The constitution provides for the free exercise of all religions. Religious organizations may register as legal entities classified as religious associations and thereby acquire tax-exempt status and other government benefits. In August Muslim leaders reported members of their community regularly encountered unnecessary bureaucratic and discriminatory barriers when requesting basic governmental services or permits. These leaders cited the challenges a Muslim group faced when trying to secure a municipal permit for a public humanitarian event on gender-based violence in the town of La Esperanza, Intibuca Department. Some sectors of society continued expressing their concerns and opposition towards political activism by evangelical Protestant groups and the Roman Catholic Church, citing practices such as prayers at official government events. Seventh-day Adventists stated some public educational institutions did not respect their religious observance on Saturdays because the official work week was Monday to Saturday.
During the year, the Inter-Ecclesiastical Forum (FIH) – an interfaith nongovernmental organization (NGO) representing more than 90 religious and civil society groups – and the Evangelical Fellowship of Honduras (CEH) together reported the deaths of four evangelical Protestant pastors. Both groups attributed these deaths to the high prevalence of gang activity and minimal state presence in their areas of operation. The CEH and FIH both reported widespread extortion of church leaders and congregation members by gangs and criminal groups. Muslim leaders reported incidents where evangelical Protestant members appeared at Islamic religious services, displaying intolerance towards their community. The FIH and the Muslim community each reported conducting community events and media outreach to promote religious freedom and tolerance.
U.S. embassy officials met with officials of the Secretariat of Human Rights and the autonomous National Commission of Human Rights (CONADEH) to discuss issues of religious freedom, including allegations of discrimination against Muslims. On October 30, embassy officials hosted an interfaith roundtable in San Pedro Sula to discuss religious freedom and tolerance. This discussion touched on a variety of topics, including religious freedom in schools, the challenges of some faith groups in addressing bureaucratic issues with the government, and migration. Embassy officials continued to engage with religious leaders and other members of a wide range of religious communities regarding societal violence and their concerns about the government’s dealings with religious groups in the country.
Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom
The CEH and FIH continued to state most violence against its members originated from criminal organizations, noting many of its member churches were present in areas of high violence with minimal state presence. The FIH and CEH together reported the deaths of four evangelical pastors in urban areas, including the August 25 killing of a pastor in Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara Department, and the October 9 killing of a pastor in San Pedro Sula, Cortes Department. Both groups attributed these deaths to the high prevalence of gang activity and minimal state presence in their areas of responsibility. The CEH expressed satisfaction that authorities were investigating the four killings but underscored authorities had made little progress in their investigation of the October 9 killing.
Both the CEH and FIH noted an increase in threats targeting evangelical Protestant pastors and church leaders located in areas known for gang or narcotics trafficking activities. The FIH said evangelical Protestant pastors and missionaries had left the historically violent Chamelecon neighborhood, a suburb of San Pedro Sula, because of death threats. The CEH reported the kidnapping and killing of an evangelical Protestant pastor in Comayagua, Comayagua Department. The CEH stated the killing was likely tied to gang activity. The CEH also cited the alleged July kidnapping of another evangelical Protestant pastor in Colon Department, who turned up alive following his 16-day disappearance. The CEH reported instances where member churches were robbed and vandalized; it also reported widespread extortion of Protestant church leaders and congregation members by criminal organizations. Despite the attacks, the CEH continued to positively assess government efforts to dismantle gangs, noting an overall decline in the level of violence and increase in the incarceration of many gang operatives.
The Catholic Archdiocese of Tegucigalpa commented that its priests and laypersons operated throughout the country. It did not record any killings of Church officials but reported infrequent incidents of robberies and threats.
Muslim leaders reported incidents where evangelical Protestant members appeared at Islamic religious services, displaying intolerance towards their community. Muslim leaders noted they were approached by evangelical Protestants at their place of worship at the Centro America Shopping Center in Tegucigalpa. The Muslim leaders said evangelical Protestants told the Muslims to leave the country and defaced books on Islam on a table in front of the meeting site.
Muslim women reported they were reluctant to wear a hijab on the way to their workplace because of negative comments. Some Muslims said private sector offices continued to prohibit women from wearing hijabs, and that individuals in some government offices also showed intolerance for traditional religious clothing.
Muslim community representatives said they received a few derogatory messages on social media but emphasized they received far more positive and supportive comments than negative messages.
Seventh-day Adventists reported the continued refusal of certain private institutions, including places of employment and schools, to permit them to observe Saturday as a day of rest.
The FIH and the Muslim community each reported conducting community events and outreach to promote religious freedom and tolerance. The FIH reported conducting three press conferences and 12 additional media appearances. Muslim leaders said they used social media messages to provide information about Islam to the general public.