The constitution and other laws and policies protect religious freedom. There is no state religion; however, the constitution recognizes explicitly the distinct legal personality of the Catholic Church. The constitution also confirms the rights of indigenous groups to practice their traditions and desired forms of cultural expression, which often include religious rites. The criminal code penalizes violation of the freedom of religious celebration and sentiment and the desecration of burial sites or human remains. However, these laws are seldom, if ever, enforced.
According to the constitution, no member of the clergy of any religion may serve as president.
The government does not require religious groups to register for the purpose of worship. However, the government requires religious groups other than the Catholic Church, as well as nonreligious associations and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), to register as legal entities to conduct business such as renting or purchasing premises and entering into contracts, and to receive tax-exempt status. Registration fees are waived for religious groups.
Any non-Catholic religious group must file a copy of its bylaws and a list of its initial membership with the Ministry of Government to receive formal recognition. The group must have at least 25 initial members, and the bylaws must reflect an intention to pursue religious objectives. The ministry rejects applications only if the group does not appear to be devoted to a religious objective, appears intent on undertaking illegal activities, or engages in activities that appear likely to threaten public order.
Foreign missionaries must obtain tourist visas, which are issued for renewable periods of three months. After renewing their tourist visas once, foreign missionaries may apply for temporary residence.
The constitution permits, but does not require, religious instruction in public schools. There is no national framework for determining the nature or content of religious instruction; when provided, content is usually determined at the local level. The Ministry of Education consults with religious groups on integrating general values such as citizenship, but not specific religious teachings, into school curricula.
The government observes the following religious holidays as national holidays: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter, and Christmas. The Virgin of the Assumption is the patron saint of Guatemala City, and the Feast of the Assumption is a local holiday.