The constitution and other laws and policies generally protect religious freedom. The constitution establishes separation of church and state but recognizes the Catholic Church’s role as “an important element in the historical, cultural, and moral development of the nation.”
The executive branch formally interacts with religious communities on matters of religious freedom through the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights (MINJUS). MINJUS implements laws and interacts with the public through the Office of Catholic Affairs and through the Office of Interfaith Affairs, which deals with non-Catholic groups. Both offices maintain a continuing dialogue on religious freedom with the Catholic Church and other religious groups.
The 2010 religious freedom law recognizes an individual’s fundamental right of freedom of religion, as stated in the constitution and international treaties the country has ratified. Under the law, registered religious organizations gain many of the same tax benefits already granted to the Catholic Church. In accordance with a 1980 agreement with the Holy See, the Catholic Church receives preferential treatment in education, taxation, immigration of religious workers, and other areas. The law codifies the arrangement with the Catholic Church.
Registration under the 2010 law does not amount to official recognition, but only registered religious groups are entitled to receive tax exemptions and other benefits, including worker or resident visas for foreign religious workers. Other benefits include the ability to form a legal entity that may own property, create a hierarchy and set of rules, operate religious schools, and solicit and receive voluntary donations. Implementing regulations, published in 2011, for the 2010 law set a January 13, 2013 deadline for registration with MINJUS of non-Catholic religious groups (all groups registered under previous legislation had to re-register under the terms of the 2011 regulations). The regulations state that in order to register, a religious entity must have at least 10,000 adult members, and the membership lists are required to be certified by the National Elections Board.
Catholic and non-Catholic religious charities do not pay customs duties on imported items. Registered religious groups are exempt from taxes on places of worship.
Per the 1980 agreement with the Holy See, buildings, houses, and other real estate owned by the Catholic Church are exempt from property taxes. Other religious groups (depending on the municipal jurisdiction) may pay property taxes on schools and clergy residences. Non-Catholic religious organizations are only able to buy land in commercially zoned areas while the Catholic Church can establish locations in either residential or commercially zoned areas. Catholic religious workers are exempt from taxes on international travel. All work-related earnings of Catholic priests and bishops are exempt from income taxes. By law the military may employ only Catholic clergy as chaplains.
According to the MINJUS Office of Catholic Affairs, the government pays stipends to the Catholic cardinal, six archbishops, and other Catholic Church officials. These stipends total approximately 2.6 million nuevo soles ($931,900) annually. Some Catholic clergy and laypersons employed by the church receive remuneration from the government in addition to the stipends they receive from the Church. This applies to the 44 active bishops and four auxiliary bishops, as well as to some priests located along the borders, representing approximately one-eighth of the clergy and pastoral agents. In addition, the government provides each diocese with a monthly institutional subsidy.
The law mandates that all schools, public and private, provide religious education through the primary and secondary level, “without violating the freedom of conscience of the student, parents, or teachers.” The law only permits the teaching of Catholicism in public schools, and the Ministry of Education mandates the presiding Catholic bishop of an area approve religious education teachers in all public schools. Parents may request the principal exempt their children from mandatory public school religion classes. Many secular private schools are granted exemptions from the religious education requirement. The law protects students who seek exemptions from Catholic education classes from being disadvantaged academically in both private and public schools.
The law on religious freedom recognizes conscientious objection in general, but does not contain provisions for excusing individuals from military service. The implementing regulations do not contain any reference to conscientious objection.