The constitution grants individuals the right to choose, practice, and change religions; it prohibits discrimination based on religion. The law requires all religious groups to register with the government; failure to do so can result in the group’s dissolution and liquidation of physical property. On October 23, President Lenin Moreno, who became president on May 24, replaced two restrictive executive decrees regarding civil society issued by former President Rafael Correa with a new decree regulating how civil society organizations, including religious organizations, must register to obtain or maintain legal status. The new decree relaxes or eliminates some aspects of the registration process. The Ministry of Justice, Human Rights, and Worship (MOJ) and the National Secretary for Policy Management (NSPM) trained religious groups on the registration process. Evangelical Christian and Catholic groups said that before the new decree, they faced lengthy delays, high costs, and excessive requests for membership information. According to the MOJ, approximately 4,000 religious groups operated in the country, but only half had registered with the government due to the previous registration procedures. A case involving the construction of a Jehovah’s Witnesses assembly hall in an indigenous community was still pending before the Constitutional Court more than three years after it had been accepted for review. The case focused on whether the constitutional right to self-determination of the indigenous community, which opposed the construction, took precedence over the free practice of religion. The Constitutional Court found another Jehovah’s Witness case requesting a “special action of protection” to be inadmissible after two courts previously upheld a gated community’s right to ban proselytization.
Jewish, Muslim, and Mormon representatives said they engaged with other religious groups through social work projects and occasional discussions through interfaith groups about promoting religious values among youth and ways to enhance respect for different belief systems. The interfaith group Religions for Peace organized dialogues between representatives from monotheistic religions and also promoted greater respect for different traditions within the Anglican, evangelical Christian, and Catholic communities. Some religious leaders said they were concerned about what they considered an erosion of traditional religious values but did not state concerns about the ability to express their religious beliefs.
Embassy officials discussed issues facing religious groups, including difficulties with the registration process, with the MOJ and the NSPM. The Ambassador hosted roundtables with religious leaders on February 9 in Guayaquil and March 29 in Quito to discuss challenges facing their communities. Leaders from the Bahai, Catholic, evangelical Christian, Jewish, Jehovah’s Witnesses, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon), and Muslim communities attended the events. Participants raised concerns about the registration process for religious groups, while noting a general lack of public knowledge about non-Catholic religious traditions.