The constitution and other laws and policies protect religious freedom. The religious registration law, however, disadvantages smaller religious groups.
The law defines the status of religious groups that are registered with the government and the requirements for registration. To register as a religious group, 20,000 adult members who are either citizens or permanent residents must submit to the Ministry of Culture an “honest declaration” attesting to their membership, knowledge of the articles of faith and basic tenets of the religion, personal identity numbers and home addresses, and support for the group’s registration. The 18 registered churches and religious groups receive more than 30 million euros ($41.3 million) in annual state subsidies. While the constitution guarantees the right to practice one’s faith regardless of whether as part of a registered or unregistered group, registration confers the legal status necessary to perform economic functions such as opening a bank account or renting property, and public religious functions such as presiding at burial ceremonies or gaining access to hospitalized patients or prisoners.
Religious groups that do not have at least 20,000 adult adherents can register as civic associations to carry out some activities requiring a legal status. Although the law governing registration of citizen associations specifically excludes religious groups, the law also states that such registration is in effect recognition by the state of the group’s status, and that the group is beneficial for society. Clergy from unregistered religious groups cannot, however, minister to their members in prisons or government hospitals, and weddings conducted by unregistered religious groups are not legally valid.
A concordat with the Vatican provides the legal framework for relations among the Catholic Church, the government, and the Vatican. Two corollaries address religious education and priests serving as military chaplains. An agreement between the government and 11 other registered religious groups attempts to provide equal status to those groups. All public elementary school students must take a religion class or ethics class, depending on personal or parental preferences. Religion class curricula do not mention unregistered groups or some of the smaller registered groups, and unregistered groups are not allowed to teach their faith at schools.
The Ministry of Culture’s Department of Church Affairs oversees relations between religious groups and the state and manages the distribution of state subsidies to religious groups and associations. The ministry cannot legally intervene in the internal affairs of religious groups nor direct their activities. The ministry administers a cultural grant program allocating money for the upkeep of cultural and religious monuments.
The government requires public broadcasters to allocate airtime for registered religious groups but not for unregistered groups.
The law does not allow burial earlier than 48 hours following death, affecting religious groups whose traditions mandate an earlier burial.