The constitution and other laws and policies protect religious freedom. Individuals are free to choose and change their religion and to manifest their religious beliefs publicly as they choose. The constitution provides that “all persons in Malta have full freedom of conscience and enjoy the free exercise of their respective mode of religious worship.” Citizens have the right to sue the government for violations of religious freedom. These protections also apply in cases of religious discrimination or persecution by private individuals or by public officials in the performance of their duties.
The constitution establishes Roman Catholicism as the state religion and declares that the authorities of the Catholic Church have “the duty and the right to teach which principles are right and which are wrong.” Divorce was introduced in 2011 following a national referendum. A lawyer who had spearheaded the pro-divorce movement was initially banned from representing clients on the Church’s Ecclesiastical Tribunal. The ban was withdrawn some months later, but not until after parliament had enacted divorce legislation. The state also generally recognizes divorces of individuals domiciled in Malta who have completed divorce proceedings in a competent court abroad.
Persons convicted of vilification of the Catholic religion or “any other cult tolerated by law” are liable to imprisonment of one to six and one to three months, respectively. The phrase “any other cult” is interpreted to mean other religions, but the law is enforced in a way not to further Catholicism at the expense of other religions.
Religious education in Catholicism is mandated in the constitution and compulsory in all state schools; however, there are constitutional and legal provisions that allow a parent, guardian, or student to be exempted from the instruction. The school curriculum includes general studies in human rights, ethnic relations, and cultural diversity as part of values education to promote tolerance.
Enrollment in private religious schools is permitted. Homeschooling is allowed only in extreme cases, such as chronic illness, under the Education Act.
There are no restrictions on religious publishing or broadcasting or on religious groups owning or operating media facilities.
The law does not punish or otherwise restrict importation, possession, or distribution of religious literature, clothing, or symbols. There are no restrictions on religious clothing.
All religious organizations have similar legal rights. Religious organizations can own property, including buildings, and their religious leaders can perform marriages and other functions.
Religious groups are not required to be licensed or registered.
Religious affiliations are not designated on passports or other official documents.
There is no restriction on forming political parties based on a particular faith, religious belief or absence of belief, or interpretation of religious doctrine.
The government observes the following religious holidays as public holidays: the Motherhood of Our Lady, the Feast of Saint Paul’s Shipwreck, the Feast of Saint Joseph, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, the Feast of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, the Feast of the Assumption, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and Christmas. National holidays include the Feast of Our Lady of Victories.