The constitution and other laws and policies protect religious freedom. However, some religious groups, including Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Buddhists, do not have bilateral cooperation agreements with the government that would provide the same benefits and privileges as other groups with “deeply rooted status.” While there are no statutory or legal restrictions, some Muslim and non-Catholic Christian groups claimed that restrictions and policies at the local level inhibited them from assembling to practice their beliefs.
The constitution provides for religious freedom and the freedom of worship by individuals and groups. It also states, “No faith shall have the character of a state religion.” Federal tax law, however, provides taxpayers the option of allocating a percentage of their income tax to the Catholic Church. This financing is also available for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) but not to other religious entities. Taxpayers may select a box on their income tax forms to contribute up to 0.7 percent of their income taxes to the Catholic Church or an NGO. In 2011 taxpayers contributed approximately 248.2 million euros ($328.9 million) to the Catholic Church.
Rules for religious military ceremonies establish funerals for military members killed in service as the only obligatory events of religious character. This rule allows military funerals by various religious groups.
The Autonomous Region of Madrid and the regional government of Catalonia appointed a special prosecutor to monitor hate crimes, which include certain religiously motivated crimes.
The country continued its membership in the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance, and Research.
Muslim women are allowed to wear the hijab (women’s headscarf) in official pictures for their national identity card.
Criminal offenses committed by neo-Nazi gangs may be investigated and prosecuted as “terrorist crimes.”
Based on Protestant, Jewish, and Islamic religious groups’ “notorio arraigo” (deeply rooted) status, representatives of those groups have bilateral agreements with the government. These agreements provide certain tax benefits and give civil validity to weddings performed by these religious groups. They also permit these groups to place their teachers in schools and chaplains in hospitals, prisons, and the military. Protestant entities signed the accord as the FEREDE, Jewish entities signed as the FCJE, and Islamic entities as the Islamic Commission of Spain (CIE). The CIE is composed of the Spanish Federation of Islamic Religious Entities (FEERI) and the Union of Islamic Communities in Spain (UCIDE). In April, the Islamic Spanish Council was established and also belongs to the CIE.
The government has taken steps to integrate non-Catholic religious groups through the Foundation for Pluralism and Coexistence. The foundation provides funds to minority and religious groups to promote religious freedom and dialogue, but does not finance worship services. During the year, the Foundation funded projects such as conferences on religious diversity, research about minority religions in Spain, and cultural projects to increase knowledge of religions in society.
Some autonomous regions have agreements with religious groups to encourage social integration. The Catalan government, for example, has agreements with nine religious and ethnic communities--Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Roma, Pentecostals, Jews, Buddhists, Baha’is, and Mormons--most of which are provided some level of financial support.
Municipal governments oversee the functioning of cemeteries and burials. The national FCJE created and shared with the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) a nonbinding protocol for the national and local governments to follow in addressing complaints from Jewish communities in regards to gaining access to Jewish cemeteries, and the satisfactory treatment and reburial of disinterred remains. According to the protocol, an agreement is reached with each municipality if it is determined that a cemetery contains Jewish remains, but within the framework agreed by the FCJE and the ministry.
Holocaust denial is permissible as freedom of speech; however, Holocaust denial for the justification or promotion of genocide is punishable by imprisonment.
In sporting events, the law establishes sanctions, including closure, suspension, and demotion in divisional standings, against teams and stadiums for prohibited actions committed by professional athletic clubs, players, or fans.
The government recognizes Jewish and Islamic holidays and allows members of both religious groups (upon agreement by their employer) to take Friday afternoons off from work, with pay, to observe the Sabbath. Also, the law establishes a legal framework and certain privileges for religious organizations.
Religious organizations voluntarily register in the Register of Religious Entities, maintained and regularly updated by the MOJ Office of Religious Affairs to have the legal ability to hold religious services. In order to register, religious groups must submit documentation supporting their claim to be religious in nature. If a group is judged by the MOJ not to be religious, it may be included on the Register of Associations maintained by the Ministry of Interior (MOI). Inclusion on the Register of Associations grants legal status as authorized by the law regulating the right of association. In certain cases, religious groups not officially recognized by the government have been treated as cultural associations and, as a result, cannot legally hold religious services.
The first section of the Register of Religious Entities is called the “special section.” Catholic entities and those non-Catholic churches, denominations, and communities (Jews, Muslims, and Protestants) that have a cooperation agreement with the state register in the special section. Catholic dioceses and parishes are not required to register to gain benefits under the 1979 cooperation agreement between the Holy See and the government, since the Episcopal Conference manages the relationship with the government on behalf of the entire Catholic community.
Representatives of minority religious groups sometimes had difficulty opening places of worship, most frequently because of resistance from neighborhood groups. Several municipalities in Catalonia imposed a one-year ban on the opening of any new religious spaces, arguing that the city council needed more time to study the impact. Muslim organizations in those municipalities felt that the ban was directly targeted against their communities.
Ordinances ban wearing the burqa (a full length garment covering a woman from head to foot) and niqab (a Muslim woman’s face veil) in public buildings in several cities and prescribe fines of up to 600 euros ($795.50). There were, however, no reports of arrests or fines under the legislation. Pending the Supreme Court decision on a case in Lleida, all bans on Islamic garb were suspended in 2011.
There were isolated instances of local and regional government policies that had the effect of restricting some religious groups. Islamic federations continued to report that obtaining a building permit for new mosque construction could be difficult and lengthy, especially in central urban locations. Leaders of the Jewish community and some evangelical religious groups also complained about difficulties in securing permits and approvals to construct new places of worship.
According to the MOJ Office of Religious Affairs, local governments are obligated to consider requests for land for public use, which may include land for opening places of worship. If a municipality decides to deny such a request after weighing factors such as availability and the proportionate value added to the community, the city council must explain its decision to the requesting party. Local municipalities sometimes delayed these decisions, with some requests going unanswered for years. The ministry continued its campaign to educate local governments about their responsibilities to minority religious groups.
The government funds teachers for Catholic, Islamic, Protestant, and Judaic instruction in public schools when at least 10 students request it. The courses are not mandatory. Those students who elect not to take confessional courses are obliged to take an alternative course covering general social, cultural, and religious themes. The development of curricula and the financing of teachers for religious education, however, is the responsibility of the autonomous communities, with the exception of Andalucía, Aragon, the Basque Country, Las Canarias, Cantabria, and La Rioja, and the two autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla, which under their individual regional statutes keep religious education under the responsibility of the national government. The national entities registered with the MOJ are responsible for the selection of teachers for their particular religion. Either the national Ministry of Education or the regional entity responsible for education certifies teachers’ credentials. Teachers must hold teaching degrees, have training in Spanish law, and be fluent in Spanish.
According to the MOI, Muslim, Protestant, and Jewish religious services were offered within prisons and, in its 2011 budget, the government allocated 681,590 euros ($903,778) for Catholic religious services and 9,000 euros ($11,933) for minority religious services for inmates. The government funds religious services for Catholic and Muslim groups within the prison system, but not for Jewish or Protestant groups as per cooperation agreements between the government and Jewish and Protestant groups. Under the terms of the Muslim cooperation agreement, the government provides funding for religious services. Muslim leaders reported that prison officials generally provided access for prayer assistants to visit Muslim prisoners and, during the year, eight imams provided religious services to prison inmates.
There are no restrictions placed on parents who want to provide their children religious homeschooling or enroll them in private religious schools.
The government observes the following religious holidays as national holidays: Epiphany, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Assumption, All Saints’ Day, Immaculate Conception, and Christmas. Many regional governments also establish local religious holidays. The cities of Melilla and Ceuta also observe Eid el Kebir (Eid al-Adha).