The constitution provides for freedom of religion and worship, but allows limits on their expression if “necessary to maintain public order”. Per the constitution, no one may be compelled to testify about his or her religion or beliefs. The constitution also states that “no religion shall have a state character;” however, “public authorities shall take into account the religious beliefs of Spanish society and consequently maintain appropriate cooperative relations with the Catholic Church” and other denominations.
The government has had a cooperation agreement with the Holy See since 1979. The cooperation agreement covers legal, educational, cultural, and economic affairs, religious attendance of the armed forces, and the military service of clergy and members of religious orders.
Notorio arraigo, or “deeply rooted” status is a prerequisite for non-Catholic religious groups to establish similar bilateral cooperation agreements with the government. Any religious group may request notorio arraigo status. To receive this status, a religious group must have an unspecified, “relevant” number of followers, a presence in the country for a “considerable” length of time, and a “level of diffusion” that demonstrates a social presence. Islam, Judaism, Protestantism, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Buddhism, and the Orthodox Church have notorio arraigo status, which allows them to worship together privately and publicly in their own houses of worship. Additionally, the Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and Islamic communities have bilateral agreements with the government. These agreements provide the religious groups with certain tax benefits, give civil validity to the weddings they perform, and permit them to place their teachers in schools and their chaplains in hospitals, the military, and in some cases, prisons.
Federal tax law provides taxpayers the option of allocating up to 0.7 percent of their income tax to the Catholic Church and/or to a nongovernmental organization (NGO), but not to other religious groups.
Some autonomous regions have agreements with religious groups to encourage social support, such as permitting religious assistance in hospitals and prisons. The Catalan government, for example, has agreements with three religious groups – Catholics, Protestants, and Muslims – all of which receive some level of financial support.
The government does not require religious groups to register. Registering, however, enables religious groups to hold worship services legally; to buy, rent, and sell property; and to act as a legal entity in civil proceedings. To register, a religious group must submit documentation demonstrating the group is religious in nature to the Ministry of Justice’s (MOJ) Office of Religious Affairs, which maintains the Register of Religious Entities. It is not necessary for Catholic dioceses and parishes to register to gain benefits, because the Episcopal Conference handles this with the government on behalf of the entire Catholic community.
If the MOJ considers an applicant for registration not to be a religious group, the group may be included in the Register of Associations maintained by the Ministry of Interior (MOI). Inclusion in the Register of Associations grants legal status as authorized by the law regulating the rights of associations, but does not grant the right to hold worship services. Religious groups not officially recognized by the government may be treated as cultural associations.
By law, the authorities may investigate and prosecute criminal offenses committed by neo-Nazi gangs as “terrorist crimes.” Holocaust denial is permissible as freedom of speech; however, Holocaust denial to justify or promote genocide is punishable by imprisonment.
The law establishes sanctions against sports teams and stadiums for actions that disparage religion if committed by professional athletic clubs, players, or fans during sporting events.
According to the Office of Religious Affairs, local governments are obligated to consider requests for land for public use, which may include land for opening places of worship. If a municipality decides to deny such a request after weighing factors such as availability and the value added to the community, the city council must explain its decision to the requesting party.
There is no country-wide law on facial concealment. In several cities, ordinances ban wearing the burqa and niqab in public buildings and prescribe fines of up to 600 euros ($730). Legislation in 13 municipalities, primarily in Catalonia, restricts wearing full veils by Muslim women; however, none of the municipalities has imposed fines for non-compliance.
The government funds teachers for Catholic, Islamic, Protestant, and Jewish instruction in public schools when at least 10 students request it. The courses are not mandatory. Those students who elect not to take religious education courses are required to take an alternative course covering general social, cultural, and religious themes. The development of curricula and the financing of teachers for religious education is the responsibility of the autonomous communities, with the exception of Andalusia, Aragon, the Basque country, the Canary Islands, Cantabria, La Rioja, and the two autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla, which leave the curricula and financing of education to the national government, following what is established under their individual regional statutes. Religious groups registered with the MOJ are responsible for selecting teachers for their particular religion. Either the national Ministry of Education or the regional entity responsible for education certifies teachers’ credentials.
The government funds religious services within the prison system for Catholic and Muslim groups. The cooperation agreements of Jewish and Protestant groups with the government do not include this provision.
Military rules allow religious military funerals for Catholics, Protestants/evangelicals, Jews, and Muslims, should the family of the deceased request it.