The constitution states “all persons in Malta have full freedom of conscience and enjoy the free exercise of their respective mode of religious worship,” subject to restrictions in the interests of public safety, order, morality or decency, health, or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. It prohibits discriminatory treatment on the basis of “creed.”
The constitution establishes Catholicism as the state religion and declares the authorities of the Catholic Church have “the duty and the right to teach which principles are right and which are wrong.” It makes Catholic education compulsory in public schools but allows students to opt out of these classes, with parental consent if the student is under the age of 16.
By law persons convicted of vilification of Catholicism or “any other cult tolerated by law” are liable to imprisonment for one to six months or one to three months, respectively. The government interprets “any other cult” to mean other religious groups.
The government does not require religious groups to be registered or licensed. A religious group has the option of registering as a voluntary organization with the office of the commissioner for nongovernmental organizations. To qualify, the organization must be nonprofit, autonomous, and voluntary; provide a resolution letter signed by all its committee or board members requesting registration; provide its authenticated annual accounts and annual report; and pay a 40 euros ($44) registration fee. The law does not provide registered groups with tax reductions or exemptions, but allows them to make collections without obtaining any further authorization. It also allows them to receive grants, sponsorships, and financial aid from the government and the Voluntary Organizations Fund, an entity financed through the government and the EU. The fund, whose governing council is appointed by the minister of education and made up of representatives from voluntary organizations and a government representative, supports enrolled voluntary organizations.
Unregistered religious groups do not receive funding from the government or the Voluntary Organizations Fund and require government approval to collect contributions from the public but otherwise have the same legal rights as registered groups.
The criminal code prohibits individuals from wearing “masks or disguises” in public, unless explicitly allowed by law.
Religious groups may own property, including buildings and may organize and run private religious schools; their religious leaders may perform marriages and other functions.
The law, as well as the constitution, permits students to opt out of Catholic classes and does not require that these classes be taught by Catholics. Enrollment in private religious schools is permitted. The law does not regulate religious education in private schools. The law does not allow homeschooling for religious reasons.