The constitution stipulates full freedom of conscience and religious worship, subject to restrictions in the interests of public safety, order, morality, or health, or 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 Catholic Church has “the duty and the right to teach which principles are right and which are wrong.”
The government does not require religious groups to be registered. A religious group has the option to register as a voluntary organization with the Office of the Commissioner for Voluntary Organizations. To qualify for registration, 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 euro ($48) 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 European Union. The minister of education appoints the governing council of the fund, which comprises representatives from voluntary organizations and a government official and supports enrolled voluntary organizations.
Religious groups not registered as voluntary organizations with the Office of the Commissioner for Voluntary Organizations do not receive funding from the government or the Voluntary Organizations Fund and require approval from the Commissioner of Police to collect contributions from the public. Approval is not required for collections from members or congregants. Groups that do not register as voluntary organizations 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; there is no specific reference – or exception – to coverings worn for religious reasons. Violations are subject to a reprimand, fine, or jail sentence.
All religious groups may own property, including buildings. Groups using property for a particular purpose, including religious worship, must obtain a permit for that purpose from the Planning Authority. All religious groups may organize and run private religious schools, and their religious leaders may perform marriages and other functions.
The constitution and law make Catholic education compulsory in public schools, although non-Catholic teachers may teach the course. Students, with parental consent if the student is under the age of 16, may opt out of these classes and instead take an ethics course if one is available. If a school does not offer an ethics course, students may still opt out of the religion class.
Students may enroll in private religious schools. The law does not regulate religious education in private schools. The law does not allow homeschooling for religious or other reasons except for physical or mental infirmity.
The law allows criticism of religious groups but prohibits incitement of religious hatred; violators are subject to imprisonment for a term of six to 18 months.
The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.