The constitution states freedom of conscience, religion, and worship are inviolable rights and protects the right of individuals to choose, practice, profess, and change their religion, and to interpret their religious beliefs for themselves. It provides for the separation of religion and state and prohibits the state from imposing religious beliefs and practices on individuals. It prohibits political parties from adopting names associated with particular religious groups. The constitution prohibits ridiculing religious symbols or practices.
Violations of religious freedom are crimes subject to penalties of between three months and three years in prison.
A new Law on Religion, passed on May 16, codifies the constitution’s religious freedom provisions by ensuring equal rights and guarantees for all religions in accordance with the constitution and international law. The law separates religion and state, but allows the government to sign agreements with religious entities on matters of public interest. Specific sections of the law also guarantee the protection of religious heritage and the right to religious education, freedom of organization, and the free exercise of religious functions and worship.
On April 3, the government and the Holy See exchanged instruments of ratification of a concordat signed in 2013 pertaining to the legal status of the Catholic Church. The agreement recognizes the legal status of the Catholic Church and its right to carry out its apostolic mission freely. It further recognizes Catholic marriages under civil law. The Catholic Church, in turn, recognizes marriages that conform to its canon law and are recorded in the civil registry. The agreement also recognizes the right of Catholics to carry out religious observances on Sundays and specified Catholic holidays. It protects places of worship and other Catholic properties and provides for Catholic educational institutions, charitable activities, and pastoral work in the military, hospitals, and penal institutions, as well as Catholic teaching in public schools. The concordat exempts from taxes church revenues and properties used in religious and non-profit activities, and makes contributions to the church tax deductible. The parliament ratified the agreement in 2013, and the president signed it into law in January.
The Law on Religion requires that all associations, whether religious or secular, register with the Ministry of Justice. The constitution states an association may not be armed; be in violation of penal law; or promote violence, racism, xenophobia, or dictatorship. To register, a religious group must submit a copy of its charter and statutes signed by its members. Failure to register does not result in any restriction of religious practice, but registration provides additional benefits such as exemptions from national, regional, and local taxes and fees. Registered religious groups may receive exemption on taxes and fees in connection with places of worship or other buildings intended for religious purposes, direct support facilities and activities with exclusively religious purposes, institutions and seminars intended for religious education or training of religious leaders, goods purchased for religious purposes, and distribution of publications with information on religious places of worship. Legally recognized churches and religious groups may use broadcast time on public radio and television at their own expense.