a basic application to the Office for Religious Communities providing proof that requirements are met as well as the names of the community’s representatives in the country, a description of the foundations of the community’s religious beliefs, and the organizational act of the church or community.
The law forbids prayer meetings or lessons for educating children in a particular religion at state-licensed schools. The government partially finances teachers’ salaries at religiously affiliated schools. Licensed schools may not display religious symbols, but students may wear religious symbols. At unlicensed private religious schools, religious lessons generally are mandatory.
The government finances small grants for recognized religious organizations.
Individuals can file informal complaints of human rights violations, including violations of religious freedom, by national or local authorities with the human rights ombudsman.
The government observes the following religious holidays as national holidays: Easter Sunday and Monday, Pentecost, Assumption, Reformation Day, and Christmas. Members of religious communities whose important religious festivities do not coincide with those work-free days have the right to use their regular annual leave on their holy days.