The constitution and other laws and policies protect religious freedom. The government is secular. Other than the constitution, the two most important documents relating to religious freedom are the 2001 Religious Freedom Act and the 1940 concordat with the Holy See.
The 2001 Religious Freedom Act created a legislative framework for religious groups established in the country for at least 30 years or those recognized internationally for at least 60 years. The act provides qualifying religious groups with benefits previously reserved only for the Catholic Church: full tax-exempt status; legal recognition of their marriages and other rites; the right of their chaplains to minister in prisons, hospitals, and military facilities; and respect for their traditional holidays. The act prohibits public-sector employers from discriminating against persons because of their religion and requires them to reasonably accommodate employees’ religious practices. This provision includes allowing employees to take leave on their Sabbath and religious holidays, even if the government does not observe these holidays officially. The act allows each religious group to negotiate its own concordat-style agreement with the government, but does not guarantee acceptance of all such agreements.
The Catholic Church maintains a separate agreement with the government under the terms of the 1940 concordat as amended in 2004 to comply with the 2001 Religious Freedom Act. The concordat recognizes the juridical personality of the Portuguese Episcopal Conference. It also allows the Catholic Church to receive a percentage of the income tax that citizens can voluntarily allocate to various institutions in their annual tax returns. In September 2009 the government established legal provisions to fully implement the 2001 act and the 2004 amendments to the concordat. Chaplaincies for military services, prisons, and hospitals are now state-funded positions open to all legally established religions.
Public secondary school curricula include an optional course called “Religion and Morals” which functions as a survey of world religious groups and is taught by laypersons. It can be used to provide instruction on Catholicism, in which case the Catholic Church must approve all teachers for the course. Other religious groups can create such a course if they have 10 or more children of that faith in a given school. Representatives from each religious group have the right to require their approval of the course’s instructors. Schools, both public and private, are also required to accommodate the religious practices of students, including rescheduling tests if necessary.
During the year, the government observed the following religious holidays as national holidays: Good Friday, Easter, Corpus Christi, Assumption Day, All Saints’ Day, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and Christmas.