The constitution, laws, and executive decrees provide for freedom of religion and worship and prohibit discrimination based on religion. The constitution recognizes Catholicism as the religion of the majority of citizens, but not as the state religion. The law continued to require Muslim women, Catholic nuns, and Rastafarians to pull back their head coverings to show their ears in pictures taken by immigration officials, but civil registry and customs authorities agreed to take the photographs and conduct any body searches in private. According to a Muslim community leader, the community did not receive any complaints regarding these procedures. Public schools continued to teach Catholicism, but parents could exempt their children from religion classes. Some non-Catholic groups continued to state that the government provided preferential distribution of subsidies to small Catholic-run private schools for salaries and operating expenses.
The Inter-Religious Institute of Panama, an interfaith organization with a wide range of associated religious groups, expanded its membership while continuing to provide a coordination mechanism for interfaith activities and promote mutual respect and appreciation among the various religious groups. Several religious groups held interdenominational events, including a Jewish community-hosted iftar to honor the leaders of an Islamic cultural center; a Muslim-Arab community-hosted interreligious youth day camp; a joint Catholic-Jewish youth event; and an interfaith event to celebrate the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. On September 10, members of the Inter-Religious Institute announced the institute would host youths during the World Youth Day in 2019, including hosting Catholic travelers in the homes of Muslim, Bahai, Jewish, and non-Catholic Christian faiths.
Embassy officials met on several occasions with government officials and raised questions about fairness in education subsidies for religious schools and the need for equality of all religious groups before the law. The Ambassador and other embassy officials met frequently with Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Rastafarian, Bahai, Episcopalian, Lutheran, and evangelical Protestant leaders to discuss government treatment of members of religious groups and interfaith initiatives to promote tolerance and respect for religious diversity, and societal perceptions and treatment of members of religious groups.