The constitution and other laws and policies protect religious freedom.
Church and state are officially separate. The law prohibits religious discrimination. The National Office for Religious Affairs is mandated to work with all religious organizations to provide for the implementation of constitutional provisions for religious freedom.
The law allows any religious group to apply for religious nonprofit status. The Ministry of Justice may not refuse to accept a registration petition, although it may object to the petition within 90 days on the grounds that all legal prerequisites for registration were not satisfied. The petitioner then has 60 days to address objections raised by the ministry or challenge the ministry in court. Once a religious entity is registered, the state cannot dissolve it by decree. The semiautonomous Council for the Defense of the State may initiate a judicial review; however, no organization that registered under the law subsequently has been deregistered. The law allows religious entities to adopt a charter and bylaws suited to a religious organization rather than a private corporation. They may establish affiliates (schools, clubs, and sports organizations) without registering them as separate entities. There are more than 2,000 registered religious groups.
The law prohibits the use of any means of communication to publish or transmit information designed to promote hatred of or hostility towards persons or groups based on religion and other factors and establishes fines for infractions.
Publicly-subsidized schools are required to offer religious education during two teaching hours per week through high school. Parents may decide to have their children excused from religious education. Local school administrators decide how funds are spent on religious instruction. The majority of religious instruction in public schools is Catholic, although the Ministry of Education has approved curricula for 14 other religious groups. Schools must teach the religion requested by the parents. Parents may homeschool their children for religious reasons or enroll them in private schools.
The law grants religious groups the right to have chaplains in public hospitals, prisons, and military units. Regulations for the armed forces and law enforcement agencies allow officially registered religious groups to appoint a chaplain to serve in each branch of the armed forces, in the national uniformed police, and in the national investigative police. Catholic chaplains outnumber Protestant chaplains in all branches of the armed forces, and Protestant leaders continue to advocate for more paid chaplain positions.
Hospital regulations continue specifically to permit Catholic chaplains in hospitals and, if requested by a patient, to provide access to chaplains and lay practitioners of other religions. The prison system, in contrast, has both Catholic and Protestant staff chaplains and a large number of volunteer chaplains.
The government observes the following religious holidays as national holidays: Good Friday, the Feast of the Virgin of Carmen, the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, the Feast of the Assumption, National Day of Evangelical Churches, All Saints’ Day, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and Christmas.