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Spain


International Religious Freedom Report
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
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The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice.  There is no state religion; however, the Catholic Church enjoys some privileges unavailable to other faiths.

There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom during the period covered by this report, and government policy continued to contribute to the generally free practice of religion.

The generally amicable relationships among religions in society contributed to religious freedom.

The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government in the context of its overall dialog and policy of promoting human rights.

Section I.  Religious Demography

The country has a total area of 194,897 square miles, and its population is an estimated 40 million.

The Roman Catholic Church maintains that 93.63 percent of citizens are declared Catholics.  However, many persons argue that this figure is based on numbers of baptisms, weddings, and first communions; events that are essentially social rites practiced by many who do not attend church regularly or believe in Catholic teachings.  According to a survey published in April 2000 by the Center for Sociological Investigations, 83.6 percent of citizens consider themselves Catholics, 2 percent followers of other religions, 7.9 percent nonbelievers, and 4 percent atheists.  The Federation of Evangelical Religious Entities represents 350,000 Spanish Protestants, but estimates that there are 800,000 foreign Protestants, mostly European, who reside in the country at least 6 months per year.  The Federation of Spanish Islamic Entities (FEERI), located in Cordoba, estimates that there are more than 450,000 Muslims, not counting illegal immigrants (who could number a quarter million).  There are approximately 25,000 Jews registered with the major Jewish organization.  However, 50,000 persons attend Jewish religious services in 13 of the country's 17 regions.  There are 3,000 Buddhists registered, but according to their president, there are 3 times that many in practice.

There are 11,081 entities created by the Catholic Church in the first section of the Register of Religious Entities, and 570 non-Catholic churches, confessions, and communities.  The second section of the register, called the general section, contains non-Catholic churches, confessions, and communities that do not have an agreement with the State, and their creations.  There are 329 entities in this section.  The third section contains canonical foundations of the Catholic Church.  There are 153 entries in this section. 

There are 899 non-Catholic churches, confessions, and communities in the register.  These include 747 Protestant church entities, which have 1,643 places of worship.  These include: Charismatics--89 entities and 113 places of worship; Assemblies of Brothers--120 entities and 143 places of worship; Baptists--213 entities and 247 places of worship; Pentecostals--64 entities and 259 places of worship; Presbyterians--36 entities and 58 places of worship; one entity of the Evangelical Church of Philadelphia, which has 613 places of worship; Church of Christ--9 entities and 19 places of worship; the Salvation Army--1 entity and 9 places of worship; Anglicans--17 entities and 26 places of worship; interdenominational churches and entities--60 entities and 13 places of worship; Churches for Attention to Foreigners--25 entities and 9 places of worship; Adventists--3 entities and 76 places of worship; and other evangelical churches--106 entities and 53 places of worship.  In addition, there are also: Orthodox--5 entities and 5 places of worship; Christian Scientists--3 entities and no places of worship; Jehovah's Witnesses--1 entity and 873 places of worship; the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints--1 entity and 30 places of worship; Unification Church--1 entity and 1 place of worship; other Christian confessions--10 entities and 29 places of worship; Judaism--15 entities and 15 places of worship; Islam--99 entities and 45 places of worship; Baha'i Faith--2 entities and 12 places of worship; Hinduism--3 entities and no places of worship; Buddhism--13 entities and 13 places of worship; and other confessions--3 entities and 12 places of worship.

Section II. Status of Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice.  The Government at all levels generally protects this right in full and does not tolerate its abuse, either by governmental or private actors.

The 1978 Constitution, which declares the country to be a secular state, and various laws provide that no religion should have the character of a state religion.  However, the Government treats religions in different ways.  Catholicism is the dominant religion, and enjoys the closest official relationship with the Government.  The relationship is defined by four 1979 accords between Spain and the Holy See, covering economic, religious education, military, and judicial matters.  Among the various benefits enjoyed by the Catholic Church is financing through the tax system.  Payments in 2000 amounted to approximately $10 million.  Jews, Muslims, and Protestants have official status through bilateral agreements, but enjoy fewer privileges.  Other recognized religions, such as Jehovah's Witnesses and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons), are covered by constitutional protections but have no special agreements with the Government.

The Organic Law of Religious Freedom of 1980 implements the constitutional provision for freedom of religion.  The 1980 law establishes a legal regime and certain privileges for religious organizations.  To enjoy the benefits of this regime, religious organizations must be entered in the Register of Religious Entities maintained by the General Directorate of Religious Affairs of the Ministry of Justice.  The register was established in 1981 and is updated regularly.  To register with the Ministry of Justice, religious groups must submit documentation supporting their claim to be religions.  If a group's application is rejected, it may appeal the decision to the courts.  If it is judged not to be a religion, it may be included on a Register of Associations maintained by the Ministry of Interior.  Inclusion on the Register of Associations grants legal status as authorized by the law regulating the right of association.  Religions not officially recognized, such as the Church of Scientology, are treated as cultural associations.

The Catholic Church does not have to register with the Ministry of Justice's religious entities list; however, some entities do register for financial or other reasons.  The first section of the Register of Religious Entities, called the special section, contains a list of religious entities created by the Catholic Church and a list of non-Catholic churches, confessions, and communities that have an agreement on cooperation with the State.  In 1992 agreements on cooperation with the State were signed by three organizations on behalf of Protestants, Jews, and Muslims; the organizations were the Federation of Evangelical Entities of Spain (FEREDE), the Federation of Israelite Communities of Spain (FCIE), and the Islamic Commission of Spain (CIE).

Religion courses are offered in public schools but are not mandatory.  The Catholic Church and other religious entities support religious schools.

Foreign missionaries proselytize in the country.

National religious holidays include Epiphany (January 6), Holy Thursday and Good Friday, Assumption (August 15), All Saints Day (November 1), Immaculate Conception (December 8), and Christmas (December 25); some communities celebrate local religious holidays.  National religious holidays do not have a negative impact on other religious groups.

Restrictions on Freedom of Religion

Leaders of the Protestant, Muslim, and Jewish communities report that they continue to press the Government for comparable privileges to those enjoyed by the Catholic Church.  Their list of concerns includes public financing, expanded tax exemptions, improved media access, and fewer restrictions on opening new places of worship.

Before allowing entry by any religious figures other than Catholic army chaplains into military barracks the Defense Ministry requires soldiers to declare their non-Catholic religious affiliation.  The State funds Catholic chaplains who serve in hospitals.

The government income tax form includes a box that allows taxpayers to assign 0.5239 percent of their taxes to the Catholic Church.  Protestant and Muslim leaders would like their communities to receive government support, through an income tax allocation or other designation.

The Jewish community wants to receive financial support from the Government, but does not want to be included in the check-box list on the income tax form.  This reticence is attributed to the community's past history, which included persecution and expulsion from the country in 1492.  The Jewish community is seeking a one-time payment to ensure all congregations have the religious necessities (synagogue, cemetery, and school), as well as an annual subsidy to maintain this religious patrimony.  The Jewish community also wants the Government to resolve problems associated with Jewish cemeteries.  (Under the law, land for cemeteries is not granted in perpetuity, in the expectation that cemeteries may be moved and the land developed for urban uses if the need arises.)

In May 1999, the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament approved a nonbinding resolution calling on the Government to reinforce measures against the activity of destructive "sects" in the country and to create a permanent organization to monitor these organizations.  Press reports cited the Interior Ministry as stating that there were 200 destructive sects in the country, which have between 100,000 and 150,000 members.  The Law of Sects in Spain, passed in 1989, authorizes the police to investigate sects with a destructive character.  As a result, a special unit was created within the police to investigate allegedly destructive sects.

The Government of the Canary Islands, one of Spain's 17 regions, has refused to grant permission to the Salvation Army to open a center for needy children, on the grounds that the Salvation Army is a "destructive sect."

In early April 1999, the Helsinki Human Rights Federation presented a report to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) that included criticism of the country for failing to implement its commitment in the 1994 Budapest Document on freedom of religion and conscience.  The report criticized the country for discrimination against "new religions," which often are considered by authorities to be dangerous and destructive, while older, established religions continue to receive financial and other privileges from the State.

Representatives of the Church of Scientology assert that the open indictment against Scientology International President Heber Jentzsch is religiously based, a claim denied by Spanish officials.  The charges against Jentzsch relate to a fraud case arising from private complaints against Scientology offices Dianetica and Narconon.  Police arrested Jentzsch and 71 others at a 1988 Madrid convention held by the International Association of Scientologists.  Jentzsch was subsequently released on bail and returned to the United States.  The current indictment, issued in 1994, charges Jentzsch and 20

Spanish citizens with 16 counts including illicit association, tax evasion, and crimes against the public health.  The trial of the defendants other than Jentzsch began in Madrid in March 2001.

There were no reports of religious detainees or prisoners. 

Forced Religious Conversion

There were no reports of forced religious conversion, including of minor U.S. citizens who had been abducted or illegally removed from the United States, or of the Government's refusal to allow such citizens to be returned to the United States.

Improvements and Positive Developments in Respect for Religious Freedom

In February 2001, the Constitutional Court ruled that the Unification Church should be added to the Register of Religious Entities.  The Unification Church had applied for registration in 1991 and was denied in 1992 by the General Directorate of Religious Affairs.  Lower court rulings in 1993 and 1996 had upheld the denial.  On May 4, 2001, the Ministry of Justice added the Church to the Register of Religious Institutions.

Section III.  Societal Attitudes

The generally amicable relationships among religions in society contributed to religious freedom.

Section IV.  U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government in the context of its overall dialog and policy of promoting human rights.  Embassy officials met with religious leaders of a number of denominations during the period covered by this report. 



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