The constitution and other laws and policies generally protect religious freedom. The constitution prohibits discrimination based on religion. Buddhism is the state religion, and as such, the government promotes Buddhist holidays, provides Buddhist training and education to monks and others in pagodas, and provides limited financial support to an institute that performs research and publishes materials on Khmer culture and Buddhist traditions.
The law requires all religious groups, including Buddhist groups, to apply to the Ministry of Cults and Religions (MCR) if they wish to conduct religious activities. In their applications, groups must state clearly their religious purposes and activities, which must comply with provisions forbidding religious groups from insulting other religious groups, creating disputes, or undermining national security. There is no penalty for failing to register, and some groups do not register.
The law also requires separate registration of all places of worship and religious schools. Unregistered places of worship and religious schools may be shut down temporarily until they are registered, although MCR reports it has not taken such action. The government makes a legal distinction between “places of worship” and “offices of prayer.” The establishment of a place of worship requires that the founders own the building and the land on which it is located. The facility must have a minimum capacity of 200 persons, and the permit application requires the support of at least 100 congregants. By contrast an office of prayer can be located in rented facilities or on rented property and does not require a minimum capacity. The permit application for an office of prayer requires the support of only 20 congregants. Religious schools must be registered with MCR and the Ministry of Education.
Places of worship must be located at least two kilometers (1.2 miles) from each other and may not be used for political purposes or to house criminals or fugitives. The distance requirement applies only to the construction of new places of worship and not to offices of religious organizations or prayer. There are no documented cases in which the directive was used to bar a church or mosque from constructing a new facility.
The law also requires that religious groups refrain from openly criticizing other religious groups, although this provision is rarely tested.
The government permits Buddhist religious instruction in public schools and allows non-Buddhist students to opt out of this instruction. Other forms of religious instruction are prohibited in public schools; however, non-Buddhist religious instruction may be provided by private institutions.