The constitution provides for freedom of conscience and the free exercise of worship, provided that practices do not conflict with public order or offend the morals of the community. It allows religious groups to establish places of worship, as long as the locations abide by hygiene and security regulations.
According to the constitution, church and state are officially separate. The law prohibits religious discrimination. The ONAR is charged with promoting religious freedom and tolerance and ensuring respect for constitutional protections of religious freedom. The law provides civil legal remedies to victims of discrimination based on religion or belief and increases criminal penalties for acts of violence based on discrimination.
The law does not require religious groups to register with the government; however, there are tax benefits available to those that register. Religious groups may apply for religious nonprofit status, which differs from the nonprofit status for other nongovernmental organizations, and may adopt a charter and bylaws suited to a religious entity rather than a private corporation. There are currently over 3,000 religious entities registered, the majority of which are small Pentecostal movement faith communities. By law, the Ministry of Justice may not refuse to accept the registration petition of a religious entity, although it may object to petitions within 90 days if legal prerequisites for registration are not satisfied. Applicants for religious nonprofit status must present to the Ministry of Justice an authorized copy of their charter and corresponding bylaws along with signatures and identification numbers from all those who signed the charter. The bylaws must include the organization’s mission, creed, and structure. The charter needs to specify the signers, the name of the organization, and its physical address, and must include confirmation that bylaws have been approved. The petitioner then has 60 days to address objections the ministry raises or challenge the ministry in court. Once registered, the state cannot dissolve a religious entity by decree. The semiautonomous Council for the Defense of the State may initiate a judicial review, but the government has never deregistered a legally registered group. Religious groups may establish affiliates (schools, clubs, and sports organizations) without registering them as separate entities. According to ONAR, 312 petitions for registration were filed with the Ministry of Justice; the Ministry did not object to any petition and every group that completed the required paperwork was registered.
Publicly-subsidized schools must offer religious education for two teaching hours per week through high school. Local school administrators decide how funds are spent. The majority of religious instruction in public schools is Roman Catholic, although the Ministry of Education has approved instruction curricula designed by 14 other religious groups. Schools are required to provide religious instruction for students in the curricula requested by their parents, and parents may have their children excused from religious education. Parents also have the right to homeschool their children for religious reasons or may enroll them in private, religiously-oriented schools.
The law grants religious groups the right to appoint chaplains to offer religious services in public hospitals, prisons, and military units. Prisoners may request religious accommodation. Regulations for the armed forces and law enforcement agencies allow officially registered religious groups to appoint chaplains to serve in each branch of the armed forces, in the national uniformed police, and the national investigative police.