The constitution specifies there is no established church and provides for freedom of religion and belief. A concordat with the Holy See, however, designates Catholicism as the official religion and extends special privileges to the Catholic Church not granted to other religious groups. These include the legal recognition of church law, use of public funds to underwrite some church expenses, and exclusion from customs duties.
Non-Catholic religious groups must first register as nongovernmental organizations with the attorney general’s office and later register with the Ministry of Finance and the Directorate General of Customs to request exclusion from customs duties. Registration with the attorney general’s office requires completing a two-step process. First, the organization must provide documentation of a fixed address and the names of seven elected officers. It must have a minimum of 25 members, and pay a fee. Second, the organization must draft and submit statutes and provide copies of government-issued identification documents for the board of directors. Once registered, religious groups may request from the Ministry of Finance exclusion from customs duties.
The law provides for government recognition of marriages performed by all religious groups provided they otherwise comply with related regulations. The constitution states religious marriages have civil effect in terms established by law, subject to the provisions of international treaties. The law authorizes clergy of churches established in the country for at least five years to perform state-recognized marriages on condition they complete training administered by the Central Electoral Board (JCE) and requires churches submit to the JCE a listing of individuals who have received authorization.
The law requires Bible reading in public schools, but the government does not normally enforce this law. Private schools are exempt from this requirement.