The constitution establishes Catholicism as the state religion and requires the state to contribute to its maintenance. The constitution prohibits the state from impeding the free exercise of other religions that do not undermine “universal morality or proper behavior.” Unlike other religious groups, the Catholic Church is not registered as an association and receives special legal recognition. Its assets and holdings are governed consistent with Roman Catholic canon law.
The constitution recognizes the right to practice the religion of one’s choice. By law, a person claiming a violation of religious freedom may file suit with the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court, and may also file a motion before the Constitutional Chamber to have a statute or regulation declared unconstitutional. Additionally, a person claiming a violation of religious freedom may appeal to the Administrative Court to sue the government for alleged discriminatory acts. Legal protections cover discrimination by private persons and entities.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Religion is responsible for managing the government’s relationship with the Catholic Church and other religious groups. According to the law, a group with a minimum of 10 persons may incorporate as an association with juridical status by registering with the public registry of the Ministry of Justice. The government does not require religious groups to register, nor does it inhibit the establishment of religious groups through taxation or special licensing requirements. Religious groups, however, must register if they choose to engage in any type of fundraising activity and to obtain legal representation and standing.
An executive order provides the legal framework for religious organizations to establish places of worship. Religious organizations must submit applications to the local municipality to establish a place of worship and comply with the safety and noise regulations established by law
The law establishes public schools must provide religious instruction given by a person able to promote moral values, tolerance, and be respectful of human rights. If a parent, on behalf of a child, chooses to opt out of religious courses, the parent needs to make a written request. The government allows non-Catholic religion courses in public schools in accordance with a Supreme Court ruling annulling a regulation limiting public school religious instruction to Catholic courses. The Ministry of Public Education provides assistance to private schools, both Catholic and non-Catholic, including directly hiring teachers, providing teacher salaries, and assisting with monetary support.
The law allows the government to provide land to the Catholic Church without charge. Government-to-Church land transfers are typically granted through periodic legislation.
Only Catholic priests and public notaries may perform state-recognized marriages. Wedding ceremonies performed by other religious groups must be legalized through a civil union. .
The constitution forbids Catholic clergy from serving as president, vice president, a cabinet member, or a Supreme Court justice. This prohibition does not apply to non-Catholic clergy based on a decades old ruling by the Supreme Elections Tribunal later confirmed by a Constitutional Chamber decision. The minister to the presidency, a Lutheran bishop who prevailed against a civil challenge to his 2014 appointment, resigned in April due to considerations unrelated to his faith.
Immigration law requires foreign religious workers to belong to a religious group accredited by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Religion, and stipulates religious workers may receive permission to stay at least 90 days but not more than two years. The permission is renewable. Immigration regulations require religious workers to apply for temporary residency before arrival.