Article 24 of the constitution protects religious freedom and there are no legal restrictions on religious expression or speech. Article 46 of the constitution nominally prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion. The constitution and other laws protect the right of individuals to choose, change, and freely practice their religion, provide legal protections covering discrimination and persecution, and offer remedies for the violation of religious freedom.
The constitution recognizes the historical role of the Catholic Church. Catholic clergy occasionally spoke during official government events. The government permits political parties to form based on a particular faith. The constitution requires the president, vice president, and members of congress to be laypersons.
During her October visit, the UN deputy high commissioner for human rights expressed concern about the lack of a law implementing the constitutional prohibition of discrimination based on religion and urged passage by the country’s congress of pending legislation that would put such protection in place.
The government requires all churches and other religious organizations to register with the Vice Ministry of Worship in the Ministry of Education and Culture. There is no fee. Registration includes completing required paperwork, obtaining certification as a nonprofit organization, passing financial and criminal background checks, and recertifying annually.
The government does not place restrictions on foreign missionaries.
The government permits but does not require religious instruction in public schools. The government permits parents to homeschool or send their children to the school of their choice without sanction or restriction.
The constitution and law provide for conscientious objection to military service based on religious beliefs. The armed forces have an extensive Catholic chaplain program supported by the government. In 2009 a Protestant chaplain was appointed for the first time, and in December President Fernando Lugo signed a decree formally establishing the National Evangelical Chaplain Program within the armed forces, granting it the same support as the Catholic Church’s chaplain program.
The government observes the following religious holidays as national holidays: Maundy (Holy) Thursday, Good Friday, Virgin of Caacupe Day, and Christmas.