Panama

Executive Summary

The constitution, laws, and executive decrees provide for freedom of religion and worship and prohibit discrimination based on religion. The constitution recognizes Roman Catholicism as the religion of the majority of citizens but not as the state religion. Public schools continued to teach Catholicism, but parents could exempt their children from religion classes. Some non-Catholic groups continued to state the government provided preferential distribution of subsidies to small Catholic-run private schools for salaries and operating expenses and cited the high level of government support provided the Catholic Church for the January World Youth Day. Although local Catholic organizers invited and included members of other religious groups to participate in World Youth Day, some social media commentators criticized the use of public funds for the religious event.

On April 30, representatives from the Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, evangelical Protestant, Baha’i, and Buddhist faiths participated in an interreligious event to pray for peace during the country’s general election campaign. This was the first time an interreligious event took place around an election. On June 25, religious leaders from multiple faiths joined an event to sign the Cordoba Declaration, which recognizes Latin America and the Caribbean as a “Zone of Religious Coexistence.” On October 29, the Catholic University of Santa Maria La Antigua (USMA) hosted an international symposium on religious freedom, humanitarian assistance, and human dignity, jointly hosted by Brigham Young University’s International Center for Law and Religion Studies.

U.S. embassy officials met on several occasions with government officials and continued to raise questions about fairness in the distribution of education subsidies for religious-affiliated schools and the need for equal treatment of all religious groups before the law. The Charge d’Affaires and other embassy officials met frequently with religious leaders to discuss government treatment of members of religious groups, interfaith initiatives promoting tolerance and respect for religious diversity, and societal perceptions and treatment of members of religious groups.

International Religious Freedom Reports
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U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future