The constitution prohibits discrimination based on religious practices and provides for freedom of religion and worship, provided that “Christian morality and public order” are respected. It recognizes Catholicism as “the religion of the majority” of citizens but does not designate it as the official state religion. It limits the public offices religious leaders may hold to those related to social assistance, education, and scientific research, and forbids the formation of political parties based on religion.
The constitution grants legal status to religious associations so they may manage and administer their property within the limits prescribed by law. To register, the group must submit a power of attorney, charter, names of the board members (if applicable), copy of the internal bylaws (if applicable), and payment of four balboas ($4) in fiscal duty stamps. Once the Ministry of Government (MOG) approves the registration, the religious association must ensure the resolution is included in the Public Registry. In order to receive clearance for duty‑free imports, religious associations must receive their legal standing from the MOG, followed by a request with the Directorate of Internal Revenue of the Ministry of Economy and Finance. Upon approval by the Legislative Tax Committee and the cabinet, the government may donate government properties to registered religious associations. The law states income from religious activities is tax exempt as long as it is collected through such activities as church and burial services and charitable events. In order to receive clearance for duty‑free imports, religious associations must receive their legal standing from the MOG, followed by a request with the Directorate of Internal Revenue of the Ministry of Economy and Finance.
The constitution requires public schools to provide instruction on Catholic teachings; however, parents have the right to exempt their children from religious teaching. The constitution allows for the establishment of private schools. It prohibits discrimination toward public servants based on their religious practices or beliefs.
Immigration law grants foreign religious workers temporary missionary worker visas that must be renewed every two years, up to a total of six years. Catholic and Orthodox Christian priests and nuns are exempt from the renewal requirement and are issued a six‑year visa. Protestant, Jewish, and Muslim clergy and other religious workers are also eligible for the special, automatic six‑year visa, but must submit extra legal documents with their applications. These additional requirements include a copy of the organization’s bylaws, the MOG‑issued registration certificate, and a letter from the organization’s leader in the country certifying the religious worker will be employed at its place of worship. The application fee is 250 balboas ($250) for all religious denominations.