The constitution and other laws and policies generally protect religious freedom. Some local government policies, however, restrict the expression of religious freedom of some minority religious groups, by imposing fines for wearing full-face veils or placing restrictions on building places of worship.
The constitution provides for religious freedom and the freedom of worship by individuals and groups. The constitution also states that “no faith shall have the character of a state religion.” Federal tax law, however, provides taxpayers the option of allocating up to 0.7 percent of their income tax to the Catholic Church or to a nongovernmental organization (NGO), but not to other religious groups.
The government has had a cooperation agreement with the Holy See since 1979. Notorio arraigo or “deeply rooted,” status is a prerequisite for non-Catholic religious groups to establish similar bilateral cooperation agreements with the government. Any religious group may request notorio arraigo status. To receive this status, a religious group must have an unspecified, “relevant” numbers of followers, a presence in the country for a “considerable” length of time, and a “level of diffusion” that demonstrates a social presence. Islam, Judaism, Protestantism, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Buddhism, and the Orthodox Church have notorio arraigo status. Of these groups, the Protestant, Jewish, and Islamic communities have bilateral agreements with the government. These agreements provide the religious groups with certain tax benefits, give civil validity to the weddings they perform, and permit them to place their teachers in schools and their chaplains in hospitals, the military, and in some cases, prisons.
Some autonomous regions have agreements with religious groups to encourage social integration. The Catalan government, for example, has agreements with eight religious groups – Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Pentecostals, Jews, Buddhists, Bahais, and Mormons – most of which receive some level of financial support.
The government does not require religious groups to register. However, registering enables religious groups to hold worship services legally; to buy, rent, and sell property; and to act as a legal entity in civil proceedings. To register, a religious group must submit documentation demonstrating that the group is religious in nature to the Ministry of Justice’s (MOJ) Office of Religious Affairs, which maintains the Register of Religious Entities. Catholic dioceses and parishes are not required to register to gain benefits, because the Episcopal Conference manages the relationship with the government on behalf of the entire Catholic community.
If the MOJ assesses that an applicant for registration is not a religious group, the group may be included in the Register of Associations maintained by the Ministry of Interior (MOI). Inclusion in the Register of Associations grants legal status as authorized by the law regulating the rights of associations, but does not grant the right to hold worship services. In certain cases, religious groups, such as the Church of Scientology, that are not officially recognized by the government are treated as cultural associations.
In some cases, municipalities require individual churches of registered religious groups to receive authorization at the local level to hold worship services. According to the MOJ’s Office for the Coordination and Promotion of Religious Freedom, only Catalan law requires that religious groups obtain a license to hold worship services; in other parts of the country, the policy varies by municipality. Every locality sets its own procedure for applying for authorization.
By law, the authorities may investigate and prosecute criminal offenses committed by neo-Nazi gangs as “terrorist crimes.” Holocaust denial is permissible as freedom of speech; however, Holocaust denial to justify or promote genocide is punishable by imprisonment.
The Autonomous Region of Madrid and the regional government of Catalonia have a special prosecutor to monitor hate crimes, which include certain religiously motivated crimes.
The law establishes sanctions against teams and stadiums for actions that disparage religion if committed by professional athletic clubs, players, or fans during sporting events.
According to the Office of Religious Affairs, local governments are obligated to consider requests for land for public use, which may include land for opening places of worship. If a municipality decides to deny such a request after weighing factors such as availability and the value added to the community, the city council must explain its decision to the requesting party.
In several cities, ordinances ban wearing the burqa and niqab (face veil) in public buildings and prescribe fines of up to 600 euros ($826). New legislation in several municipalities in Catalonia restricts wearing full veils by Muslim women.
The government funds teachers for Catholic, Islamic, Protestant, and Jewish instruction in public schools when at least 10 students request it. The courses are not mandatory. Those students who elect not to take religious education courses are required to take an alternative course covering general social, cultural, and religious themes. The development of curricula and the financing of teachers for religious education is the responsibility of the autonomous communities, with the exception of Andalusia, Aragon, the Basque Country, the Canary Islands, Cantabria, La Rioja, and the two autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla, which under their individual regional statutes keep religious education under the responsibility of the national government. Religious groups registered with the MOJ are responsible for selecting teachers for their particular religion. Either the national Ministry of Education or the regional entity responsible for education certifies teachers’ credentials.
The government funds religious services within the prison system for Catholic and Muslim groups, but not for Jewish or Protestant groups, because the latter’s cooperation agreements with the government do not include this provision.
Military rules allow military funerals by various religious groups.
The government is a member of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, formerly the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance, and Research.