The constitution bars discrimination based on religious affiliation or belief and provides for freedom of conscience and religion, either individually or in association with others. It provides for the separation of religion and state but also recognizes the historic importance of the Roman Catholic Church. In July the government removed the requirement that religious entities seeking to register must have at least 500 adult members, allowing any group to register voluntarily regardless of its size or categorization. According to the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) and interfaith groups in the country, the changes in the registration regulations encouraged more minority religious groups to register with the MOJ’s Directorate of Justice and Religious Freedom. Small non-Catholic groups said they were pleased with the removal of the registration prerequisite to receive certain tax and visa benefits and other government services. Some Catholic Church members and members of religious minorities continued to criticize aspects of the 2011 religious freedom law, stating it maintained institutional preferences for the Catholic Church, particularly regarding tax exemptions.
Jewish community leaders said some individuals continued to engage occasionally in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about Jews and Israel. They said the government and both private and government-run media did not engage in this activity. Both Jewish and Muslim leaders said some public and private schools and employers occasionally did not give their members leave for religious holidays. The Interreligious Council of Peru continued to engage the MOJ for equal access to government benefits for all religious groups, including taxation exemptions on income, imports, property, and sales; visas for religious workers; and the opportunity to serve as military chaplains. The council continued to discuss the government’s revisions of its religious freedom regulations with religious communities. Religious groups and interfaith organizations coordinated with the government, civil society, and international organizations to provide humanitarian assistance to more than 600,000 displaced Venezuelans in the country during the year, regardless of religious affiliation, with no reported efforts to proselytize, and to promote religious tolerance.
U.S. embassy officials discussed the 2011 religious freedom law and its 2016 implementing regulations with government representatives, emphasized the importance of equal treatment of all religious groups under the law, and discussed how religious groups were assisting the humanitarian response to the influx of Venezuelans regardless of their religious affiliation or nonaffiliation. Embassy officials also engaged leaders from the Catholic, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Church of Jesus Christ), evangelical Protestant, Jewish, and Muslim communities to promote tolerance and respect for religious diversity.