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Executive Summary

The constitution protects freedom of religion and states the government will consider the religious beliefs of society and form cooperative relations with the Roman Catholic Church and other religious faiths. The government has a bilateral agreement with the Holy See that grants the Roman Catholic Church special benefits. Three other religious groups have agreements with the state providing them with benefits. Other groups lacked agreements but received some benefits if registered with the government. Registration was not required. The government began a slow rollout of the law granting citizenship to expelled descendants of Sephardic Jews. The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) certified the new makeup of the Islamic Commission of Spain (CIE) and the naming of a single president, with the stated aim of facilitating government-community relations and resolving long-standing disagreements within the Muslim community. Muslims, however, reported continued discord within their community. The government generally provided funding for Catholic, Islamic, and Protestant instruction in public schools (Jewish groups declined the funding). Religious leaders said the state favored Catholicism in permitting citizens to allocate a portion of their taxes to the Catholic Church or charities, but not other religions, and retired Catholic priests to receive government pensions, while laws made it difficult for Protestant pastors to do so. Evangelical religious leaders also said regional and local governments applied unfair regulations to entities seeking religious or construction permits and the government failed to make religious accommodations in the armed forces. Religious minorities stated the government did not provide them with a sufficient number of public cemeteries. Authorities investigated and prosecuted several cases of anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim hate speech and reversed a Valencia regional government ban against a schoolgirl wearing a hijab to school.

According to nongovernmental organization (NGO) Observatory for Religious Freedom and Conscience (OLRC), there were 191 incidents, including approximately 61 it classified as crimes, against religious freedom, a slight increase over 2015. Three of the crimes involved violence. Most of the incidents were against Christians, including several attacks against priests. Authorities arrested two suspects in the beating of a pregnant Muslim woman wearing a hijab. Anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim statements in social media and public speech continued, and there were reports of vandalism against mosques and churches. The OLRC and other Muslim community representatives reported an increase in nonviolent hate crimes committed against Muslims.

U.S. embassy and consulate officials met regularly with the MOJ, Office of Religious Affairs, and the governmental Pluralism and Coexistence Foundation (the Foundation) to discuss anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim sentiment, anticlerical sentiment, the failure of some regional governments to comply with legal requirements pertaining to equal treatment of religious groups, and concerns about societal discrimination against religious minorities. In February the embassy organized a U.S.-funded joint conference on combating religious intolerance with the MOJ. The consulate general in Barcelona supported an afterschool program to prevent social exclusion of Muslim youth.

International Religious Freedom Reports
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U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future