The constitution grants everyone the freedom to practice his or her religion, both alone and in community with others, in public or in private, unless this is “detrimental to public order, health, or morals.” The constitution also says the incitement of religious hatred, violence, or discrimination shall be prohibited and punishable by law. This punishment may vary from a fine up to a three-year prison sentence. There is no state church.
The law regulates the activities of religious associations and religious societies. Religious associations are defined as churches, congregations, unions of congregations, and monasteries. Religious societies are defined as organizations which undertake confessional or ecumenical activities outside the traditional forms of religious rites of a church or congregation and which need not be connected with a specific church or congregation.
Religious associations are registered by county and city courts. Churches, congregations, and unions of congregations are required to have a management board, and monasteries are required to have an elected or appointed superior. Citizens and legal residents may be members of the board. In order to register formally, the management board of a religious association must submit an application signed by all its members. A congregation must have at least 12 adult members. The minutes of the constitutive meeting, a copy of statutes, and a notarized copy of signatures of the board members serve as supporting documents for the registration application. Religious societies register under the law governing non-profit associations.
The law treats registered churches and religious organizations as non-profit entities entitled to tax benefits. There are more than 500 religious associations registered with the government. The law does not prohibit activities of religious associations, which are not registered. Unregistered entities, however, cannot present themselves as legal persons and cannot exercise the rights or seek the protections accorded to a legally registered religious entity.
The law requires the commanding officer of each military unit to provide defense force members the opportunity to practice their religion. Prison directors must also provide the opportunity for inmates to practice their religious beliefs.
Basic instruction on religious themes is optional and available in public schools. A school must offer religious studies at the primary or secondary level if at least 12 students request it. Comparative religious studies are available in public and private schools on an elective basis.