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Czech Republic

Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal Framework

The constitution does not explicitly address religious freedom, but the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, a supplementary constitutional document, provides for freedom of religious conviction and the fundamental rights of all, regardless of faith or religion.  It states every individual has the right to change religion or faith; to abstain from religious belief; and to freely practice religion, alone or in community, in private or public, “through worship, teaching, practice, observance.”  The charter defines religious societies, recognizing their freedom to profess their faith publicly or privately and to govern their own affairs, independent of the state.  It stipulates conscientious objectors may not be compelled to perform military service and that conditions for religious instruction at state schools shall be set by law.  The charter states religious freedom may be limited by law in the event of threats to “public safety and order, health and morals, or the rights and freedoms of others.”

The law states the MOC Department of Churches is responsible for religious affairs.  Religious groups are not required by law to register with the government and are free to perform religious activities without registering.  The law establishes a two-tiered system for religious groups which choose to register with the ministry.  The ministry reviews applications for first- and second-tier registration with input from other government bodies such as the Office for Protection of Private Data and from outside experts on religious affairs.  The law does not establish a deadline for the ministry to decide on a registration application.  Applicants denied registration may appeal to the MOC to reconsider its decision and, if denied again, to the courts.

To qualify for the first (lower) tier, a religious group must present at least 300 signatures of adult members permanently residing in the country, a founding document listing the basic tenets of the faith, and a clearly defined structure of fiduciary responsibilities to the Department of Churches.  First-tier registration confers limited tax benefits, including exemptions from taxes on interest earned on current account deposits, donations, and members’ contributions.

For second (higher) tier registration, a group must have been registered with the Department of Churches as a first-tier group for 10 years, have published annual financial reports throughout the time of its registration, and have membership equal to at least 0.1 percent of the population, or approximately 10,700 persons.  The group must provide this number of signatures as proof.  Second-tier registration entitles religious groups to tax benefits granted to first-tier groups and to the exercise of special rights, including conducting weddings, teaching religion at public schools, and conducting chaplaincy in the army and prisons.  Prisoners may receive visits from their own clergy, regardless of registration status.  Second-tier religious groups registered prior to 2002 are entitled to government subsidies.  The law phases out direct state subsidies to second-tier religious groups over a 17-year period ending in 2029.

Religious groups registered prior to 2002 received automatic second-tier status without having to fulfill the requirements for second-tier registration.  These groups must publish an annual report on the execution of special rights, including conducting weddings, teaching religion at public schools, and maintaining chaplaincy in the army and prisons.

There are 42 state-registered religious groups, 21 first- and 21 second-tier.

Unregistered religious groups are free to assemble and worship but may not legally own property.  Unregistered groups may form civic associations to own and manage their property.

The law authorizes the government to return land or other property that was confiscated during the communist era and is still in the government’s possession to 17 religious groups (the largest of which are the Roman Catholic Church, FJC, Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren, and Hussite Church).  The government estimates the total value of property in its possession eligible to be returned at 75 billion crowns ($3.5 billion).  The law also sets aside 59 billion crowns ($2.8 billion) in compensation for property – mostly in possession of private persons or entities or local or regional governments – that cannot be returned, payable over a 30-year period ending in 2043.  Based on an agreement among the affected religious groups, the law allocates approximately 79 percent of these funds to the Catholic Church and 21 percent to the other 16 groups.  The law prescribed a one-year deadline ending in 2013 for religious groups to file restitution claims for confiscated property.  The government agency in possession of a property for which a group has filed a restitution claim adjudicates that claim.  If the government agency rejects a property claim, the claimant may appeal the decision in court.

The law permits second-tier religious groups to apply through the MOC to teach religion in state schools if there is a demand for such classes.  Eleven of the 21 second-tier groups have permission to teach religion classes.  The religious groups provide the teachers and the state pays their salaries.  If a state school does not have enough funds to pay for its religious education teachers, religious groups pay for them.  Student attendance at religious classes is optional.  According to law, if seven or more students register for a particular religion class at the beginning of the school year, a school must offer that class to those who registered.

The government does not regulate religious instruction in private schools.

The law prohibits speech that incites hatred based on religion, as well as the denial of Nazi- and communist-era genocides and crimes.  Violators may be sentenced to up to three years in prison.

Religious workers who are not from European Economic Area countries or Switzerland must obtain long-term residence and work permits to remain in the country for more than 90 days.  There is no special visa category for religious workers.  Foreign missionaries and clergy are required to meet the conditions for a standard work permit.

The law designates January 27 as Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Government Practices

In December, the MOC registered the Religious Society of Slavs, which had applied for registration in 2020.  In August, the Municipal Court in Prague denied an appeal, pending since 2017, of the MOC’s 2016 rejection of the registration application from the Lions of the Round Table – Order of the Lands of the Czech Crown.  The Ecclesia Risorum’s (Church of Laughter) 2020 appeal against the MOC’s 2019 and 2020 denials of its application remained pending with the Municipal Court in Prague.  The Essenic Christian Church’s application for registration, submitted to the MOC in January, was pending at year’s end.

In January, the Olomouc Appellate Court upheld the Zlin Regional Court’s 2020 conviction of PGJ leader Jaroslav Dobes and member Barbora Plaskova of the rape of six women and acquitted them of a charge of rape of a seventh woman.  Dobes and Plaskova continued to seek asylum in the Philippines, where they were in immigration detention, and international arrest warrants by Czech authorities for the pair remained outstanding.

In March, according to the PGJ, the Prague Municipal Court ruled that the government’s Office for Personal Data Protection’s investigation of the group’s registration application had been conducted improperly and instructed the office to reexamine the case.  PGJ officials reported that the office declined to further investigate the group’s registration application procedures and returned the fine it had levied on PGJ representative Martin Krajca for what the office had said was negligence in the collection of personal data of PGJ members.  The PGJ had filed a lawsuit with the Prague Municipal Court in 2017 against the Office for Personal Data Protection, alleging abusive investigation of its registration application and arguing against the MOC’s rejection of its registration application.  Also in March, the PGJ said it filed an appeal of the MOC’s denial of its registration application with the Administrative High Court after the Prague Municipal Court rejected the group’s appeal of the MOC’s registration denial.  That appeal, according to the PGJ, remained pending in the Administrative High Court at year’s end.

According to an article published in April by the NGO Center for Studies on New Religion, the Appellate Court in Olomouc ruled that 190,000 euros ($215,000) seized by the Zlin Regional Court in 2010 should be returned to the Poetrie esoteric yoga school, which was tied to the PGJ.  The Zlin court had seized the funds as part of the prosecution against Jaroslav Dobes and Barbara Plaskova.  According to the PGJ, the group was seeking additional compensation for losses due to inflation during the 11 years the funds had been withheld.

The MOI reported that as of June, it had granted subsidiary protection to all the remaining Chinese citizens who applied for asylum in 2016 citing fear of persecution as Christians.  Subsidiary protection prevents forcible return to their country of origin of persons who have been found ineligible for refugee status.  An NGO representing some of the applicants, however, reported that its clients still had pending applications but had stopped communicating with the Czech government out of fear of reprisal from the government of China.

The government provided second-tier religious groups approximately 3.2 billion crowns ($149.41 million):  one billion crowns ($46.69 million) in government subsidies to 17 groups and 2.2 billion crowns ($102.72 million) to 16 groups as compensation for communal property in private and state hands that would not be returned.  Five of the 22 second-tier groups declined the government subsidy and were not eligible for compensation payments for lost property.  The Baptist Union accepted the state subsidy, but while eligible to receive it, opted not to accept compensation for unreturned property.  In addition, the MOC provided 11.9 million crowns ($556,000) in grants for religiously oriented cultural activities in response to applications from various religious groups.

The government paid the annual allotment of 20 million crowns ($934,000) of the total of 100 million crowns ($4.67 million) earmarked for 2019-2023 as contribution to the Endowment Fund for Holocaust Victims for projects focused on Holocaust remembrance and education, welfare for Holocaust victims, and care for Jewish monuments.

In November, the Kolel Damesek Eliezer Foundation (a U.S. charity), the FJC, the U.S. Commission for Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, and the Hanacky Jerusalem Association met with the municipal council of Prostejov to continue discussions on the plan to restore a former Jewish cemetery in that city that the MOC had designated a cultural monument.  Later in the month, the Prostejov municipal assembly approved the 2022 municipal budget that earmarked 350,000 crowns ($16,300) to conduct a preparatory study for the restoration project.

The SPD and its leader, Tomio Okamura, continued to criticize Islam and Muslim migrants.  In November, Okamura stated on his Facebook page that “It has been fully confirmed that Islam is not compatible with freedom and democracy.  There will either be democracy here, or Islam.  There is nothing in between.”  In October, Okamura stated on Facebook that the “SPD submitted bills that ban the promotion of hateful Islamic ideology and Islamic veiling in public.”  Also in October, he stated on Facebook that the “SPD does not want us [the Czech Republic] to end up like the Islamized Western Europe where people often fear to go outside as they do not want to be stabbed or killed by the migrants.”  In September, the SPD initiated a petition against accepting migrants from Afghanistan after the departure of allied forces.  The petition, which had no legal force, was part of an action by the Identity and Democracy faction in the European Parliament, of which the SPD is a member, stated that “the new migration wave from Afghanistan can bring various risks, including Islamization and terrorism.”

In June, the government approved the 2020 Report on Extremism and Hate Crime, the 2021-2026 Strategy to Combat Extremism and Hate Crime, and the 2021-2022 Action Plan to Combat Extremism and Hate Crime that defined as one of its three strategic goals improving protection and assistance to victims of crimes, including religiously motivated crimes.  The action plan outlined specific tasks for various ministries, such as the MOI, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Education, MOC, and Ministry of Finance, in fighting extremism and hate crimes, including those against religious groups.  Steps the document outlined included “raising public awareness about extremist activities, initiatives by state regulatory and security bodies to reduce hate speech on the internet, strategic communication to combat xenophobia and racism, education and prevention programs at schools, specialized training for law enforcement, and assistance to victims.”

On January 27, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in cooperation with the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Social Equality, organized an online commemoration of International Holocaust Memorial Day entitled “Remembering, Perpetuating and Pursuing Justice.”  Speakers included Czech President Milos Zeman and then Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, and the U.S. Secretary of State.  Speakers stressed the importance of recalling past tragedies and fighting Holocaust denial.

Also on January 27, the Senate, in cooperation with the FJC, again organized a ceremony to honor victims of the Holocaust.  Speaker of the Senate Milos Vystrcil, Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies Radek Vondracek, Holocaust survivor Michaela Vidlakova, and FJC Chairman Petr Papousek delivered remarks and called for religious tolerance.  The event was broadcast live on state-owned television.

In April, the 16th annual public reading of Holocaust Victims’ names – Yom Ha-Shoah – took place online.  Public figures who participated in the reading included then Foreign Minister Petricek, Mayor of Prague Zdenek Hrib, and members of the diplomatic community.

In April, organizers cancelled the annual Culture Against Antisemitism Festival and march due to the COVID-19 pandemic and held an online event in the Pinkas Synagogue in Prague in memory of victims of the Shoah entitled “We All Are People 2021.”  Speaker of the Senate Vystrcil and director of the Jewish Museum Oto Pavlat spoke out against hatred and violence based on ethnicity and religion, and Vystrcil cited the importance of the continued fight against antisemitism, stating that any form of hatred, including hatred against Jews, was dangerous to persons all over the world.  The event also included the testimony of a Czech Holocaust survivor and a telecast of the commemoration ceremony from the Yad Vashem Memorial in Jerusalem.

The government provided grants for religiously oriented cultural activities, including the annual Night of Churches held in several cities; the National Commemoration of the 1,100th Anniversary of St. Ludmila’s death; a liturgical festival of St. Cyril and Methodius in Velehrad; the annual Concert in Memory of Holocaust Victims; an exhibition entitled Musical Treasures of the Jerusalem Synagogue; a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Hussite Church, part of which had been postponed from 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic; and the Litomysl Days of Baroque Tradition (a festival consisting of liturgical music, masses, and readings).

According to the FJC, the MOI continued to provide security to the Jewish community and Jewish sites based on a memorandum of cooperation signed in 2016.

The government-funded Endowment Fund for Holocaust Victims, established by the FJC, contributed four million crowns ($187,000) to 14 institutions providing health and social care to approximately 450 Holocaust survivors.

The country is a member of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.


Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal Framework

The constitution defines the country as a secular republic and states it “shall ensure the equality of all citizens before the law,” regardless of religion, and shall respect all beliefs.  The law provides for the separation of religion and state and guarantees the free exercise of religious worship except to maintain public order.

The law, as well as international and European covenants to which the country adheres, protects the freedom of individuals to choose, change, and practice their religion.  Interference with freedom of religion is subject to criminal penalties, including a fine of 1,500 euros ($1,700) and imprisonment for one month.  Individuals who are defendants in a trial may challenge the constitutionality of any law they say impedes their freedom of religion.

Laws increase the penalties for acts of violence or defamation when they are committed because of the victim’s actual or perceived membership or nonmembership in a given religious group.  Additional penalties beyond those for the underlying crime for acts of violence that courts determine are religiously motivated are three to five years’ imprisonment and fines of 45,000 to 75,000 euros ($51,000-$85,000), depending on the severity of the victims’ injuries.  For religiously motivated acts of public defamation, defined as an allegation of fact that affects the honor of a person or body, the penalties are one year’s imprisonment and/or a fine of 45,000 euros ($51,000).  The government may expel noncitizens for inciting discrimination, hatred, or violence against a specific person or group of persons based on religion.

The law penalizes hate crimes and hate speech.  Provisions in the criminal code cover hate crimes.  They criminalize racist, antisemitic, or xenophobic acts, considering them as aggravating circumstances when an offense is committed on the basis of a victim’s membership or nonmembership, true or supposed, in a given ethnic group, nation, race, or religion.  When made in public, such as on the internet, hate speech is covered by a special law related to the rights of the press that criminalizes the publication or dissemination of racist remarks, including those directed against persons because of their membership in religious groups.  The law covers all means of public expression (speeches, exclamations, threats, writings, printed matter, drawings, engravings, paintings, symbols, images, etc.), and any media permitting wide dissemination to the public.  When not made in public, hate speech is covered by the criminal code and punishable by a 1,500 euro ($1,700) fine.

There is no national-level law prohibiting blasphemy, but Alsace-Moselle continues to retain part of an old German code, a remnant from past German annexation of the area, that declares “blasphemy” against Catholics a crime.  However, a Ministry of Justice decree states that the antiblasphemy provision may not be applied anywhere in the country.

Although the law does not require it, religious groups may apply for official recognition and tax-exempt status.  Religious groups may register under two categories:  associations of worship, which are exempt from taxes; and cultural associations, which normally are not exempt.  Associations in either category are subject to fiscal oversight by the state.  An association of worship may organize only religious activities.  Although not tax-exempt, a cultural association may engage in for-profit as well as nonprofit activity and receive government subsidies for its cultural and educational operations.  Religious groups normally register under both categories.  For example, Catholics perform religious activities through their associations of worship and operate schools through their cultural associations.

Religious groups must apply at the local prefecture (the administrative body, headed by a prefect, that represents the central government in each department) for recognition as an association of worship and tax-exempt status.  To qualify as an association of worship, the group’s sole purpose must be the practice of religion, which may include liturgical services and practices, religious training, and the construction of buildings serving the religious group.  The association must also engage in public worship and respect public order.  Among excluded activities are those that are purely cultural, social, or humanitarian in nature.  To apply for tax-exempt status, the association must provide to the prefecture its estimated budget for the year, annual accounts for the previous three years or since the association’s creation, whichever is shorter, a written justification of eligibility for the status, and the number of members of the association.  In Paris, the association must have a minimum of 25 members.  Once granted, the association may use the tax-exempt status nationwide.  The government does not tax associations of worship on donations they receive.  If the prefecture determines an association is not in conformity with its tax-exempt status, however, the government may change that status and require the association to pay taxes at a rate of 60 percent on past, as well as future, donations until it regains tax-exempt status.  The Ministry of Interior has not provided recent information on the number of associations with tax-exempt status.  According to ministry data more than a decade old, there are 109 Protestant, 100 Catholic, 50 Jehovah’s Witness, 30 Muslim, and 15 Jewish associations with tax-exempt status.

The number of cultural associations, many of which are not associated with religious groups, is in the thousands and changes frequently.  Cultural associations may be declared using an online form through the government’s public administration website.  Cultural associations, even if associated with religious groups, may operate without applying for government recognition, but receiving government recognition exempts them from taxes.  The Church of Scientology has the status of a secular and not a religious association.

The law states, “Detained persons have the right to freedom of opinion, conscience, and religion.  They may practice the religion of their choice…without other limits than those imposed by the security needs and good order of the institution.”

Counterterrorism legislation grants prefects in each department the authority to close a place of worship for a maximum of six months if they find that comments, writings, or activities in the place of worship “provoke violence, hatred, or discrimination or the commission of acts of terrorism or praise such acts of terrorism.”  The management of the place of worship has 48 hours to appeal the closure decision to an administrative court.  A place of worship that has been closed may remain closed beyond the six-month maximum if it does not replace its chief cleric and/or management.  Noncompliance with a closure decision carries a six-month prison sentence and a fine of 7,500 euros ($8,500).  A counterterrorism and intelligence law that parliament enacted on July 22 makes permanent some provisions of a 2017 law on internal security and counterterrorism that had been set to expire July 31.  The new law allows authorities to close facilities belonging to places of worship linked to acts of terrorism, rather than only the places of worship themselves, as was previously the case.

The law prohibits covering one’s face, including for religious reasons, in public places, including public transportation, government buildings, and other public spaces, such as restaurants and movie theaters.  If police encounter a person in a public space wearing a face covering such as a niqab or burqa, they are legally required to ask the individual to remove it to verify the individual’s identity.  According to the law, police officials may not remove it themselves.  If an individual refuses to remove the garment, police may take the person to the local police station to verify his or her identity.  Police may not question or hold an individual for more than four hours.  Refusing a police instruction to remove a face-covering garment carries a maximum fine of 150 euros ($170) or attendance at a citizenship course.  Individuals who coerce other persons to cover their face on account of gender by threat, violence, force, or abuse of power or authority are subject to a fine of up to 30,000 euros ($34,000) and may receive a sentence of up to one year in prison.  The fine and sentence are doubled if the person coerced is a minor.  The law exempts use of face coverings mandated by the authorities, such as masks worn for COVID-19 prevention.

The law prohibits agents of the administration, public services, and companies or associations carrying out public services from demonstrating their religion through visible signs of religious affiliation, such as an Islamic headscarf, Jewish skullcap, Sikh turban, or Christian cross.  The prohibition applies during working hours even if the agents are not in their place of employment and at any time at the place of employment.

By law, the government may not directly finance religious groups to build new places of worship, except, as noted below, in Alsace-Lorraine and overseas departments and territories.  The government may, however, provide loan guarantees or lease property to groups at advantageous rates.  The law also exempts places of worship from property taxes.  The state owns and is responsible for the upkeep of most places of worship, primarily Catholic, built before 1905.  The government may fund cultural associations with a religious connection.

The Upholding Republican Values law – passed by parliament on July 23, ruled constitutional on August 13 by the Constitutional Court, and signed by President Macron on August 24 – includes measures expanding requirements of neutrality in expression and attire for public servants and private contractors of public services, methods to combat online hate speech, stricter restrictions on homeschooling, increased control of public associations, transparency of religious associations, and enhanced measures against polygamy, forced marriages, and “virginity certificates.”  The law requires audits of associations, including those that are religious in nature, that receive foreign funding of more than 153,000 euros ($173,500) per year.  The law imposes additional reporting requirements on local religious-based organizations.  It modifies a law on policing of religions to include punishing the incitement to discrimination, hatred, or violence with up to five years in prison.  The law also increases the punishment for holding political meetings in places of worship and prohibits the organization of campaigning operations for political elections in places of worship.  In addition, a judge may forbid anyone convicted of provoking terrorism, discrimination, hate, or violence from entering places of worship.  The government may temporarily close places of worship if it finds any activities that incite hatred or violence.  The new law expanded the requirements for neutrality, impartiality, and principles of secularism, which previously applied only to government employees, to apply to private contractors for public services.  The law also implements a commemorative “secularism day,” to be recognized annually on December 9.  In addition, it requires municipalities and departments to inform local prefects three months before concluding a long-term lease with, or providing loans to, places of worship.

The Upholding Republican Values law includes provisions to combat hate speech, including the criminalization of disseminating personal information which could endanger the life of others.  Violators may be punished with up to five years in prison and a fine of 75,000 euros ($85,000) if the victim is a public official, a journalist, or a minor.  An expedited procedure allows authorities to remove content on mirror sites.

The law separating religion and state does not apply in three classes of territories.  Because Alsace-Lorraine (currently comprising the departments of Haut-Rhin, Bas-Rhin, and la Moselle and known as Alsace-Moselle) was part of Germany when the law was enacted, Catholics, Lutherans, Calvinists, and Jews there may choose to allocate a portion of their income tax to their religious group.  Pastors, priests, and rabbis of these four recognized faiths in Alsace-Moselle receive a salary from the Interior Ministry, and the country’s President, with the agreement of the Holy See, appoints the Catholic bishops of Metz and Strasbourg.  The Prime Minister appoints the Chief Rabbi and the presidents of the Jewish and Protestant consistories (the administrative governance bodies of these groups) in Alsace-Moselle, and the Interior Minister appoints ministers of three Christian Churches (Catholic, Lutheran, and Protestant Reformed Church of Alsace and Lorraine) in the region.  Local governments in the region may also provide financial support for constructing religious buildings.  The Overseas Department of French Guiana, which is governed under 19th century colonial laws, may provide subsidies to the Catholic Church.  Other overseas departments and overseas territories, which include island territories in the Caribbean and the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans, and several sub-Antarctic islands, may also provide funding for religious groups.  This provision also applies to the portion of Antarctica the government claims as an overseas territory.

Public schools are secular.  The law prohibits public school employees from wearing visible signs of religious affiliation and students from wearing “conspicuous religious symbols,” including the Islamic headscarf, Jewish skullcap, Sikh turban, and large Christian crosses.  Public schools do not provide religious instruction except in Alsace-Moselle and overseas departments and territories.  In Alsace-Moselle, religious education regarding one of the four recognized faiths (Catholicism, Lutheranism, Protestant Reformed Church of Alsace and Lorraine, and Judaism) is compulsory in public primary and secondary schools, although students may, with a written request from their parents, opt for a secular equivalent.  Religious education classes are taught by laypersons who are trained and nominated by the respective religious groups but are paid by the state.  Elsewhere in the country, public schools teach information about religious groups as part of the history curriculum.  Parents who wish their children to wear conspicuous religious symbols or to receive religious instruction may homeschool their children or send them to a private school.  Homeschooling and private schools must conform to the educational standards established for public schools; however, private schools may permit the wearing of religious symbols on their premises.  Under the Upholding Republican Values law, beginning in September 2022, homeschooling will be allowed only for strictly defined reasons, including sickness, disability, intensive sport or artistic training, transient families, or those with geographic constraints.  Parents who wish to take their children out of school will be required to get an annual authorization from the local education authority.

By law, the government subsidizes private schools, including those affiliated with religious organizations.  In 98 percent of private schools, in accordance with the law, the government pays the teachers’ salaries, provided the school accepts all children regardless of their religious affiliation.  The law does not address the issue of religious instruction in government-subsidized private schools.  According to the education code, religious instruction is allowed but optional in government-subsidized private schools.  Students are not required to attend religion classes, and other activities are available for students who opt out.

Missionaries from countries not exempt from visa requirements must obtain a three-month tourist visa before traveling to the country.  All missionaries from nonexempt countries wishing to remain longer than 90 days must obtain long-duration visas before entering the country.  Upon arrival, missionaries must provide a letter from their sponsoring religious group to apply to the local prefecture for a temporary residence card.

The country adheres to the nonbinding Terezin Declaration of 2009 – an agreement to remedy the economic wrongs experienced by Jews and other victims of Nazi persecution – and its guidelines and best practices of 2010.  The government has laws and mechanisms in place for property restitution and reparation, including for all three types of immovable property:  private, communal, and heirless.

The government’s Commission for the Compensation for Victims of Spoliation (CIVS or the “Drai Commission”) is a sovereign and independent administrative body under the authority of the Prime Minister.  CIVS recommends and examines reparations to individual victims of the Holocaust or their heirs not previously compensated for damages resulting from antisemitic legislation passed either by the Vichy government or by the occupying Germans.  On June 17, the CIVS announced that on its recommendation, Prime Minister Jean Castex had ordered the return to the descendants of Jewish lawyer Armand Dorville 12 works of art acquired by the French State in 1942.  At year’s end, the government was working on a draft law to effectively implement this decision.

The law criminalizes the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement against Israel, treating it as “a provocation to discrimination or hatred or violence towards a person or a group of persons because of their origin or belonging to an ethnic group, a nation, a race, or a determined religion.”

The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Government Practices

On April 14, the Court of Cassation upheld the Paris Court of Appeals’ decision that Kobili Traore, the killer of Sarah Halimi, a 65-year-old Jewish woman, was unfit to stand trial because his cannabis consumption prior to the killing rendered him psychotic, despite the judges’ opinion that the attack was antisemitic in character.  The Court of Cassation’s decision closed the case.  According to media reports, Traore continued under psychiatric care where he had been assigned since killing Halimi in 2017 and would remain hospitalized until psychiatrists concluded he no longer represented a danger to himself or others.  Lawyers for Halimi’s relatives announced their intention to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.  On April 21, lawyers representing Halimi’s sister announced that she intended to file a criminal complaint against Traore in Israel.

On April 25, media reported that more than 20,000 persons demonstrated at Trocadero Square in Paris to “proclaim determination to continue the fight for Sarah’s memory.”  Similar protests were held in several other cities across the country.  French political leaders, including President Macron, criticized the court ruling and what he called the loopholes in law exposed by the case.  Macron also told daily newspaper Le Figaro that “Deciding to take narcotics and then ‘going mad’ should not, in my view, remove your criminal responsibility,” and said he wanted Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti to introduce a change in the law “as soon as possible.”  On July 22, the National Assembly established a parliamentary commission of inquiry into the affair, which was continuing its investigation at year’s end.

On March 15, following the resignation of M’hammed Henniche, the rector (administrator) of a mosque in Pantin, a Paris suburb, and the nomination of a new board of directors, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin called for the reopening of the mosque, made effective on April 9.  In October 2020, Darmanin had ordered a six-month closure of the mosque, following the beheading of teacher Samuel Paty, who had shown his class cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad as part of a lesson on freedom of expression.  The mosque’s imam Ibrahim Doucoure had posted on social media calls to retaliate against Paty for showing the cartoons.  The Montreuil Administrative Court had validated the government’s decision to close the mosque.

On October 26, Junior Minister for Citizenship Marlene Schiappa reported that, since the end of 2019, as part of a nationwide program to counter “Islamism and communitarianism,” the Ministry of Interior had conducted 23,996 assessments and closed 672 establishments of various kinds, including 22 mosques.  According to Schiappa, those establishments, which the government did not specifically identify, “were gathering places to organize Islamist separatism,” which President Macron had previously described as a “methodical organization” to create a “countersociety” in which Islamists impose their own rules and laws on isolated communities.

On October 13, Interior Minister Darmanin announced he had ordered authorities to close a mosque in Allonnes, in the Loire Region, following what he said was evidence the mosque preached radical Islamism.  According to the local prefecture, some of its 300 members were linked to radical Islamist movements that “legitimized the use of armed jihad” as well as “hate and discrimination.”  In early October, authorities froze the accounts of the two associations running the mosque.

On October 26, Interior Minister Darmanin reported that, following inspections of mosques conducted starting in November 2020, the government suspected 92 of the 2,500 mosques in the country of being radical and had closed 21 of them.  On December 12, Darmanin said 36 mosques were removed from the list of those suspected of Islamist separatism after complying with government requests, including dismissing “dangerous” imams and rejecting foreign funding.  Darmanin reiterated the mosques suspected of practicing radical Islam represented a very small minority.

In a December 27 decree, Darmanin announced the government administratively closed the mosque of Beauvais, north of Paris, for six months because of the anti-republican sermons of one of its imams.  Darmanin accused Imam Islem, born Eddy Lecocq, of dividing society by justifying jihad and using discriminatory language against LGBTQ+ persons and women in his sermons.  The mosque’s representative argued that Islem’s comments were taken out of context, calling the closure “unjustified” and the accusations against the imam false.  Some members of the Beauvais Muslim community expressed frustration to the press, saying that while the law should apply to this imam, it was unfair that “the whole community was being punished” for his actions.

Contrary to the previous year, Jehovah’s Witness officials did not report any cases in which authorities interfered with proselytizing during the year.

After President Macron’s announcement that a COVID-19 health pass would be required to enter public spaces beginning in August, some protesters wore the yellow Star of David or held signs comparing treatment of nonvaccinated persons to that of Jews during the Holocaust; others protested with antisemitic signs.

With the stated intent to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, the government continued to impose measures limiting the distance between worshippers during religious services.  It required places of worship to ensure that there were at least two empty seats between persons unless they were members of the same household and that only one row of seats out of two was occupied.  Unlike with other gatherings, the government did not require a COVID-19 health pass to attend religious ceremonies.  The Prime Minister’s office told Le Figaro newspaper July 13 that places of worship enjoyed constitutional protections beyond those of other groups because of the fundamental value of the freedom of religion.

On August 24, President Macron signed into law the Upholding Republican Values bill, which the government used to continue closing organizations accused of separatism, including some places of worship.  On March 10, leaders of the Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox Churches in the country issued a public statement expressing their concern about the then draft bill.  Catholic Archbishop Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, President of the Bishops Conference of France (CEF), Pastor Francois Clavairoly, President of the Protestant Federation of France, and Metropolitan Emmanuel Adamakis, Metropolitan of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of France, signed the statement.  The statement said that “by its internal logic … this bill risks undermining fundamental freedoms such as freedom of worship, association, teaching and even freedom of opinion.”  The three leaders added that “turning its back on the separation [of church and state], the state interferes in the qualification of what is religious” and that the law allowed the state to apply more constraints and controls on religious organizations when the Christian churches believed the procedures necessary to maintain public order already existed.  Muslim leaders, also speaking about the bill while in draft, said that, although it did not specifically mention the word Islam, many of its provisions clearly singled out Islam, targeting and stigmatizing Muslims.  They also pointed out that President Macron had initially proposed the law as a means to combat “Islamist separatism.”  NGOs expressed concern about the increased power of unelected prefects to close associations.  Mohammed Moussaoui, president of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), said the then draft would increase restrictions on French religious associations, “but in the end it will be beneficial and there will be less suspicion towards donations.”  France’s Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia said the then draft law “reminds us of the importance of carrying the values of the republic everywhere, in all spaces, including religious spaces” and gives “legal tools to do what we could not do before.”

In a January 18 meeting with representatives of the CFCM, which until December was the government’s main dialogue partner among groups representing the Muslim community, President Macron praised the CFCM’s adoption of the “Charter of Principles for the Islam of France,” the Elysee (Office of the Presidency) reported.  “This is a clear, decisive and precise commitment in favor of the republic,” Macron said, hailing “a truly foundational text for relations between the state and Islam in France.”  According to the CFCM, the agreement was reached during a January 16 meeting of the CFCM with Interior Minister Darmanin after weeks of resistance from some CFCM members, who objected to a “restructuring” of Islam to make it compatible with French law and values.  Signatories to the charter included the CFCM, the Union of Mosques of France, Gathering of Muslims of France, Great Mosque of Paris (GMP), and the French Federation of Islamic Associations of Africa, Comoros, and the West Indies.  Signatories to the charter, composed of 10 articles, vowed to reject attempts to use Islam for political ends, refrain from distributing messages of violence, hate, terrorism, or racism, and educate youth against those who spread such messages; affirmed gender equality and the need to educate believers that certain cultural practices presumed to be Muslim are not part of Islam; and agreed to combat “superstitions and archaic practices” that endanger the lives of victims, recognize Muslims have the right to renounce Islam, and reject racism, antisemitism, and misogynistic acts.

Online news site Middle East Eye published an opinion piece in February that called the charter “the worst violation of the separation of Church and state in the history of the Fifth Republic,” and stating it was crafted by the government, particularly President Macron and Interior Minister Darmanin, and not by Muslims.  On January 17, Tareq Oubrou, the Great Imam of Bordeaux, said he deplored that the CFCM produced the charter “under political pressure.”

On November 21, the GMP along with three Muslim federations announced they had set up a National Council of Imams (CNI) aimed at establishing a new certification system for imams in France.  The CFCM, which President Macron had instructed in 2020 to establish a new imam certification system to ensure Muslim clerics’ compliance with French republican values, denounced the initiative.  The CFCM president, Mohammed Moussaoui, accused the GMP, the Gathering of Muslims of France; the French Federation of Islamic Associations of Africa, Comoros, and the West Indies; and the Muslims of France (former Union of Islamic Organizations in France) of having “taken the organization of Muslim worship hostage.”

On July 23, the Ministry of the Interior and the Loire regional prefecture officially suspended Mmadi Ahamada, the imam of the Attakwa Mosque in Saint-Chamond, for discriminating against women.  In Eid al-Adha remarks, the imam said women should “stay home, not show off … and not be too complacent in your language,” nor give in to “corruption and vice.”  Interior Minister Darmanin tweeted that he would relentlessly counter those who violated the values of the republic, and said that at his instruction, the Saint-Chamond imam and another imam were fired for “unacceptable sermons.”  Darmanin also ordered the Loire prefect to evaluate the Saint-Chamond imam’s renewal of his residency permit.  According to media reports, the imam, a citizen of Comoros, could be deported if the permit were not renewed.

On July 15, the government announced the creation of a new Interministerial Committee on Secularism to replace the Observatory for Secularism – an independent public watchdog entity established in 2013 whose members were appointed by the government – that critics from the political right and left said did not crack down hard enough on radical Islam.  According to Minister for Citizenship Schiappa, who announced the new committee, it would function under the authority of the Prime Minister’s office and be responsible, as the observatory had been, for coordinating government efforts to protect state secularism, for instance by ensuring no public funding was allocated to nonsecular programs.  She stated the committee would also assume responsibility for secularism training for public employees, with the goal of providing such training to all five million employees by 2025.  Twelve ministers on the new committee were tasked with coordinating state secularism and tracking the implementation of the Upholding Republican Values law.  The committee was also tasked with placing a secularism specialist in each public administration by the end of the year to provide information and mediate on issues relating to religion.  It would oversee new powers given to prefects to take legal action against local governments if they implement policies that seem to contradict secularism, for example by allowing women-only sessions in public pools.  In her announcement, Minister Schiappa also said that, during the December 9 “Secularism Day,” the Ministry of the Interior would award a “Legality Prize” of 50,000 euros ($56,700) for promoting secularism.

According to media, on October 12, at the request of President Macron, Interior Minister Darmanin summoned CEF President Archbishop de Moulins-Beaufort, after the Archbishop publicly stated that the secrecy of confession was “above the laws of the republic,” sparking outrage among groups of victims of sexual abuse by priests.  De Moulins-Beaufort made the comment after a Church-commissioned independent report revealed more than 200,000 cases of sexual abuse by priests over the previous seven decades.  After the meeting, Archbishop de Moulins-Beaufort cited “the determination of all bishops, and all Catholics, to make the protection of children an absolute priority, in close cooperation with the French authorities.”

According to the Ministry of Justice, as of 2018, the penitentiary system employed 720 Catholic, 361 Protestant, 231 Muslim, 191 Jehovah’s Witness, 74 Jewish, 54 Orthodox Christian, and 18 Buddhist chaplains.  In detainee visiting areas, visitors could bring religious objects to an inmate or speak with the prisoner about religious issues but could not pray.  Prisoners could pray in their cells individually, with a chaplain in designated prayer rooms, or, in some institutions, in special apartments where they could receive family for up to 48 hours.

In September, 55 foreign imams and two murshidates (Muslim religious female guides) began year-long assignments at mosques in the country.  On September 14, Chemsedine Hafiz, Rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris, announced on social media that his mosque held a welcoming seminar before sending the imams and murshidates to their respective places of assignment.  In accordance with a bilateral agreement with Algeria, the government hosted training sessions on secularism and French values for these imams and murshidates.

On September 29, as part of the government’s stated efforts to combat radicalization, Interior Minister Darmanin announced in a tweet the dissolution of the Nawa Center for Oriental Studies and Translation in the southwestern town of Pamiers for reportedly producing Islamist propaganda and legitimizing violence.  In its decree, the government cited Nawa publications that called for the “extermination of the Jews,” legitimized violence against LGBTQ+ individuals, and encouraged the punishment of “adulterous women.”  In a September 28 interview with Le Figaro, Darmanin said the government was in the process of closing six religious sites and banning another 10 local associations for ties to radical Islam.

In a September 24 ruling, the Council of State, the country’s highest court for public administration issues, approved the authorities’ December 2020 dissolution of the Collective Against Islamophobia in France, an NGO with the stated aim of combating discrimination towards Muslims in the country and providing legal support to victims of discrimination.  The government had moved to close the collective in late 2020, following the killing of teacher Samuel Paty by an Islamist.

In a tweet published on October 20, Interior Minister Darmanin announced that, at his request based on the instructions of President Macron, the Council of Ministers had dissolved the Coordination against Racism and Islamophobia, an association created in 2008 and based near Lyon.  On its website, the association presented itself as “an initiative aiming at fighting against a continuously growing scourge:  Islamophobia.”  Darmanin said the association called for “hatred, violence, and discrimination,” and government spokesman Gabriel Attal added it also expressed antisemitism.

In May, President Macron’s ruling La Republique en Marche! (The Republic on the Move!) Party threatened to withdraw its support for a Muslim candidate running in June local elections after she wore a headscarf in a photograph on a campaign flyer.  Party chief Stanislas Guerini said wearing “ostentatious religious symbols” in photographs appearing in campaign materials was against the party’s values.

On November 2, the Council of Europe retracted visuals that said, “freedom is in [a] hijab,” from a campaign combating discrimination and anti-Muslim sentiment after the French government rejected the messaging.  One advertisement, published the previous week, showed a split image of two women, one wearing a hijab and the other not, alongside the slogan: “Beauty is in diversity as freedom is in hijab.”  The split image “deeply shocked me,” Secretary of State for Youth Sarah El Hairy said in a November 2 television interview.  “It is the opposite of the values France is standing up for … which is why it was pulled today.”  The council suspended the entire promotional campaign on November 3.

On December 21, the Paris Administrative Court upheld the 2020 ruling by the Court of Montreuil overturning a 2019 municipal decree that had refused a permit for the Church of Scientology to renovate a building it had purchased in the municipality of Saint-Denis for the purpose of converting it into its headquarters and a training center.  The court ruled that the refusal was a “misuse of power” and ordered the city of Saint-Denis to reexamine the permit request within three months.

According to statistics released by the Ministry of the Armed Forces in March, the government regularly deployed 3,000 military personnel – a number that could rise to 10,000 at times of high threat – throughout the country to patrol vulnerable sites, including Catholic, Jewish, and Islamic sites and other places of worship.  Some Jewish leaders requested the government also station armed guards at Jewish places of worship; the government did not do so.

Interior Minister Darmanin called for strengthening security at places of worship ahead of major religious holidays because of the “persistent terrorist threat,” AFP reported on March 17.  Darmanin reportedly instructed prefects to pay particular attention to religious “gatherings and services that traditionally bring together large groups of people … and consequently constitute targets with strong symbolism.”  Darmanin also called for increasing counterterrorism patrols under the Ministry of the Armed Forces’ Operation Sentinel around vulnerable and symbolic religious sites.

In a September 1 memo to prefects during the Jewish month of Tishrei (September 7-October 6), which includes Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and several other Jewish holidays, Interior Minister Darmanin asked them to strengthen the security of Jewish places of worship and to ensure maximum police presence due to the “very high level of the terrorist threat.”  Counterterrorism patrols under Operation Sentinel could also be deployed around particularly vulnerable sites, according to the memo.  The MOI executed similar countermeasures at all Christian churches throughout the country on August 15 for the Day of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

On January 4, according to judicial sources, two of 14 defendants that the Special Criminal Court found guilty in 2020 of supporting terrorists who conducted attacks against satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket in 2015 appealed their sentences.  The appeal was scheduled to be heard in September-October 2022.

On March 22, the city of Strasbourg approved 2.56 million euros ($2.90 million) in city funding for the construction of the Milli Gorus Islamic Confederation-sponsored Eyyup Sultan Mosque.  In a March 23 Business FM television interview, Minister Darmanin stated that the city’s decision supported foreign interference in the country.  He criticized the Milli Gorus Islamic Confederation for what he said was its affiliation with Turkey and for engaging in political Islam and refusing to sign the “Charter of Principles for the Islam of France,” a part of the government’s effort to fight Islamist separatism.  Darmanin asked the local prefect to contest the city’s decision before an administrative judge.  Mayor Jeanne Barseghian wrote in a letter to President Macron that she had set as conditions for final approval of the funding that mosque project leaders ensure transparency in their financing and subscribe to the values of the republic.  The prefect disputed that conditions were set and announced on April 7 that the city’s decision would be contested in administrative court.  Further information on the status of the project was unavailable at year’s end.

On January 27, the Paris Court of Appeals ruled that 67-year-old Hassan Diab, the main suspect in the 1980 deadly bombing of the rue Copernic Synagogue in Paris, would have to stand trial, and on May 19, the Court of Cassation upheld that decision.  Diab, a dual Lebanese-Canadian citizen, is suspected of having prepared and placed the bomb, which killed three Frenchmen and an Israeli journalist and injured 46 persons.  Diab returned to Canada in 2018 after three years in detention in France when judges determined the evidence was insufficient to warrant prosecution.  On December 22, Le Figaro reported that Diab’s trial would open in Paris in April 2023, but by year’s end, authorities had not issued an arrest warrant and Diab remained in Canada.

On April 14, the Paris Appeals Court validated the grounds for an investigation of a 1982 terrorist attack against an Israeli restaurant in Paris that left six dead and wounded 22 others.  The decision left open the possibility of a trial, judicial sources reported.  The court dismissed two challenges relating to a missing signature on a judicial detention document and an attempt to nullify a December 2020 decision to place the suspect under investigation.  In December 2020, Norwegian authorities extradited to France a suspect in the case, naturalized Norwegian Walid Abdulrahman Abou Zayed.  On December 23, judges decided to keep the suspect in pretrial detention.

On April 16, the Ministry of Education reported 547 infringements of the secularism law in schools between December 2020 and March 2021.  Middle schools accounted for 45 percent of incidents, while primary schools accounted for 33 percent and high schools for 22 percent; 32 percent of violations were in the form of religiously motivated insults or other verbal aggression, while 10 percent involved proselytism.  According to a report released on December 9 by the ministry, 614 infractions of secularism in schools were reported between September and mid-November in the country’s 60,000 schools, an increase of 12 percent compared to December 2020-March 2021.  Incidents cited included insults or other verbal abuse of a religious nature, the wearing of religious symbols, and refusal to take part in school activities.

In February, Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer commissioned a report from former school inspector Jean-Pierre Obin on how teachers and headteachers might be better equipped to handle the issue of secularism in schools.  The report, published on June 14, described some confusion among pupils and teachers about the meaning of secularism, exacerbated by the case of teacher Samuel Paty, beheaded in 2020.  The report also highlighted how the historical roots of the country’s current laws were not always understood.  Following the report’s publication, according to Radio France International, Blanquer introduced training programs for teachers and principals on the place of religion in schools so that there would be a common understanding of what secularism entailed and what was and was not allowed.  On October 19, 1,000 teachers started the 120- to 150-hour training.

On October 15-16, schools commemorated the first anniversary of the killing of Samuel Paty with a series of ceremonies and screenings of documentaries on freedom of speech.  On October 16, Prime Minister Castex unveiled a memorial plaque honoring Paty at the entrance of the Education Ministry.  Macron also received Paty’s family at the Elysee Palace.

On February 20, 800 academics signed an open letter in Le Monde calling for Higher Education Minister Frederique Vidal’s resignation for threatening “intellectual repression” by ordering, earlier that month, a “scientific investigation” of “Islamo-leftism” at universities.  In a February 21 response, Vidal stated the investigation would be carried out in a “scientific” and “rational” manner.  Several officials within the Macron administration, including President Macron, distanced themselves from Vidal’s proposal, affirming their commitment to academic independence.  Academics said it was a failed attempt to distract from the more important problem of growing student discontent and poverty caused by COVID-19.  Information on the status of the investigation was unavailable at year’s end.

On April 14, the Mayor of Albertville, Frederic Burnier-Framboret, announced he would appeal an April 6 Grenoble Administrative Tribunal decision obliging him to grant a building permit for the Islamic school supported by the Milli Gorus Islamic Confederation, linked to Turkey.  According to media reports, Burnier-Framboret’s appeal would rest on an amendment to the Upholding Republican Values law that allows prefects to oppose the opening of out-of-contract schools supported by a foreign state “hostile” to the republic.  On December 16, the Lyon Appeals Court approved the mayor’s decision not to grant a building permit for the Muslim school.

On October 5, the Senate passed a nonbinding draft resolution to adopt the IHRA nonlegally binding working definition of antisemitism.  The motion, which was sponsored by the Senate’s majority party, the Republicans, with the government’s support, was adopted by a show of hands by all political groups, with one exception, the Communist, Republican, and Citizen and Ecologist Group.  Recalling the National Assembly had passed a similar resolution in 2019, Minister Schiappa said she was “happy that the Senate is taking the same approach.”  Although the resolution was not legally binding, it would allow for better identification and characterization of antisemitism, she added.  In February, the Paris city council adopted the IHRA working definition, while in March, the Strasbourg city council rejected it.  Pierre Jakubowicz, a council member who supported the IHRA working definition, said he was dismayed by the latter decision, adding that Strasbourg had been “plagued” by antisemitic outrages during the year.

In March, following a final judgment in 2020 by the European Court of Human Rights that the country had violated Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights when it convicted a group of 12 pro-Palestinian activists for incitement to discrimination for distributing leaflets calling for a boycott of Israeli goods, the government paid a fine of 380 euros ($430) of pecuniary damage and 7,000 euros ($7,900) in nonpecuniary damage to each activist.

On May 19, Normandy’s public prosecutor opened a formal investigation of what the prosecutor said were racist and anti-Islamic social media posts by the then far-right National Rally candidate for President of the Regional Council, Nicolas Bay.  On May 5, Bay – a member of both the Normandy Regional Council and the European Union (EU) Parliament – posted a video calling the Evreux Mosque a hub of “delinquency and terrorism” and saying it was linked to the killing of Samuel Paty.  Evreux elected officials denounced the video as a call to violence against Muslims, and the Great Mosque of Paris called for charges against Bay for inciting “racial hatred.”  On Facebook, Bay responded that “identity politics and Islamism” were threats to the nation and that the Evreux minaret was not welcome in Normandy.

Various groups initiated multiple petitions seeking action against the government for failing, according to the petitions, to follow the rule of law in dealing with the country’s Muslim population.  For example, in January, a coalition of 36 civil society and religious organizations from 13 countries, including the Strasbourg-based European Initiative for Social Cohesion, wrote to the United Nations Human Rights Committee to request that it open formal infringement procedures against the government for “entrenching Islamophobia and structural discrimination against Muslims.”  The 28-page document stated that the country’s actions and policies in relation to Muslim communities violated international and European laws.

On March 8, 25 NGOs from 11 different countries signed a letter urging the EU to investigate the French government for “state-sponsored Islamophobia” and imposing what the letter described as the discriminatory Charter of Principles for the Islam of France.  According to the signatories, the letter responded to what they said were the government’s efforts to isolate Islamist extremists through the Upholding Republican Values law, which was then under consideration in the Senate.  The letter to the European Commission stated that the legislation was inherently discriminatory and that the charter censored free speech in violation of European law.

On May 6, the National Council of Evangelicals of France sent an official report to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, criticizing the Upholding Republican Values law and stating it would restrict freedom of worship.

In an April 20 statement, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s General Rapporteur on combating racism and intolerance, Momodou Malcolm Jallow, expressed deep concern that the Upholding Republican Values law stigmatized Muslims and “will serve to further legitimize the marginalization of Muslim women and will contribute to establishing a climate of hate, intolerance, and ultimately violence against Muslims.”

In an October 4 meeting with prefects, Interior Minister Darmanin said the country had deported 72 radicalized foreign Islamists since October 2020 and 636 since 2018.  The 72 were part of a list of foreigners on the FSPRT (fichier des signalements pour la prevention de la radicalisation a caractere terroriste) – a list of individuals suspected of radicalization – under orders of deportation.  On September 28, Interior Minister Darmanin said he had called on regional prefects to refuse any residence permits for imams sent by a foreign government.  According to the Ministry of Interior, approximately 300 imams, or 70 percent of all imams in the country, were trained in foreign countries such as Turkey, Morocco, and Algeria.  In 2020, President Macron announced he would gradually end the foreign imam program by 2024, creating instead a program for imams to be trained in France.

On January 27, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day and the 76th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the Education Ministry invited teachers to take part in special activities and reflect on the Holocaust with students.

On January 10, Interior Minister Darmanin, Justice Minister Dupond-Moretti, Education Minister Blanquer, Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly, government spokesperson Gabriel Attal, and Junior Minister for Gender Equality, Diversity and Equal Opportunities Elisabeth Moreno attended a Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions (CRIF)-organized memorial ceremony outside a Paris kosher supermarket, where six years earlier a gunman had killed four Jews and held 15 other persons hostage.

On July 16, Prime Minister Castex, Junior Minister for Gender Equality, Diversity, an Equal Opportunities Moreno, and Secretary of State for the Armed Forces Genevieve Darrieussecq attended a ceremony at the Izieu Memorial Museum, the site where 44 Jewish children and their six educators were deported to Nazi extermination camps and later killed.  Prime Minister Castex issued a call to “fight everywhere and always against the unfulfilled temptations of barbarism.”

President Macron and government ministers continued to condemn antisemitism and declare support for Holocaust education on several occasions, including a February 19 visit to the Shoah Memorial; the March 19 commemoration of the ninth anniversary of the killings of three Jewish children and their teacher by Mohammed Merah in Toulouse; and the April 30 Holocaust Remembrance Day commemoration.  On April 25, Secretary of State for the Armed Forces Darrieussecq laid a wreath at the Shoah Memorial and the Memorial of the Martyrs of the Deportation in central Paris.

On April 26, the country held private or virtual ceremonies (because of COVID-19 restrictions) commemorating the thousands of persons deported to Nazi death camps during World War II.  On July18, Secretary of State for the Armed Forces Darrieussecq held a ceremony in Paris honoring the victims of the 1942 Velodrome d’Hiver roundup in which 13,000 Jews, including 4,000 children, were deported to extermination camps.  At the ceremony, 94-year-old Holocaust survivor Joseph Schwartz expressed anger in a speech at seeing anti-COVID-19 vaccine activists comparing the government’s COVID-19 health pass with the yellow Star of David Jews were forced to wear during World War II.

On July 26, Interior Minister Darmanin participated in a tribute for Father Jacques Hamel, the Catholic priest killed in an attack at his church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray in 2016, for which ISIS claimed responsibility.  In his remarks, Darmanin said, “The government of the republic commemorates its martyrs, and there is no doubt that Jacques Hamel is one of them,” adding that “Islamist barbarism [touched] all the symbols that make the West and France.”  President Macron and Prime Minister Castex also paid tribute to Father Hamel on social media on the same date, the anniversary of his death.

On October 18, Prime Minister Castex met with Pope Francis at the Vatican for celebrations to mark the centenary of the restoration of diplomatic relations between France and the Holy See.  At a press conference after the meeting, Castex, in a reference to a report on the sexual abuse of French children by Catholic clergy, said the Church “will not revisit the dogma of the secrecy of the confession,” and emphasized the need to find “ways and means to reconcile this with criminal law, the rights of victims,” adding that “the separation of Church and state is in no way the separation of Church and law.”

On October 26, President Macron and Interior Minister Darmanin participated in the first Economy and Protestantism dinner organized by the Protestant Federation and the Charles Gide Circle, a Protestant association which advocates a “responsible economy.”  In his remarks, President Macron stated that the Upholding Republican Values law was important “because we cannot deny [that] … in the name of religions, strategies have been set up that want to separate the republic.”  Macron added that he did not mean that the republic and society must separate itself from religion but that every person must be free to believe or not believe.  He said he did not accept any speech separating an individual from these rules “on the basis of a religion, a philosophy or anything else.  That is the basis of this law.”

On October 26, President Macron, accompanied by Chief Rabbi of France Korsia inaugurated in the village of Medan the first museum dedicated to the “Dreyfus Affair,” which recalls the 1894-1906 period when antisemitism led to the wrongful conviction of Jewish army captain Alfred Dreyfus.

On October 28, Interior Minister Darmanin attended a ceremony marking the repair of the Jewish cemetery of Sarre-Union, where vandals desecrated 269 graves in 2015.  “There is no greater duty for the republic than the protection of our Jewish compatriots who have suffered so much,” Darmanin stated.

In June, declared presidential candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon of the France Unbowed Party said that the killing by Mohammed Merah of Jewish schoolchildren and a rabbi in Toulouse in 2012 was “planned in advance” to place blame on Muslims before elections.  CRIF President Francis Kalifat condemned Melenchon’s remarks, tweeting they were an obscene attack on the memory of the victims and that Melenchon was pandering to Islamo-leftist voters and conspiracy theories.

On July 16, President Macron became the first president to visit the sanctuary of Lourdes on the same day when, according to believers, in 1858 the 18th and last apparition of the Virgin Mary to Bernadette Soubirous, also known as Saint Bernadette of Lourdes, took place in the cave of Massabielle, a Catholic holy place.

The country is a member of the IHRA.


Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal Framework

The constitution prohibits discrimination based on religious opinion and provides for freedom of faith and conscience, freedom to profess a religious or philosophical creed, and freedom to practice one’s religion.  It also prohibits an official state church.  It stipulates no one shall be required to disclose his or her religious convictions nor be compelled to participate in religious acts.  The constitution states religious instruction shall be part of the curriculum in public schools, and parents have the right to decide whether their children receive religious instruction.  It recognizes the right to establish private denominational schools.  The constitution guarantees the freedom to form religious societies and permits groups to organize themselves for private religious purposes without constraint.  It allows registered religious groups with Public Law Corporation (PLC) status to receive public subsidies from the states and to provide religious services in the military, hospitals, and prisons.

A federal law prohibits discrimination on the grounds of race or ethnic origin, gender, religion or belief, disability, age, or sexual orientation.

The federal criminal code prohibits calling for violence, inciting hatred, or taking arbitrary measures against religious groups or their members.  Violations are punishable by up to five years in prison.  It also prohibits “assaulting the human dignity of religious groups or their members by insulting, maliciously maligning, or defaming them,” specifying a maximum penalty of five years in prison, although prison sentences are rare.  The prohibition and penalties apply equally to online speech.  In addition, the federal criminal code prohibits insulting a domestic religious organization, its institutions or practices, or the religious beliefs or world views of another person, if doing so could disturb the public peace.  Violations are punishable by a fine or up to three years in prison but are rarely prosecuted.  The federal criminal code prohibits disturbing religious services or acts of worship, with violators subject to a fine or imprisonment for up to three years.  The law bans Nazi propaganda, Holocaust denial, and fomenting racial hatred, specifying a penalty of up to five years’ imprisonment.

By law, social media companies with more than two million registered users in the country must implement procedures to review complaints and remove or block access to illegal speech within seven days of receiving a complaint and within 24 hours for cases considered “manifestly unlawful.”  Noncompliance may result in fines of up to 50 million euros ($56.69 million).  Unlawful content includes actions illegal under the criminal code, such as defamation of religions and denial of historic atrocities.

The law permits the federal government to characterize “nontraditional” religious groups – such as the COS – as “sects,” “youth religions,” and “youth sects” and allows the government to provide “accurate information” or warnings about them to the public.  The law does not permit the government to use terms such as “destructive,” “pseudo-religious,” or “manipulative” when referring to these groups.  Several past court decisions ruled that the government must remain neutral toward a religion and may provide a warning to the public only if an “offer” by a religious group would endanger the basic rights of an individual or place the individual in a state of physical or financial dependence.

Religious groups wishing to qualify as nonprofit associations with tax-exempt status must register.  State-level authorities review registration submissions and routinely grant tax-exempt status; if challenged, their decisions are subject to judicial review.  Those applying for tax-exempt status must provide evidence they are a religious group through their statutes, history, and activities.

A special partnership exists between the states and religious groups with PLC status, as outlined in the constitution.  Any religious group may request PLC status, which, if granted, entitles the group to levy tithes (8 percent of income tax in Bavaria and Baden-Wuerttemberg, 9 percent in the other states) on members, who must register their religious affiliation with federal tax authorities.  Each state collects the tithes on behalf of the religious community through the state’s tax collection process, separately from and in addition to income taxes.  PLCs pay fees to the government for the tithing service, but not all groups with PLC status utilize the service.  PLC status also allows for benefits, including tax exemptions (larger than those given to groups with nonprofit status), representation on supervisory boards of public television and radio stations, and the right to special labor regulations.  State governments subsidize institutions with PLC status that provide public services, such as religious schools and hospitals.  In addition, due to historic “state-church contracts” dating back to before 1919, all state governments except for Bremen and Hamburg subsidize the Catholic Church and the EKD with different yearly amounts.

According to the constitution, the decision to grant PLC status is made at the state level.  Individual states base PLC status decisions on a number of varying qualifications, including an assurance of the group’s permanence, size, and respect for the constitutional order and fundamental rights of individuals.  An estimated 180 religious groups have PLC status, including Catholics, the EKD, Baha’is, Baptists, Christian Scientists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jews, Mennonites, Methodists, the Church of Jesus Christ, the Salvation Army, and Seventh-day Adventists.  The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has PLC status in the states of Hesse and Hamburg; no other Muslim communities have PLC status.  The COS does not have PLC or nonprofit status in any state.

Federal animal protection laws prohibit the killing of animals without anesthesia, including as part of halal and kosher slaughter practices.  Pursuant to a Federal Administrative Court decision, however, trained personnel may kill animals without anesthesia in a registered slaughterhouse under observation of the local veterinary inspection office if the meat is for consumption only by members of religious communities whose beliefs require slaughtering animals without anesthesia.

On July 6, a federal law took effect that enables authorities to restrict the tattoos, clothing, jewelry, and hair or beard styles of civil servants if this is necessary to ensure the functionality of public administration or fulfill the obligation for respectful and trustworthy conduct.  The law specifies that if these symbols are of a religious nature, they may only be restricted if they are “objectively suited to adversely affecting trust in a civil servant’s neutral performance of his official duties.”

According to a ruling by the Federal Constitutional Court, general headscarf bans for teachers at public schools are a violation of religious freedom, but implementation is left to the states, which may determine if special circumstances apply.  The states of Bavaria, North-Rhine Westphalia (NRW), and Saarland render decisions on a case-by-case basis.  Schleswig-Holstein, Hamburg, Bremen, and Lower Saxony do not prohibit headscarves for teachers.  Hesse permits teachers to wear headscarves as long as doing so does not impair “school peace” or threaten perceptions of state neutrality.  Rhineland-Palatinate and Baden-Wuerttemberg prohibit teachers from wearing full-face veils (i.e., niqabs or burqas).  Berlin bans visible signs of religious affiliation for police, lawyers, judges, and law enforcement staff but not for primary and secondary school teachers.  In Lower Saxony and Bavaria, judges and prosecutors may not wear religious symbols or clothing in the courtroom.  Other states have laws that restrict religious attire in certain circumstances.

Citing safety reasons and the need for traffic law enforcement, federal law prohibits the concealment of faces while driving, including by a niqab.  Infractions are punishable by a 60 euro ($68) fine.

State law in Rhineland-Palatinate and Baden-Wuerttemberg forbids students in primary and secondary schools from full-face veiling at school (i.e., wearing a niqab or burqa).  This state ban on full-face covering does not apply in higher education.

According to federal law, religious groups may appoint individuals with special training to carry out circumcision of males younger than six months.  After six months, the law states circumcisions must be performed in a “medically professional manner” and without unnecessary pain.

All states offer religious instruction and ethics courses in public schools.  Religious communities with PLC status (or those without such status that have concluded a special agreement with the state granting them this right) appoint religion teachers and work with the states to ensure the curriculum is in line with the constitution; the states pay the teachers’ salaries.  Most public schools offer the option of Protestant and Catholic religious instruction in cooperation with those Churches, as well as instruction in Judaism if enough students (usually 12, although regulations vary by state) express an interest.  Bavaria, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Berlin, Hesse, Lower Saxony, NRW, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland, and Schleswig-Holstein also offer some religious instruction in Islam.  In most federal states, Muslim communities or associations provide this instruction, while in Bavaria and Schleswig-Holstein, the state does.  In Hamburg and Bremen, nondenominational religious instruction is offered for all students by the EKD and the state, respectively.

Students who do not wish to participate in religious instruction may opt out; in some states, those who opt out may substitute ethics courses.  State authorities generally permit religious groups to establish private schools as long as they meet basic curriculum requirements.  Schooling is constitutionally mandated, and homeschooling, including for religious reasons, is prohibited in all states.

The government provides annual payments to Holocaust victims and their descendants, and regularly expands the scope of these programs to broaden the eligibility requirements.

The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Government Practices

In May, then federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer banned the Duesseldorf-based Muslim association Ansaar International and related suborganizations for financing terrorism and opposing the country’s constitutional order.  The NRW Office for the Protection of the Constitution (OPC, the state’s intelligence service) had been observing these organizations since 2013.  More than 1,000 officers were deployed in 10 states (Baden-Wuerttemberg, Bavaria, Berlin, Brandenburg, Hamburg, Hesse, Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate and Schleswig-Holstein) to enforce the ban.

In July, Hamburg’s domestic intelligence service announced that, based on new evidence, it would officially classify the IZH as an organization that is not independent, but rather one that “receives and depends on direct orders from Tehran.”  The IZH challenged this and previous claims in court; a verdict was pending at year’s end.  Hamburg opposition parties and civil society actors continued to advocate an end to Hamburg’s formal relationship with the IZH, which they said was an important Iranian regime asset.

Federal and state OPCs continued to monitor numerous Muslim groups, including the U.S.-designated terrorist groups ISIS, Hizballah, and Hamas, as well as groups such as Turkish Hizballah, Hizb ut-Tahrir, Tablighi Jama’at, Millatu Ibrahim, the IZH, the Muslim Brotherhood, Milli Gorus, and various Salafist movements.

The OPC in Saxony continued to monitor two mosques it said were dominated by Salafists.

According to reports from the federal OPC and COS members, the federal OPC and the OPCs of six states – Baden-Wuerttemberg, Bavaria, Berlin, Bremen, Hamburg, Lower Saxony, NRW, and Saxony-Anhalt – continued to monitor the activities of the COS, reportedly by evaluating COS publications and members’ public activities to determine whether they violated the constitution.  At least four major political parties – the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Christian Social Union (CSU), Social Democratic Party (SPD), and Free Democratic Party (FDP) – continued to exclude Scientologists from party membership.  “Sect filters,” signed statements by potential employees to confirm they had no contact with the COS, remained in use in the public and private sectors.

Groups under OPC observation continued to say that OPC scrutiny implied they were extremist and that this constrained their ability to apply for publicly funded projects.

In speeches in September and October, then Chancellor Merkel expressed regret that expressions of public antisemitism had increased in the country and said the country would expend great strength to resist it.  At the presentation of a prize for tolerance in September, she stated that support for Jewish life was a special obligation of the government and that the country would not tolerate racism, antisemitism, or hate directed at a group of persons.  She also acknowledged a strong increase in antisemitic acts in 2020 and expressed concern that antisemitism was becoming bolder and more open than before.

In August, the federal government announced it would spend an additional 12 million euros ($13.61 million) on research networks focusing on antisemitism between 2021 and 2024, complementing the one billion euros ($1.13 billion) in spending already planned for 89 measures against right-wing extremism, antisemitism, and racism during that period.  Then Education and Research Minister Anja Karliczek said the government wanted to invest millions in researching the causes of anti-Semitism in order “to efficiently fight” it, adding that there was reason to worry that the 2,351 cases of antisemitism reported in 2020 were “only the tip of the iceberg and that the unreported number of daily attacks on Jews is substantially higher.”

In July, the Duisburg public prosecutor’s office charged six law enforcement officers with sedition and spreading symbols of unconstitutional organizations by participating in right-wing extremist chat groups with names such as “Alphateam” and “Kunte Kinte.”  According to the NRW Interior Ministry, officers exchanged anti-Muslim content in the groups, including praise for the 2019 anti-Muslim attacks at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.  The groups had been found entered into an officer’s phone in September 2020.  Investigations against seven other accused members of the chat groups were dropped due to statutes of limitation or lack of sufficient evidence.  Investigations continued in 13 other cases, all involving law enforcement officers.  In September, the NRW Interior Ministry’s unit examining police right-wing extremism published its report of conclusions, in which it recommended 18 separate measures to fight right-wing extremism within the police.

In June, Frankfurt prosecutors launched investigations of 20 members of the city’s elite police special forces (SEK) for exchanging right-wing extremist material in a chat group, including material venerating Nazi organizations and expressing hate against minority groups.  On August 26, Hesse Interior Minister Peter Beuth dissolved the Frankfurt SEK and announced a statewide reorganization of SEK units.  Investigations against a majority of the officers continued at year’s end, but investigations of two superior officers for failing to report the activity were closed.  Frankfurt Police president Gerhard Bereswill said in September that parts of the city’s police force would be reformed to address antisemitic tendencies and other discriminatory attitudes within it.

In July, the chair of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, Ayman Mazyek, and other representatives of the Muslim community said that military chaplains were not available to the estimated 3,000 Muslim soldiers who “put their heads on the line for Germany.”  The Ministry of Defense said that the lack of an umbrella organization for Muslims with which the ministry could negotiate made it difficult to appoint imams as chaplains.

In June, the Bundeswehr (military) appointed its first military rabbi, the first of up to 10 rabbis scheduled to serve the 150-300 Jews in the armed forces.  The Central Council of Jews in Germany and leading politicians of all major parties welcomed the move.

According to the Rhineland-Palatinate Ministry of Justice, the state employed four Muslim prison chaplains, all of whom are state employees and had to pass a multistep recruitment process.  The states of Hesse, Rhineland-Palatinate, and Bavaria also employed Muslim chaplains, according to media reports, and in Lower Saxony, 11 Muslim chaplains worked for the prison system on a freelance basis.

In May, the Stuttgart Administrative Court decided in favor of the Wuerttemberg EKD, ruling that the federal government’s COVID-19 restrictions for areas with high infection rates did not apply to church funerals.  The EKD had argued in April that church funerals were religious services, not private events, and should therefore be exempt from the 30-person attendance limit mandated by the COVID-19 regulations.  The court also found that the federal regulation constituted an infringement on religious freedom.

Religious groups, including the Coordination Council of Muslims, whose members included the country’s largest Muslim organizations, expressed concern that authorities might restrict civil servants from wearing headscarves or other religious symbols after the law allowing such restrictions in some circumstances came into effect in July.

On March 22-23, then Chancellor Merkel and the minister-presidents (governors) of the 16 states decided the government would ask churches to cancel in-person Easter services on April 4 as part of heightened COVID-19 restrictions during a five-day “quiet period” of no in-person gatherings.  According to media reports, the Chancellor and minister-presidents did not consult with church leaders or government advisors on religious affairs before announcing the decision.  On March 24, following strong protests by the Catholic Church, the EKD, and business leaders, the federal government withdrew the plan for the quiet period.  The government, however, still encouraged churches to avoid in-person Easter services.

In April, NRW Interior Minister Herbert Reul suggested that religious congregations suspend in-person services due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The suggestion followed a COVID-19 outbreak at a church in Euskirchen.  Religious groups followed strict social distancing rules for in-person worship but also offered virtual and drive-in services.

Also in April, local officials and mayors across NRW encouraged Muslims to celebrate Ramadan virtually, as large gatherings were prohibited due to COVID-19 regulations.  To comply with social distancing regulations, many mosques offered in-person services for smaller numbers of participants, as well as online prayers.

In August, the NRW state government established a reporting office for antisemitic incidents that do not rise to the level of criminal charges.  The North Rhein State Association of Jewish Communities temporarily administered the office until the government could establish a new organization.

In March, the city of Cologne established a reporting and documentation office for antisemitic incidents at its National Socialist Documentation Center that it said would coordinate its efforts with similar institutions at the state and national level.

In April, the Hamburg government appointed Stefan Hensel, the local chair of the German Israeli Society (DIG), as the city-state’s first independent antisemitism commissioner.  Hensel’s three-year term began on July 1.  Hamburg’s largest Jewish congregation, led by Chief Rabbi Shlomo Bistritzky, as well as the smaller Liberal Jewish Community, endorsed the appointment.  Hensel stated that he was committed to fighting both antisemitism and anti-Zionism, adding that the city should appreciate Hamburg Jews as modern citizens.

Bremen remained the only state in the country without an antisemitism commissioner.  In previous years, the deputy chair of the Jewish community in Bremen said the community preferred to address antisemitism and other issues of concern in an existing forum that included the mayor and president of the legislature.

In August, the government of Baden-Wuerttemberg announced that the annual budget of the state’s antisemitism commissioner would be doubled to more than 2.2 million euros ($2.49 million).

In January, the Baden-Wuerttemberg State Criminal Police Office and the state Interior Ministry announced a new prevention program called “Safe in Religious Communities” aimed at improving communication between law enforcement agencies and religious communities, while giving community representatives tools to safely organize events and identify extremism.  Police officers at regional headquarters were trained to act as liaisons to the Jewish and Muslim communities.  According to a press release by the Baden-Wuerttemberg government, more religious communities might be added at a later date.

On August 23, Baden-Wuerttemberg Interior Minister Thomas Strobl officially inaugurated the country’s first two police rabbis, Moshe Flomenmann from Loerrach and Shneur Trebnik from Ulm.  According to Strobl, the police rabbis would serve as counselors and points of contact for prospective and current police officers, as well as for community members.

In September, the Central Archive for the History of Jews in Germany reopened at a new location in Heidelberg.  The federal Ministry of the Interior funded the archive with 900,000 euros ($1.02 million) annually.

On October 7, the Berlin Administrative Court dismissed a lawsuit filed by two supporters of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement in which they said the Bundestag had infringed upon their fundamental rights when it passed a resolution criticizing the BDS as antisemitic in 2019.

In May, the Moenchengladbach District Court of Appeals overturned a man’s eight-month suspended sentence imposed by a lower court for distributing the antisemitic manifesto of the 2019 Halle synagogue attacker online, and instead fined him 900 euros ($1,000).  The court stated it found the defendant’s claims that he had shared the manifesto only to mock its contents to be credible.

In May, the NRW Higher Administrative Court in Muenster rejected an exemption for a woman from Duesseldorf who wanted to drive a car while wearing a niqab.  The court cited the law prohibiting drivers from fully covering their face except for the eyes.  The decision could not be appealed.

According to a 2020 survey of state-level education ministries, the most recent available, more than 900 schools in the country offered Islamic religious instruction.  Almost 60,000 students took part in Islamic religious instruction in the school year 2019-20, an increase of 4,000 from the previous year.  Since 2017-18, approximately 35 schools had added Islamic religious instruction.

In May, the NRW Ministry of Education created a new commission to cooperate on Islamic religious instruction in public schools.

In July, the Wiesbaden Administrative Court ruled the Hesse state government had unlawfully ended cooperation with the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB) on Islamic religious education in public schools in April 2020.  The state government appealed the decision in August; the appeal was pending at the end of the year.

In the 2021-22 school year, 364 schools in Bavaria began offering Islamic religion courses, similar to existing religion courses on Christianity and Judaism.  All pupils in Bavaria must receive instruction in one of these religions, or an ethics course if courses in their religion are not available.  Approximately 100 Muslim instructors were expected to teach approximately 17,000 Muslim pupils, although demand for Islamic religion courses was much higher than 17,000, according to parents, schools, and education ministry officials.  Muslim communities complained that the state government, not the religious community, set the curriculum of the course.

In October, Saxony-Anhalt also began offering pupils Judaism instruction for the first time as a pilot project at an elementary school in Magdeburg.  Fourteen pupils enrolled in the course.

In April, the Mainz Administrative Court ruled that the 2019 closure of Rhineland-Palatinate’s only Islamic daycare center, the al-Nur center in Mainz, was lawful.  State authorities had closed the center, saying it was linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist organizations.

In May, the Sunni School Council Foundation, which oversees Islamic religious education in Baden-Wuerttemberg public schools, rejected the teaching license of Abdel-Hakim Ourghi, head of the Islamic Theology department at the University of Education in Freiburg.  While the foundation cited missing credentials as a reason for its decision, critics, including members of the Muslim community, academics, and politicians, accused it of trying to silence a prominent voice of a liberal interpretation of Islam.  The Baden-Wuerttemberg Ministry of Education and Cultural Affairs defended the decision, which could be appealed.

The government continued to subsidize some Jewish groups.  Based on an agreement between the federal government and the Central Council of Jews in Germany, the federal government contributed 13 million euros ($14.74 million) to help maintain Jewish cultural heritage and support integration and social work.  In addition, the federal government provided financial support to the Institute for Jewish Studies in Heidelberg, the Rabbi Seminar at the University of Potsdam, and the Leo Baeck Institute, an international group researching the history and culture of German Jewry.

State governments continued to provide funds to Jewish communities and organizations in various amounts for such purposes as the renovation and construction of synagogues.  The federal government continued to cover 50 percent of maintenance costs for Jewish cemeteries.  State and local police units continued to provide security for synagogues and other Jewish institutions.

In March, the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany (also known as the Jewish Claims Conference) and the government announced an agreement to provide transitional payments to surviving spouses of Jewish victims of the Nazis who had been receiving a pension from the government.

In January, the Baden-Wuerttemberg state government signed a contract with the state’s Jewish communities to protect Jewish institutions and combat antisemitism.  The contract stipulated the state government would provide funds to protect Jewish facilities totaling one million euros ($1.13 million) in 2021 and 1.17 million euros ($1.33 million) in each of the ensuing three years, as well as 200,000 euros ($227,000) yearly for three years for the construction of a Jewish academy.

On April 22, the Dresden city council voted to establish a museum on the history of Jewish life in the states of Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, and Thuringia and in Poland and the Czech Republic.

After many years of renovation, the Goerlitz synagogue reopened on July 12.  Consecrated 110 years earlier, it had survived the Nazi pogrom of November 1938 (also referred to as Kristallnacht) and been neglected during the German Democratic Republic period.  The federal government supported the construction with 2.8 million euros ($3.17 million).

Construction of Frankfurt’s Jewish Academy began in September.  The academy, due to open in 2024, would function, according to sponsors, as an intellectual center of Jewish life, philosophy, and culture.  The costs of construction, estimated at 34.5 million euros ($39.12 million), was to be shared by the federal government, the state of Hesse, the city of Frankfurt, and the Central Council of Jews in Germany.

In September, the city of Frankfurt and its Jewish community signed an extension to the contract that governs cooperation between them.  The contract stipulated the city would provide an additional one million euros ($1.13 million) for the protection and security of the Jewish community, starting with the 2022 fiscal year.

According to media reports and the Humanistic Union, an organization that describes its mission as working to protect and enforce civil rights, including the right to free development of the personality, total state government contributions during the year to the Catholic Church and the EKD totaled approximately 581 million euros ($658.73 million).  The union said it calculated its estimate based on budgets of the 16 states.  The Humanistic Union advocates the abolition of state church privileges such as faith-based religious education as a regular school subject, collection of church taxes, and other financial aid to religious groups.

On June 16, the country’s first publicly funded Islamic seminary opened in Osnabrueck with a class of 50 students.  Five Muslim federations, including the Central Council of Muslims in Germany and the Muslim Community of Lower Saxony, founded the seminary.  A commission of their representatives sets the curriculum, which is taught in German.  The federal and Lower Saxony governments committed to provide 5.5 million euros ($6.24 million) in funding to the school over five years.

The government continued the German Islam Conference dialogue with Muslims in the country.  The dialogue’s stated aim was to improve the religious and social participation of the Muslim population, give greater recognition to Muslims’ contributions to society, and – in the absence of a central organization representing all Muslims in the country – further develop partnerships between the government and Muslim organizations.  Among the specific outcomes of the dialogue were the April publication of a large study on Muslim life in the country that included new official estimates of the size of the Muslim population, the first in years; a May conference on young Muslims’ perspectives on issues affecting Islam in the country; the establishment of an Islamic seminary in Osnabrueck in June, including government funding for it; and support for efforts to inform the Muslim community about the COVID-19 pandemic throughout the year.

The country is a member of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance and held the organization’s chairmanship for the year ending March 31.


Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal Framework

The Fundamental Law, the country’s constitution, provides for freedom of conscience and religion, including freedom to choose or change religion or belief, and freedom – alone or in community with others and in public or in private – to manifest religion or belief through religious acts or ceremonies, or in any other way, in worship, practice, and observance.  It prohibits religious discrimination, as well as speech “aimed at violating the dignity” of any religious community.

The constitution’s preamble states, “We recognize the role of Christianity” in preserving the nation and “value the various religious traditions” in the country.  The constitution stipulates separation between religious communities and the state, as well as the autonomy of religious communities.  According to the constitution, the state may, at the request of religious communities, cooperate with them on community goals.  A 2020 constitutional amendment states that children must be guaranteed an “upbringing based on values stemming from our country’s constitutional identity and Christian culture.”

Per a 2019 amendment to the 2011 law on religion, the law establishes a four-tier system of, in descending order, “established (or incorporated) churches,” “registered churches” (also called “registered II”), “listed churches” (also called “registered I”), and “religious associations.”  The term “church” in the law refers to any religious community, not just Christian ones, and religious groups in any category may use “church” in their official names.  All previously incorporated religious groups retained their status in the first tier of the system as established churches.  Parliament must approve recognition of churches as established.  The Budapest-Capital Regional Court has jurisdiction to rule on applications for registration within the other three categories.  Religious groups in all four tiers have legal personality, which grants them legal rights, such as the right to own property.

Religious entities that do not apply for legal status in one of the four tiers are still able to function and conduct worship but are not eligible to receive state funding or income tax contributions from taxpayers.  The law states constitutional protection of freedom of religion also applies to unregistered groups.

To qualify for established church status, a religious group must first have registered status and then conclude a comprehensive cooperation agreement with the state for the purpose of accomplishing community goals.  The government submits the comprehensive agreement to parliament, which must approve it by a two-thirds majority vote.  A registered church becomes an established church from the day parliament approves the comprehensive agreement.  Established churches are eligible to benefit from significant state subsidies for the performance of public service activities.

To qualify for registered church status, a religious group must have received tax allocations from an average of 4,000 persons per year in the five-year period prior to the application.  This status also requires that the group either have operated as a religious association for at least 20 years in the country, or at least 100 years internationally, or have operated as a listed church for at least 15 years in the country or at least 100 years internationally.

To qualify for listed church status, a religious group must receive tax allocations from an average of 1,000 persons per year in the three-year period prior to the application for status and have operated as a religious association for at least five years in the country or for at least 100 years internationally.

To qualify for religious association status, a religious group must have at least 10 members.

The law allows the government to negotiate individual cooperation agreements with all four tiers of religious groups for the performance of public service activities and support of faith-based activities.  The agreements’ duration depends on the status of the religious community, ranging from a five-year maximum for religious associations to 10 and 15 years for listed and registered churches, respectively, and unlimited duration for established churches.  These agreements may be prolonged.

Religious groups that agree not to seek state (including personal income tax allocations) or European Union (EU) funding for their religious activities may qualify as registered or listed churches without fulfilling the requirement regarding the number of personal income tax allocations.  The applicant religious community must perform primarily religious activities and may not be a criminal defendant or have been convicted of a crime during the previous five years, under sanction for “repeated violation of accounting and management rules,” or considered a national security threat.  The court decides whether to grant status as a registered or listed church based on an examination of the criteria above.  In reviewing these applications, the court may consult church law, church history, or ecclesiastical or academic experts, and may also seek the opinion of the national security services.

Religious groups that agree not to seek government or EU funding but accept financial support at a later stage must report it to the court within 15 days of the disbursement of the aid.  To avoid losing its status or a reclassification to the lower association tier, the religious group has eight days to declare to the court that it has returned the funds, requested cancellation of its religious registration status, or complied with the individual tax allocation requirement to become a registered or listed organization.  The religious group or prosecutor’s office may appeal the court’s decision on the status of the group to the Budapest-Capital Court of Appeal.

The law stipulates the minister responsible for church issues, based on information received from the court, shall manage an electronic database of religious groups with legal status, accessible to the public free of charge.  The database is publicly accessible at the government’s central webpage,

The law allows taxpayers to allocate 1 percent of their income taxes to any religious community in any of the four tiers, starting with the 2020 tax year. Religious groups may use these funds as they wish.  Only established and registered churches (the two highest tiers) are eligible to receive a state subsidy supplementing the 1 percent tax allocations.

According to the law, the Budapest-Capital Regional Court may dissolve a religious community with legal status – with the exception of established churches – if its activities conflict with the constitution or law or if the court rules its registration should have been denied.  Parliament may dissolve an incorporated church if the Constitutional Court finds it is operating in violation of the constitution.  If a religious community is dissolved without a legal successor, its assets, after satisfying creditors, become the property of the state and shall be used for public interest activities.

Thirty-two churches have established (previously known as “incorporated”) status.  These include the Roman Catholic church; a range of Protestant denominations; a range of Orthodox Christian groups; other Christian denominations such as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Seventh-day Adventists, and the Salvation Army; three Jewish groups, the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities, Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation (EMIH), and the Hungarian Autonomous Orthodox Jewish Community; two Muslim organizations; a Buddhist umbrella organization; and the Hungarian Society for Krishna Consciousness, the sole Hindu group registered as a church.

By law, the state may neither operate nor establish any institution for controlling or monitoring religious groups.  Their doctrines, internal regulations, and statutes are not subject to state review, modification, or enforcement.  Copyright law protects their names, symbols, and rites, while criminal law protects buildings and cemeteries.

The constitution establishes a unified system for the Office of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights (ombudsperson).  The ombudsperson investigates cases related to violations of fundamental rights – including religious freedom – and initiates general or specific measures for their remedy.  These measures do not have the force of law.

Treaties with the Holy See regulate relations between the state and the Roman Catholic Church, including financing of public services and religious activities and settling claims for property seized by the state during the Communist era.  These treaties serve as a model for regulating state relations with other religious groups, although there are some differences in the rights and privileges the state accords to each of the religious groups with which it has agreements.  The state has also concluded formal agreements with the Hungarian Reformed Church, Hungarian Lutheran Church, Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities (Mazsihisz), and four Orthodox churches.

According to the law, established, registered, and listed churches may perform pastoral services in prisons and hospitals.  Other laws indicate religious associations may also have the right to provide services at these facilities.

Military and law enforcement personnel may freely practice their religion in private and also at their workplaces if their religious practice does not violate their mandatory service duties.  The Roman Catholic, Reformed, and Lutheran Churches, and Jewish congregations (which the government generally calls “historical churches”) may provide chaplain services to the military without seeking permission.  Other religious groups must seek permission to offer such services.

Penitentiaries generally allow inmates free practice of religion and provide them with special diets, such as kosher, vegetarian, and pork-free meals.  Historical churches may provide pastoral services in prisons without special permission, but other religious groups may do so only within official visiting hours as outlined in individual agreements and with permission from the penitentiary.  Similarly, historical churches receive automatic access to patients in hospitals to provide pastoral services, while other groups may do so only under certain conditions, such as providing services only during visiting hours.

One hour per week of education in faith and ethics or general ethics is mandatory through the first eight grades of public school.  Parents and students choose between the faith and ethics class offered by an established church of their choosing or a secular ethics course taught by public school teachers.  Other religious groups are not entitled to provide religious education as part of the mandatory curricula in public schools but may offer extracurricular, optional religious education in public schools at the request of parents or students.  Private schools are not required to offer faith and ethics or general ethics classes.

All religious groups registered in one of the four categories have the right to open their own schools.  The state provides a subsidy, based on the number of students enrolled, for employee salaries at all such schools.  Only established churches automatically receive a supplementary subsidy for the schools’ operating expenses.  Other religious groups may apply for a supplementary operational subsidy, and the Ministry of Human Capacities (MHC) may sign an individualized contract with them to cover these costs.

The law also affords all religious groups with legal status the right to assume operation of public schools if more than 50 percent of the parents and adult students enrolled at the school sign a petition to do so and the MHC approves the change.  In these cases, the state may continue to fund the schools.  Whether newly established or converted from public status, religious schools are free to conduct their own religious teaching without government input and to make faith education mandatory and not substitutable with an ethics class.  The state inspects both religious and public schools every two years to ensure they conform to legal standards.

The constitution prohibits speech that violates the dignity of any religious community.  The law prohibits both incitement to violence and incitement to hatred against a religious community or its members, punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment.  The law provides a maximum punishment of three years in prison for impeding others through violence or threats from freely exercising their religion or abusing individuals because of their religious affiliation.

Assault motivated by the victim’s actual or presumed religious affiliation is a felony punishable by one to five years in prison.  Violence against a member of the clergy is classified as violence against an “individual providing public service” and is also punishable with a prison sentence of one to five years.  Any person who engages in preparation for the use of force against any member of a religious community is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment not exceeding two years.

The law prohibits public denial, expression of doubt, or minimization of the Holocaust, genocide, and other crimes against humanity committed by the National Socialist or Communist regimes, punishing such offenses with a maximum sentence of three years in prison.  The criminal code makes wearing, exhibiting, or promoting in public the swastika, the logo of the Nazi SS, or the symbol of the Arrow Cross – a fascist, antisemitic party that allied with Nazi Germany – in a way that harms the human dignity or the memory of Holocaust victims a misdemeanor, punishable by five to 90 days’ detention.

The law provides for the lifting of official immunity of an MP who incites hatred against religious groups or publicly denies crimes of the Communist or National Socialist regimes.  No MP has been the subject of such a proceeding.

The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Government Practices

During the year, the government provided 134 billion forints ($410.64 million) to established churches (compared with 216.4 billion forints – $663.15 million – during 2020), of which 91 percent – 122.3 billion forints ($374.79 million) – went to the four historical churches.  The Roman Catholic Church received 80 billion forints ($245.16 million), the Reformed Church 34.1 billion forints ($104.50 million), the Evangelical Church 5.2 billion forints ($15.94 million), Mazsihisz 2.2 billion forints ($6.74 million), EMIH 524 million forints ($1.61 million), and the Jewish Orthodox community 260 million forints ($797,000).  The religious groups that received the bulk of the government’s financial support used the funds for such activities as building maintenance; public educational and social services; religious instruction and cultural activities; community programs and investments; employee wages, and faith-based activities for citizens living abroad.

According to statistics the tax authority published on September 13, 136 churches and religious groups received 1 percent personal income tax allocations during the year.  As in previous years, the churches receiving the most allocations were the Roman Catholic Church, with 740,326 persons contributing 4.3 billion forints ($13.18 million); Hungarian Reformed Church, with 309,825 persons contributing 1.8 billion forints ($5.52 million); and Lutheran Church, with 82,701 persons contributing 508 million forints ($1.56 million).  The Hungarian Society for Krishna Consciousness ranked fourth, with 73,890 persons contributing 472 million forints ($1.45 million).  MET, which collected 1 percent personal income tax allocations for the first time since the 2011 modification of the religion law, ranked fifth, with 39,815 persons contributing 315 million forints ($965,000). Among Jewish groups, Mazsihisz received the largest allocation.

According to the PMO, during the 2021-2022 school year, churches or church-run higher educational institutions operated 19.6 percent of elementary and secondary schools (compared with 17.1 percent in 2019-20), and religious associations operated 0.4 percent.  Churches or church-run higher educational institutions operated 9.2 percent of preschools (with students aged three to seven), compared with 10 percent run by incorporated churches in the previous year, and religious associations operated 0.2 percent.  There were 217,169 students – 52.6 percent of whom were in Catholic schools – studying at preschools and elementary and secondary schools operated by churches and religious organizations, compared with 222,944 in the previous year.

Independent media reported in August that the government provided 10 billion forints ($30.64 million) to the preschool development program of the Roman Catholic Church during the year.  The government also allotted an additional 3.5 billion forints ($10.73 million) for educational development projects of the Reformed Church and the Catholic Churches.

For the school year beginning in September, the MHC withdrew complementary funding from MET’s educational institutions, attended by approximately 2,200 mostly Roma children.

Works of writers widely viewed as antisemitic, including member of the Arrow Cross Party Jozsef Nyiro and convicted war criminal Albert Wass, remained mandatory reading material in elementary and secondary public schools.

In a program broadcasted by public Kossuth Radio in March, a historian discussed the Numerus Clausus Law of 1920 and stated the law was not about the deprivation of rights, but only the limitation of rights.  The law, enacted under Regent Miklos Horthy, capped the number of Jews allowed to attend universities and is regarded by the Jewish community as the first antisemitic law in the country’s interwar period.  (Horthy was the leader of the World War II-era Hungarian state.  He allied the country with Nazi Germany and deported more than 400,000 Jews to Nazi death camps.)

In January, the first instance Budapest-Capital Regional Court rejected a complaint filed by MP and deputy faction leader of the Christian Democratic People’s Party Imre Vejkey regarding a cartoon by Gabor Papai published by the daily independent Nepszava in 2020.  The cartoon showed the chief medical officer, who oversaw the government’s COVID-19 pandemic response, looking at Jesus on the cross and saying, “his underlying conditions caused” his death.  According to media commenters, the cartoon satirized what critics viewed as the chief medical officer’s attempt to minimize the number of deaths in the country that were attributable to COVID-19.  The appeals court stated on June 3 that the cartoon infringed the plaintiff’s right to human dignity as a member of the Christian community.  The ruling also ordered the newspaper to pay 400,000 forints ($1,200) plus court costs to Vejkey and to publish an apology on the front page. The newspaper published the apology on June 25, but it announced on July 2 that it had requested the Supreme Court (Curia) to review the lower court’s decision.  At year’s end, there was no information on whether the Supreme Court had agreed to review the case.

On February 5, the Constitutional Court ruled in a seven-year-long case involving the cover page of independent weekly newspaper HVG, entitled “Nagy Haracsony” (a play on words with the terms “Great Christmas” and “great grab-all”).  The Constitutional Court ruled that the cover was protected by freedom of speech and was not intended to offend the Christian community.

In February, media reported a local municipality in Budapest did not extend a property use agreement with the town’s only Jewish broadcaster, Heti TV (Weekly TV).  The municipality said that due to financial difficulties, it intended to make the space available to bidders.  Station founder Peter Breuer criticized the move and the station continued to operate at a new location.

In March, Deputy PM Zsolt Semjen signed a cooperation agreement with the Hungarian Jewish Prayer Association (Zsima), a Jewish organization established in October 2020.  The agreement entailed state funding in the amount of 51 million forints ($156,000) annually until 2025.

The COS reported that on April 28, the DPA raided the storage facility of its Budapest mission and seized one-third of its religious files on its members.  The DPA confiscated the remaining folders on May 26.  These raids were the continuation of the DPA’s 2017 investigation into the COS’s alleged criminal abuse of personal data, in which the DPA seized COS documents at the group’s offices in in Budapest and Nyiregyhaza and fined the COS 40 million forints ($123,000).  The Constitutional Court rejected the appeals petition of the Nyiregyhaza COS mission of the DPA’s 2017 seizure of its documents, while a similar appeals petition of the Budapest COS mission remained pending at year’s end.

On May 27, the NAV raided the homes of dozens of COS members in a criminal case involving alleged tax fraud.  The NAV took four persons to its headquarters in handcuffs.  The COS also reported that the NAV put a lien on the building of the Central Church.  According to the COS, its appeals of government decisions to revoke the residence permit of a Russian Ukrainian missionary couple in 2019 and expel a Kazakh missionary in 2020 were unsuccessful and the decisions became final.

The list of religious associations and listed churches was available at a dedicated webpage maintained by the PMO.  Court decisions regarding the registration process for registered churches, listed churches, and religious associations were available at the central website of the courts,

The PMO reported that some religious groups were eligible for a simplified registration procedure.  Under the simplified procedure, religious groups did not need to establish the number of persons making income tax allocations to them in prior years or allocations from before 2012, the year when the religion law entered into force.  A total of 15 groups reapplied under the simplified procedure.  At year’s end, there were 234 groups registered as religious associations and 12 listed as churches, including 10 groups which had had applications pending before the amendment to the religion law entered into force in 2019.  According to the PMO, the Budapest-Capital Regional Court rejected two applications, and one remained pending.  The two rejected religious groups were registered as religious associations.  The number of established churches remained unchanged at 32.

The PMO also stated no religious groups qualified for registered church status during the year because they could not meet the requirement of receiving income tax allocations from an average of at least 4,000 persons per year in the previous five years, a period which could only begin in 2019 or later.  The number of registered churches therefore remained zero.  MET appealed the Budapest-Capital Regional Court’s decision to register it as a listed church and requested classification as a registered church.  That appeals process was ongoing at year’s end.

The Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU) – or TASZ in Hungarian – an NGO that represented some religious groups deregistered following the 2011 adoption of the religion law that established a new reregistration process and a tiered system for churches, reported it would not continue domestic or international legal challenges after the Constitutional Court in 2020 rejected its petition that the amended religion law was discriminatory and did not sufficiently address concerns related to its 2011 version.

The HCLU continued the monitoring of, and international advocacy for, the enforcement of the 2014 European Court of Human Rights ruling that the religion law violated freedom of religion and caused monetary damages to the deregistered churches.  The 2014 judgment required the government to reach an agreement with the applicant churches on the restoration of their status and on just compensation for any damages.  The HCLU said it was also assessing whether state financing for certain churches led to their overrepresentation in educational and social institutions, thereby compromising the state’s neutrality in religion.

In February, the NAV debited MET’s bank account for what it said were tax and social security arrears in the amount of approximately 250 million forints ($766,000).  MET’s leader, Pastor Gabor Ivanyi, stated MET would be able to pay its outstanding bills if the state would compensate it for damages sustained in 2016-2019 stemming from the group’s loss of church status.  The pastor added that losing its established church status had also made MET ineligible to receive a government supplement matching the 1 percent personal income tax allocations from Church members.  Separately, in September 2020, MET concluded an agreement with the state-owned utility company to delay payment of outstanding bills until April.  The company had threatened to disconnect MET’s institutions from the gas network in 2020 due to nonpayment.  MET stated that its deregistration as a state-recognized church in 2011 and state administrative measures against the Church in 2020 and 2021 were a retaliation for MET’s leader and Pastor Ivanyi’s public criticism and questioning of PM Orban’s claims that he governed by Christian principles.

The government concluded a research project it had been conducting for several years regarding the value of Jewish heirless and unclaimed property, but in January, in a letter addressed to the WJRO, the government stated for the first time that its 2007 settlement with the WJRO represented “definitive satisfaction of compensation claims” and that under the constitution adopted by the government in 2011, it was “no longer possible to pay restitution for any abandoned Jewish property, whether in or outside Hungary.”  The WJRO disagreed with the government position and sought further negotiations.  Discussions between the government and the WJRO on the compensation issue resumed in October, but by year’s end, the government had not proposed a negotiation roadmap or target date.

In April, Mazsihisz announced that two Orthodox Jewish groups, EMIH and the Hungarian Orthodox Jewish Community, had requested the revision of the government-paid restitution annuity for confiscated Jewish properties, and sued Mazsihisz at the Jerusalem Supreme Rabbinical Court.  In June, the court (which holds no legal jurisdiction in Hungary), in a nonbinding injunction, called on the government to freeze the payments until new criteria for the division of the annuity were defined.  At year’s end, the government had not changed the distribution of the restitution annuity.

According to the COS, the Csongrad County Government Office again failed to act on a certificate of occupancy application by the COS for its headquarters in Budapest.  The application had remained pending since 2017, despite a 2017 Budapest Administrative and Labor Court ruling that the county office process the COS’s application by March 2018.  The COS said it had received no explanation for the continued delay.  An extant court order allowed the COS to continue to use the building.

The Organization of Muslims in Hungary (OMH) reported that the municipality-owned Budapest Funeral Institute provided cemetery space for Muslims, but that Islamic burials required a permit issued by the Hungarian Islamic Community (HIC), the other Muslim organization, for which the HIC charged a fee of approximately 50,000 forints ($150).  OMH members expressed concerns about this practice.  Other than in the capital, OMH reported there was a limited amount of cemetery space in the city of Pecs.  The restoration of the state-owned Yakovali Hasan Mosque in Pecs, ongoing since 2019, remained pending, which prevented the local Muslim community from using the mosque as a place of worship.

On June 10, the renovated Rumbach Synagogue in Budapest – which served as a Jewish deportation point in 1941 – reopened as a place of worship and culture for the first time since the 1950s.  The government supported the renovation with 3.2 billion forints ($9.81 million).  Senior officials of the World Jewish Congress attended the opening ceremony.

On August 29, a ceremony marked the completion of the renovation of a Mazsihisz-operated Jewish hospital in Budapest.  Minister of Human Capacities Miklos Kasler stated at the opening ceremony that the government provided five billion forints ($15.32 million) for the reconstruction of the hospital as part of its efforts to ensure that hospitals run by faith-based groups played a significant role in the national healthcare system.  The facility was the only Jewish hospital in the country and served both Jewish and non-Jewish patients, some of whom were Holocaust survivors.

According to the OMH, Muslims serving prison sentences continued to receive meals containing pork meat or pork fat regularly, despite complaints that it violated their religious dietary practices.

On May 1, Fidesz cofounder and media personality Zsolt Bayer wrote in the government-aligned newspaper Magyar Nemzet that the U.S. Secretary of State, who has Hungarian ancestry, was a “rootless Hungarian” and a “rootless American,” which many interpreted as a classic antisemitic trope.  Bayer has a long history of antisemitic writings and statements.  He has high profile platforms on government-aligned media outlets and received a prestigious government award in 2016.

In June, Laszlo Toroczkai, president of the Mi Hazank (Our Homeland) Party, which is widely described as extreme right and has seats in parliament and in local municipalities, wrote that European nations should stand on their own feet and needed “neither Jews nor Palestinians.”  In August, he commemorated the members of Ragged Guard, a paramilitary unit active in the interwar period, whose leader Ivan Hejjas was responsible for killing and robbing hundreds of Jews.  On his social media channel, he said in October that certain influential businessmen and politicians with Jewish roots were using the COVID-19 pandemic to create a new world order.  In February, the deputy president of the Mi Hazank Party, Elod Novak, gave a speech at an event commemorating Regent Horthy.

In September, the Hungarian Baptist Church signed a cooperation agreement with the government to carry out religious, educational, social, and cultural activities.

On September 12, Prime Minister Orban met with Pope Francis, who celebrated the closing Mass of the International Eucharistic Congress, a week-long gathering of the Roman Catholic Church held in Budapest.  Following their meeting, PM Orban wrote on his Facebook page, “I asked Pope Francis not to let Christian Hungary perish.”

At an international conference on antisemitism and Holocaust remembrance on October 13 in Sweden, Minister for Family Affairs Katalin Novak said that [Holocaust] remembrance was “extremely important” for the government.  She called for a continuous fight against manifestations of antisemitism.

Government officials continued to make statements in defense of a “Christian Europe” and against Muslim immigration.  On September 1, PM Orban stated at the Bled Strategic Forum in Slovenia that present-day migrants were “all Muslims” who changed the cultural identity of Europe.  On September 9, he said at the opening of the academic year at the Mathias Corvinus Collegium, a private educational institution, that during the “Muslim flood [of immigrants],” the West was unable to confront its own historical mission.  On September 27, Orban stated at a church consecration, “Hungarians can only survive as Christians, and each new church is a bastion in the nation’s struggle for freedom and greatness.” He added that since 2010, there had been 150 new churches built and more than 3,000 churches renovated in the country and in the Carpathian basin (former Hungarian territories currently inhabited by ethnic Hungarians).

On October 14, head of the PMO Gergely Gulyas stated at a government-sponsored conference organized in the framework of the country’s Council of Europe presidency, “In Western Europe, we can no longer speak of Christian democracy in its original and Central European sense.”

In October, Peter Barnabas Farkas, deputy mayor in the town of Ozd and member of the Jobbik Party, resigned from his position after two photos of him from 2018 emerged in which he appeared to be giving a Nazi salute in front of the Holocaust Museum in Poland.  Farkas later apologized and visited the Holocaust Memorial Center in Budapest.

On October 23, the anniversary of the 1956 revolution, PM Orban accused the opposition of competing to represent the interests of a certain Jewish-American financier and the EU, who were aiming to “take Hungary from the hands of Mary and place it at the feet of Brussels.”

In November, the Chief Rabbi of EMIH, Slomo Koves, told press that the House of Fates, a proposed new Holocaust museum and education center in Budapest owned by EMIH, would likely be ready to open by 2024.  Leading Jewish groups and Holocaust scholars have criticized the museum concept as an attempt to obscure the role of the World War II-era Hungarian state and its leader, Miklos Horthy, in the Holocaust.

In a report on the instrumentalization of antisemitism in European politics issued in February, the Anti-Defamation League, an international NGO, stated the government used coded antisemitism in campaigns – beginning at the end of 2015 – against EU migration policies, following the arrival of more than a million migrants from the Middle East.  The report cited what it described as the government’s demonization of a well-known Jewish-American financier of Hungarian origin.

The country is a member of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.


Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal Framework

The constitution prohibits discrimination based on religion and provides for freedom of religion and worship for individuals and communities.  The constitution states no one may be compelled to testify about his or her religion or beliefs.  It also states, “No religion shall have a state character,” but “public authorities shall take into account the religious beliefs of Spanish society and consequently maintain appropriate cooperative relations with the Catholic Church and other denominations.”  The Catholic Church is the only religious group explicitly mentioned in the constitution.  Under the penal code, it is a crime to prevent or disrupt religious services or to offend or scorn religious beliefs, ceremonies, or practitioners.  The constitution allows limits on expression if “necessary to maintain public order.”

The law imposes a sentence of between eight to 12 months against an individual who offends the feelings of members of a religious group, publicly disparages the dogmas, beliefs, rights, or ceremonies of that religious group or who publicly insults members of the religious group.  The law imposes the same penalties against an individual who publicly disparages those who do not profess any religion or belief.  The law also imposes a six-month to one-year prison sentence or a fine against anyone who perpetrates “profane acts” that “offend the feelings” of persons belonging to legally protected religious confessions in a place of worship or at religious ceremonies.

The penal code’s definition of hate crimes includes acts of “humiliation or disrespect” against victims because of their religion, with penalties of one to four years in prison.  Antisemitism is specifically defined in the penal code as a hate crime.  By law, authorities may investigate and prosecute criminal offenses committed by neo-Nazi groups as terrorist crimes.  Genocide denial is a crime if it incites violent attitudes, such as aggressive, threatening behavior or language.  The law also provides for a “Declaration of Reparation and Personal Recognition” for those who experienced violence or persecution for political, ideological, or religious beliefs during the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War or the subsequent dictatorship of Francisco Franco.

The government does not require religious groups to register, but registration confers on religious groups certain legal benefits.  Groups registered in the Registry of Religious Entities maintained by the Office of Religious Affairs in the Ministry of the Presidency, Relations with Parliament, and Democratic Memory (Ministry of the Presidency) may buy, rent, and sell property, and may act as a legal entity in civil proceedings.  Registration entails completing forms available on the ministry’s website and providing notarized documentation of the foundational and operational statutes of the religious group, its legal representatives, territorial scope, religious purposes, and address.  All persons or groups have the right to practice their religion whether or not registered as a religious entity.  New religious communities may register directly with the Ministry of the Presidency, or religious associations may register on their behalf.

Registered groups that wish to sign cooperation agreements with the state must acquire notorio arraigo (“deeply rooted” or permanent) status through the Ministry of the Presidency’s Office of Religious Affairs.  To achieve this status, groups must have an unspecified “relevant” number of followers, a presence in the country for at least 30 years, and a “level of diffusion” in the general population that the government considers demonstrates a “social presence,” which is not further defined.  Groups must also submit documentation demonstrating the group is religious in nature to the Office of Religious Affairs, which maintains the Register of Religious Entities.  Jehovah’s Witnesses, UBE-FEBE, the Church of Jesus Christ, and the Episcopal Orthodox Assembly of Spain and Portugal are registered religions with notorio arraigo status.

The government maintains a bilateral agreement with the Holy See, executed in part by the Episcopal Conference of Spain.  The Episcopal Conference interacts with the government on behalf of the entire Catholic community.  Per a 1979 agreement with the Holy See, individual Catholic dioceses and parishes are not required to register with the government.  The Catholic Church is the only religious entity to which persons may voluntarily allocate 0.7 percent of their taxes.  The government also has cooperation agreements with CIE, FEREDE, and FCJE.  These agreements with the country’s four predominant religions – Catholicism, Islam, Protestantism, and Judaism – are legally binding and provide the religious groups with certain tax exemptions and the ability to buy and sell property, open a house of worship, and conduct other legal business.  The agreements also grant civil validity to weddings performed by clergy and permit the placement of teachers in schools and chaplains in hospitals, the military, and prisons.  Groups with cooperation agreements are also eligible for independently administered government grants.  The agreements cover legal, educational, cultural, and economic affairs; religious observance by members of the armed forces; and the military service of clergy and members of religious orders.

If the Office of Religious Affairs deems an applicant for registration a nonreligious group, the applicant may instead be included in the Register of Associations maintained by the Ministry of the Interior.  Inclusion in this register grants legal status but confers no other benefits.  Registration itself simply lists the association and its history in the government’s database.  Registration as an association is a precursor to requesting that the government deem the association to be of public benefit, which affords the same tax benefits as charities, including exemption from income tax and taxes on contributions.  For such a classification, the association must be registered for two years and maintain a net positive fiscal balance.

The Pluralism and Coexistence Foundation is a governmental entity attached to the Ministry of the Presidency that promotes religious freedom and diversity.  It provides funding to non-Catholic religious denominations that have a cooperation agreement with the government in support of activities that promote cultural, educational, and social integration.  It provides nonfinancial assistance to other religious groups registered with the government to increase public awareness.  The foundation also promotes dialogue and rapprochement among religious groups and the integration of religion in society.  It works closely with the Office of Religious Affairs.

The government funds religious services within the prison system for Catholic and Muslim groups, including Sunday Catholic Mass, Catholic confession, and Friday Islamic prayer.  The cooperation agreements of FCJE and FEREDE with the government do not include provisions for publicly funded services.  These groups provide religious services in prisons at their own expense.

The government guarantees access to centers for asylum seekers and refugees for religious workers of groups with cooperation agreements with the state so that these groups may provide direct assistance, at their expense, to their followers in the centers.  Religious workers from groups without a cooperation agreement with the government may enter internment centers upon request to the Ministry of the Presidency.

Military rules and cooperation agreements with the government allow religious military funerals and chaplain services for Catholics, Muslims, Protestants, and Jews, should the family of the deceased request it.  Other religious groups may conduct religious funerals upon request.

The government recognizes marriages performed by all religious communities with notorio arraigo status.  Members of religious groups without this status must be married in a civil ceremony.

The regions of Madrid and Catalonia maintain agreements with several religious groups that have accords with the national government.  These regional agreements permit activities such as providing religious assistance in hospitals and prisons under regional jurisdiction.  The central government funds these services for prisons and the military, and the regional governments fund hospital services.  According to the central government, these subnational agreements may not contradict the principles of the federal agreements, which take precedence.

Religious groups must apply to local governments for a license to open a place of worship, along with other establishments intended for public use.  Requirements for licenses vary from municipality to municipality.  Documentation required is usually the same as for other business establishments seeking to open a venue for public use and includes information such as architectural plans and maximum capacity.  Religious groups must also inform the Office of Religious Affairs after opening new places of worship.

Local governments are obligated to consider requests for use of public land to open a place of worship.  If a municipality decides to deny such a request after weighing factors such as availability and value added to the community, the city council must explain its decision to the requesting party.

The law requires a minimum of 10 interested students to initiate new religious education classes in public schools for religions other than Catholicism.  As outlined in the cooperation agreements with religious groups, the government provides funding for salaries of teachers of Catholic religious education classes in public schools and, when at least 10 students request it, funding for Islamic and Protestant teachers.  The Jewish community is also eligible for government funding for Jewish instructors but has declined it.  The courses are not mandatory.  Those students who elect not to take religious education courses are required to take an alternative course covering general social, cultural, and religious themes.  Regional governments are responsible for developing curricula and financing teachers for religious education, with the exception of Andalusia, Aragon, the Canary Islands, Cantabria, and the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla, which leave the curricula and financing of education to the national government in accordance with their respective regional statutes.

Autonomous regions generally have the authority to develop the requirements for religious education instructors and certify their credentials, although some defer to the national government.  Prospective instructors must provide personal data, proof that the educational authority of the region where they are applying to work has never dismissed them, a degree as required by the region, and any other requirement as stipulated by the religious association to which they correspond.  The religious associations must provide a list of approved instructors to the government.  Ministry of Education-approved CIE guidelines stress instruction in “moderate Islam” in worship practices, with emphasis on pluralism, understanding, religious tolerance, conflict resolution, and coexistence.  CIE also requires instructors to have a certificate of training in Islamic education.  Private religiously based schools, whether or not they receive public funds, must comply with governmental education regulations.  Private religious schools that do not receive public funds must additionally obtain authorization to function from regional educational authorities.

Catholic and Jewish clergy may include time spent on missions abroad in calculations for social security and may claim retirement pension credit for a maximum of 38.5 years of service.  Protestant clergy are eligible to receive social security benefits, including health insurance and a government-provided retirement pension with a maximum credit of 15 years of service, but pension eligibility requirements for these clergy are stricter than for Catholic clergy.  Muslim, Orthodox, and Jehovah’s Witnesses clergy are also eligible for social security benefits under the terms of separate social security agreements each of these groups negotiated with the state.

The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Government Practices

Throughout the year, Amnesty International and other NGOs reiterated calls for the government to reform the part of the penal code that criminalizes offending “religious sentiments,” which, they stated, unduly restricted freedom of expression.  Some organizations said the laws criminalizing public statements disparaging religious beliefs or nonbelief, or perpetrating “profane acts” that “offend the feelings” of persons equated to criminalizing blasphemy.  In May, a Malaga appeals court reaffirmed the conviction of a woman for “offending religious sentiments,” confirming the 2,700-euro ($3,100) fine levied against her as punishment.  The Spanish Association of Christian Lawyers had originally filed a complaint against the woman for her participation in a 2013 public women’s rights procession in which she carried a large plastic vagina fashioned to look like the Virgin Mary.  The appeals court determined the woman’s actions were not “guided by public or collective interest in criticism, but rather with the intention of vilifying or offending” Catholics.

In January, the government implemented a new education law, under which Holocaust education remained mandatory.

Several religious organizations with notorio arraigo status reported the government’s Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom had not held a meeting since late 2019.  Members of these organizations said the committee – composed of government officials, religious representatives, and experts on religious issues – previously met several times per year.  Organizations expressed concern regarding the loss of a primary venue for interfaith cooperation and government dialogue.  Officials from the Ministry of the Presidency identified the cessation of committee activity as an unintended consequence of the 2019 transfer of responsibility for religious freedom issues from the Ministry of Justice to the Ministry of the Presidency.  Parliament must modify the decree to allow the Ministry of the Presidency to convene the committee.

In September, the Madrid regional parliament approved for presentation to the national congress a draft bill prohibiting state assistance to entities that engage in antisemitism or otherwise discriminate on the basis of birth, race, sex, religion, or other personal characteristics.  The FCJE applauded the move.  In the same month, the Madrid regional parliament adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance Working Definition of Antisemitism.

On May 7, the Pluralism and Coexistence Foundation and Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces announced a new joint project to promote religious diversity and increase local governments’ capacity to protect religious freedom.  Through the project, local and provincial government officials committed to adhere to principles of coexistence, share best practices, and access expert consultants.  The cities of Bilbao, Burgos, Cartagena, Castellon, Fuenlabrada, Guadalajara, Malaga, Olivenza, and Valladolid joined the initiative.

In the fall, the public Madrid Autonomous University unveiled a new academic course in religious leadership and administration.  Religious officials collaborated with faculty to develop the course, which focuses on the legal principles affecting the relationship between religious entities and the Spanish government.  Buddhist and Catholic representatives praised the course as the product of interfaith collaboration.

In April, the city of Madrid signed an agreement with the Sefarad-Israel Center to jointly promote Jewish culture in Madrid society.  The agreement included the creation of a dedicated Jewish literature space in Madrid’s public library and a commitment to cohost community events on Sephardic culture and history.  In December, the city and center cohosted a public Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony.

In May, the city of Leon unveiled a new exhibit depicting the country’s Jewish history.  Called “Discover Sefarad,” the exhibit included images furnished by the Network of Jewish Quarters and the Cervantes Institute.

In February, the Supreme Court suspended regional COVID-19 restrictions on religious services in Castile and Leon that had limited attendance to 25 persons.  The court’s ruling called for proportionality, and it stipulated that blanket restrictions had failed to reasonably consider building characteristics that might safely permit larger, or necessitate smaller, gatherings.  The regional government of Castile and Leon had lifted the restrictions several days before the court’s ruling.

In August, reports stated that the OLRC reiterated concerns regarding the suspension or interruption of religious services during a conversation with Interior Minister Fernado Grande-Marlaska.  The OLRC said the continued restrictions on religious gatherings impeded acts of worship fundamental to religious practice.  In December 2020, the Supreme Court had dismissed a complaint filed by the Spanish Association of Christian Lawyers against Grande-Marlaska in his official capacity.  That complaint accused the ministry’s security forces of unlawfully interrupting religious gatherings throughout the country while enforcing COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.  The court determined the interruptions fell within the government’s authority under its first pandemic state of emergency (March through June 2020) and were therefore justified as “extraordinary measures to preserve collective safety.”

In January, FEREDE expressed concerns regarding capacity and other restrictions on churches due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  FEREDE and other religious organizations reacted positively when the government lifted or reduced restrictions in later months, although they urged caution among their congregations.

CIE representatives stated that COVID-19 restrictions continued to complicate the pre-pandemic practice of repatriating the remains of deceased Muslims to their countries of origin for burial.  As a result, CIE reported that more Muslims chose to bury their deceased in sections of local cemeteries with dedicated plots for burial, in accordance with Islamic rites.  According to CIE, 12 of the country’s 17 autonomous communities have cemeteries with dedicated plots for Muslim burials.  In May, CIE representatives met with a member of parliament to advocate for agreements in communities lacking dedicated space.  In October, members of the Islamic community in Cordoba, Andalusia, expressed concerns about the lack of protocols for the burial in accordance with religious rites of Muslims who die while experiencing homelessness.  Throughout the year, media reported on the ongoing efforts of the Muslim community to establish such an agreement in Badajoz, Extremadura, where city officials voiced opposition to ceding control of a portion of the municipal cemetery to that community.

In March, media reported the European Court of Human Rights in November 2020 had declined to hear a complaint brought by the grandchildren of former dictator Francisco Franco related to the government’s October 2019 exhumation and reburial of Franco’s remains.  The OLRC had previously said it did not consider removing Franco’s remains from the Valley of the Fallen as an attack on religious freedom.

On July 15, King Felipe VI hosted a second secular memorial service, one year after the first, to honor Spaniards who had lost their lives to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Several religious groups, including Protestants and Jews, expressed appreciation for the ceremonies’ secular tone that contrasted with the Catholic rituals previously common at similar ceremonies.

In September, the regional governments of the Ceuta and Melilla enclaves in north Africa announced that for the first time Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr would be paid holidays for public and private sector employees.

Several religious groups cited continuing obstacles to providing religious education and integrating teachers of religion in schools, given the legal requirement for a minimum of 10 interested students to initiate non-Catholic religious education classes in public schools.  CIE reported the number of teachers and schools offering Islamic studies courses continued to increase annually.  Islamic studies courses in seven Balearic Islands schools began during the 2021-22 academic year.  In 2021, there were only four autonomous communities without Islamic studies courses in public schools:  Asturias, Cantabria, Galicia, and Murcia.  CIE said some regions lacked Islamic studies courses due to decisions by local authorities or a lack of demand.  Where viable, CIE professors taught at more than one school.

FCJE reported there were no Jewish religious education classes in public schools.  FCJE officials said they did not consider the lack of Jewish education classes to be problematic because of the availability of, and preference for, private religious instruction in the Jewish community.  FCJE reported schools were usually unaware of Jewish holidays as provided for in the accord between FCJE and the state but were often amenable to modifying school schedules to accommodate students when informed of these holidays.  Occasionally, mandatory public examinations for university students conflicted with Jewish religious occasions, such as the Sabbath.  In these cases, FCJE reported it worked with affected students and academic institutions to make individual accommodations.

Jehovah’s Witnesses representatives said they declined to seek their own religious instruction in schools, since they believed that religious training was the responsibility of the individual and not the responsibility of the state.

In January, the FCJE advocated for autonomous community governments to incorporate “robust” Holocaust and Jewish history as mandatory topics in the secondary school curricula at the regional in addition to the national level, where it has been mandatory since 2013.  Also in January, the central government implemented a new education law, under which Holocaust education remained mandatory.  The Sefarad-Israel Center continued to train teachers on the Holocaust, Judaism, and anti-Semitism through a 2017 agreement between the FCJE and the Ministry of Education.

In May, CIE criticized a history textbook used in some high schools in Catalonia as offensive to Muslims and inappropriate for students.  Observers said what they called the textbook’s overly simplistic description of Islam and its tenets presented the religion in a negative light.  The publishing company Vicens Vives said it would correct this in future editions of the textbooks.

Non-Catholic religious groups described what they said was unequal legal treatment by the government as an ongoing concern.  The Catholic Church remained the only religious entity to which persons could voluntarily allocate 0.7 percent of their taxes.  According to media, one in three Spaniards chose to allocate some of their taxes to the Catholic Church in 2020, yielding 301 million euros ($341.27 million), a 5.85 percent increase in donations compared with 2019.  Other religious groups were not listed on the tax form as potential recipients of funds.  Several religious groups, including Protestants, Muslims, Buddhists, and the Church of Jesus Christ, continued to express their desire to have their groups included on the tax form, while some groups described the system as discriminatory.  They said they would rather receive voluntary contributions from taxpayers without preconditions than rely on funding from the FPC, which has specific conditions for use of its funds.

CIE, FEREDE, and FCJE stated they relied on government funds provided through the Pluralism and Coexistence Foundation to cover their administrative and infrastructure costs.  The Ministry of the Presidency stated it continued to allocate funding to different groups according to the number of registered entities and the approximate number of adherents.  Foundation officials reported the pandemic delayed disbursement of funds during the year.  In 2020, it provided FEREDE with 462,800 euros ($525,000), CIE with 330,000 euros ($374,000), and FCJE with 169,405 euros ($192,000).  In addition to infrastructure and administrative funding, foundation funds also covered small publicity and research projects.  Several religious groups reported financial challenges due to COVID-19, with many of their members unable to make the same levels of charitable donations as in previous years.

In February, three Catalonia-based Muslim community organizations – the Union of Islamic Community in Catalonia, the Islamic Federation Council of Catalonia, and the Islamic Federation of Catalonia – filed a complaint against the Vox political party for its “Stop Islamization” social media campaign leading up to Catalonian regional elections.  As part of this campaign, Vox’s regional candidate had posted videos to Twitter juxtaposing images of area mosques and Islamic studies courses with footage of 2017 terrorist attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils.  The Barcelona hate crimes prosecutor opened a hate crimes investigation into Vox’s messaging during the campaign.  The case was subsequently transferred to Madrid.  In October, the Madrid prosecutor’s office closed the investigation, finding that Vox’s campaign was protected by laws guaranteeing the right to freedom of expression.

The Ministry of Justice continued processing applications under the 2015 law that provided descendants of Sephardic Jews expelled from the country more than 500 years ago the right of return as full Spanish citizens, as long as the applications were submitted before the law’s expiration in September 2019.  The government allowed petitioners to modify their applications, if necessary, until September 2021.  It had twice extended this deadline.  As of June, the government had received more than 150,000 petitions and had granted citizenship to approximately 60,000 descendants of Sephardic Jews.  The government rejected approximately 3,000 petitions for various reasons and continued to address outstanding cases.  FCJE reported the organization remained involved in the law’s adjudication process and that it devoted considerable resources to supporting the ministry’s efforts.  In July, overseas Jewish associations stated the Ministry of Justice deviated from the criteria and evaluation procedures outlined in law to dismiss petitioners with valid cases.  FCJE officials said the ministry continued to adjudicate cases fairly and in accordance with the law.

On October 13, Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares spoke at the Malmo International Forum on Holocaust Remembrance and Combating Antisemitism, reaffirming the country’s commitment to the 2000 Stockholm Declaration, the founding document of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.  Albares referenced the nearly 10,000 exiled Spanish Republicans sent to Nazi concentration camps at Mauthausen and Buchenwald, saying, “To remember is also to prevent…. We remember [the past] so we do not repeat [it.]”

The FCJE estimated there were very few survivors of the Holocaust residing in the country and said, for this reason, the government only considered property restitution on a case-by-case basis.

In May, the FCJE’s Observatory of Antisemitism denounced the use of public billboards in Oleiros, Galicia, to criticize the actions of Israel with the phrase “Zionist Terrorism.”  City mayor Angel Garcia Seoane took responsibility for the signage, which he said displayed his personal views.

Courts continued to rule against municipal and provincial government resolutions supporting the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, although sources stated that new resolutions were increasingly uncommon.  Such resolutions usually entailed a nonbinding declaration calling on the central government to “support any initiative promoted by the international BDS campaign” and to “suspend relations with Israel until that country stops its criminal and repressive policies against the Palestinian population.”  Some pro-BDS-movement legislation also contained language in support of a “space free of Israeli apartheid.”  In May, a Valencia pro-BDS organization led a demonstration advocating boycotts to protest “Zionist attacks and crimes in Gaza, Jerusalem, and all of Palestine.”

The Pluralism and Coexistence Foundation conducted several outreach campaigns, including hosting virtual events, aimed at promoting a better understanding of different religions and respect for religious freedom.  It continued working with religious groups on the opening and operation of places of worship, the impact of religious education, and the effects of discrimination and limits to religious freedom in the workplace.  The Office of Religious Affairs maintained an online portal for information to aid new immigrants or citizens moving into a community to find his or her locally registered religious community and place of worship.  The Ministry of the Interior’s Office on Hate Crimes continued to provide assistance to victims of religiously motivated hate crimes and training for law enforcement.

Several regional and municipal government offices continued to conduct outreach with the stated goal of promoting religious diversity.  In March, the Catalan regional government published the 2020 Barometer on Religiosity and on the Management of its Diversity, an opinion poll showing the population’s religious affiliation, knowledge of other faiths, and opinions on religious freedom.  The report reflected that 70 percent of the population supported incorporating instruction about the world’s major religions into school curricula.  The Department of Religious Affairs and the regional ministry of interior published a guide for law enforcement agencies that provided police with tools to respect religious diversity in their operations.  The Barcelona city council’s Office for Religious Affairs and Office for Non-Discrimination facilitated and promoted religious celebrations and provided grants for projects of various religious groups.  The municipal government organized roundtables to discuss the status of religious freedom in the city, emphasizing the role of women in religious communities.

In September, the Catalan regional government’s Department of Religious Affairs partnered with the Ramon Llull University to launch a Chair of Religious Freedom and Conscience as a forum for studying and promoting religious freedom in the region.

The country is a member of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

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