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International Religious Freedom Report 2003
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice.

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 relationship 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 43,278 square miles, and its total population is approximately 6.5 million. An estimated 90 percent of the country's population is mestizo (mixed Amerindian and European), with small numbers of Amerindians, and persons of European, African, and Asian descent making up the rest.

There are no reliable government statistics on the distribution of membership in churches. The Catholic Church reports a total membership of just over 80 percent of the population.

In January 2002, the Le Vote company conducted personal interviews on religious issues with persons age 18 or older in 1,215 households throughout the country. The company reported that 63 percent of the respondents identified themselves as Catholics, 23 percent as evangelical Christians and 14 percent identified themselves as "other" or provided no answer. The principal faiths include: Roman Catholicism, Judaism, the Greek Orthodox rite, the Episcopal Church, the Lutheran Church, Jehovah's Witnesses, the Mennonite Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), the Union Church, and some 300 evangelical Protestant churches. The most prominent evangelical churches include the Abundant Life, Living Love, and Grand Commission churches. The National Association of Evangelical Pastors represents the evangelical leadership.

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 strives to protect this right in full, and does not tolerate its abuse, either by governmental or private actors.

There is no state religion. However, the armed forces have an official Roman Catholic patron saint. The Government consults with the Roman Catholic Church, and occasionally appoints Catholic leaders to quasi-official commissions on key issues of mutual concern, such as anticorruption initiatives.

The Government does not require religious groups to register with the Government. Religious groups are eligible for tax exempt status, but to qualify they must submit an application through the Ministry of Government and Justice.

The Constitution grants the President the power to grant "juridical personality" to associations, including churches. This personality is a prerequisite to being accorded certain rights and privileges, such as tax exemption. Associations are required to submit an application describing their internal organization, bylaws, and goals to the Ministry of Government and Justice. In the case of evangelical churches, the application then is referred to a group of leaders from the Evangelical Fraternity of Churches for review. This group has the power to suggest, but not require, changes. All religious applications also are referred to the State Solicitor's Office for a legal opinion that all elements meet constitutional requirements. Applications almost always meet these requirements. The President ultimately signs the approved resolutions granting juridical personality. The Ministry of Government and Justice did not turn down any applications for juridical personality on behalf of a church during the period covered by this report. The Catholic Church and other recognized churches are accorded tax exemptions and waivers of customs duty on imports.

The Government requires foreign missionaries to obtain permits to enter and reside in the country. A Honduran institution or individual must sponsor a missionary's application for residency, which is submitted, to the Ministry of Government and Justice. The Ministry generally grants such permits; the resolution granting residency then is registered with the Directorate General of Population and Migration Policy.

There are religious schools and church-operated schools; they receive no special treatment from the Government, nor do they face any restrictions.

The law allows deportation of foreigners who practice witchcraft or religious fraud.

The Catholic Church is seeking the return of former properties of historic interest confiscated by the Government at independence in 1825; however, the Church has not made a formal request to the Government. In 2001 the Government returned one historic church property, and returned several stolen colonial religious articles after confiscating them from a collector who was selling them illegally.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

Government policy and practice contributed to the generally free practice of religion.

In September 2000, the Congress adopted a controversial measure requiring that, beginning in 2001, all school classes begin with 10 minutes of readings from the Bible; however, the legislation has not been put into effect.

There were no reports of religious prisoners or detainees.

Forced Religious Conversion

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

Section III. Societal Attitudes

Relations between the principal religious communities are amicable. The Catholic Church has designated the Archbishop of Tegucigalpa as the national-level official in charge of ecumenical relations, and the Archbishop has established an ecumenical and interreligious dialog section within his Archdiocese.

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. The U.S. Embassy also maintains a regular dialog with religious leaders, church-sponsored universities, and nongovernmental religious organizations.

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