The constitution provides for the free exercise of all religions. The government provides official recognition only to the Roman Catholic Church, classifying other religious groups as religious associations with fewer rights and privileges than the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church and others criticized the state’s nonrecognition of religious weddings performed without an attendant civil marriage certificate. Non-Catholic religious communities criticized the lack of equal recognition and treatment for all churches, including the government’s imposition of an income tax on the salaries of non-Catholic clergy and import taxes on religious materials received from abroad.
Seventh-day Adventists said educational institutions sometimes failed to respect their observance of the Sabbath on Saturdays. Jehovah’s Witnesses said that some educational institutions required them to participate in patriotic activities contrary to their faith and some government medical facilities refused to treat them because they would not accept blood transfusions. Some Muslims reported being denied the right to wear the hijab in both government and private sector offices. The government worked with religious organizations to address their concerns regarding registration of churches and to facilitate missionaries’ residency status.
Public comments by some activists disparaged some religious groups and their beliefs and practices. There was evidence of a lack of tolerance toward religious groups by some sectors of society, particularly on issues in the public sphere, such as alleged political activism and close ties to the government by some religious groups. Incidents of anti-Semitic statements on the internet arose in the context of discussions about violence between Israelis and Palestinians in the Middle East. Some Muslims reported being denied the right to pray during work hours. Some civil society activists protested the selection of an evangelical leader as a member of the nominating board for candidates seeking appointment to the Supreme Court.
U.S. embassy officials maintained a dialogue with religious leaders and organizations, which included discussions regarding differential treatment of religious groups. One important topic was the absence of a religious organization registration law that treated religious groups differently than nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).