The constitution and other laws and policies generally protect religious freedom. The constitution recognizes the right to practice the religion of one’s choice. By law, a person claiming a violation of religious freedom may file suit with the constitutional chamber of the Supreme Court, and may also file a motion before the constitutional chamber to have a statute or regulation declared unconstitutional. Additionally, a person claiming a violation of religious freedom may appeal to the administrative court to sue the government for alleged discriminatory acts. Legal protections cover discrimination by private persons and entities.
The constitution establishes Roman Catholicism as the state religion and requires that the state contribute to its maintenance. The constitution also prohibits the state from impeding the free exercise of other religions that do not impugn “universal morality or proper behavior.” Unlike other religious groups, the Catholic Church is not registered as an association and receives special legal recognition. Its assets and holdings are governed consistent with canon law.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Religion is responsible for managing the government’s relationship with the Catholic Church and other religious groups. The ministry’s budget includes funding for maintenance and repairs of some Catholic churches. All religious groups receive exemptions from income and real estate taxes for buildings devoted to services and religious activities.
The law allows the government to provide land to the Catholic Church. Government-to-church land transfers are typically granted through periodic legislation. The government earmarks funding for construction or improvement projects of Catholic churches around the country.
Only Catholic priests and public notaries can perform state-recognized marriages. Wedding ceremonies performed by other religious groups must be legalized through a civil union. Couples may also choose to have a civil ceremony only.
The constitution forbids Catholic clergy from serving as president, vice president, cabinet members, or supreme court justices. The Supreme Elections Tribunal has ruled that this prohibition does not apply to non-Catholic clergy.
The government does not require religious groups to register, nor does it inhibit the establishment of religious groups through taxation or special licensing requirements. According to the Law of Associations, a group with a minimum of 10 persons may incorporate as an association with juridical status by registering with the public registry of the Ministry of Justice. Like other groups, religious groups must register to engage in any type of fundraising activity.
An executive order provides the legal framework for religious organizations to establish places of worship. Religious organizations must submit applications to the local municipality to establish a place of worship and comply with the safety and noise regulations established by law. A revision of the executive order, signed in 2009, modifies the allowable distance between places of worship and their surroundings, but provides a two-year extension to achieve compliance with Ministry of Health regulations.
Immigration law requires foreign religious workers to belong to a religious group accredited by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Religion, and stipulates that religious workers may receive permission to stay at least 90 days but not more than two years, and the permissions are renewable. Immigration regulations require religious workers to apply for temporary residency before arrival.
The Ministry of Public Education provides assistance to private schools, both Catholic and non-Catholic, including either directly placing teachers or providing their salaries, as well as other monetary support.
All public schools provide religious instruction. The government now allows non-Catholic religion courses in public schools to conform with a 2010 supreme court ruling annulling a regulation that limited public school religious instruction to Catholic courses. A student may obtain an exemption with parental permission, but the school director, parents, and teacher must agree on an alternative course of instruction. The Catholic Church no longer participates with school authorities in selecting and dismissing public school religion teachers. Non-Catholic teachers are able to serve in these positions. Private schools are not required to offer religious instruction. Parents do not have the option to homeschool their children.