The constitution stipulates the state is independent of all religion and provides for “freedom of thought, spirituality, religion and cult, expressed individually or collectively, in public and in private.” The constitution and other laws give educational institutions the right to teach religion, including indigenous spiritual belief classes. Some religious organizations, led predominantly by evangelical Christian groups, expressed concern that the country’s law requiring religious registration could threaten their ability to operate independently and could favor particular religious groups. The constitutional court in July denied a 2015 petition submitted by evangelical leaders challenging the religious registration law. Church leaders have worked with the government on a legislative proposal exempting churches from the registration requirements for the next five years. Following Catholic leaders’ criticism of the government response to drug trafficking, President Evo Morales threatened legal action and increased reporting requirements of church-funded programs and scrutiny of church activities. According to Protestant and Catholic Church leaders, the government employed ethnic Aymara rituals and practices during government events and ceremonies, which the Christian leaders stated contravened the constitutional separation of religion and state.
Evangelical leaders reported incidents in which indigenous religious leaders physically abused several of their pastors and expelled them from rural areas, because of their refusal to participate in ancestral practices and rituals.
U.S. government access to Bolivian government officials is limited. Embassy staff, however, routinely met with religious leaders to underscore the importance of religious freedom. The Charge d’Affaires hosted an interfaith meeting for religious leaders to share experiences. Topics discussed with religious leaders included the government’s respect for religious freedom and practices, the government’s alleged favoring of Andean religious ceremonies and rituals, and longstanding tensions between the Catholic community and the Morales administration.