The constitution provides for the right to profess, teach, and practice one’s faith freely. It attests the support of the federal government for “the Roman Catholic Apostolic faith,” but the Supreme Court has ruled that it is not an official or state religion.
Non-Catholic groups may register with the Secretariat of Worship in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Worship. Registration is not compulsory but provides for tax-exempt status for religious groups, visas for religious officials, the ability to hold public activities, as well as other benefits. Non-Catholic religious groups may register and receive the same status and fiscal benefits as Catholic groups. To register, religious groups must have a place of worship, an organizational charter, and an ordained clergy, among other requirements. Registration is not required for private religious services, such as those in homes, but is sometimes necessary to conduct activities in public spaces pursuant to local regulations. For example, city authorities may require groups to obtain permits to use public parks for public activities, and they may require religious groups to be registered with the secretariat to receive the permit. Once an organization is registered, it must report to the secretariat any significant changes or decisions made regarding its leadership, governing structure, size of membership, address of headquarters, or other relevant information. The government has recognized more than 5,300 non-Catholic religious groups.
The mandatory curriculum in public schools is secular by law. Students may request elective courses of instruction in the religion of their choice in some public schools, which may be conducted in the school or at a religious institution. Many Christian, Jewish, and Muslim religious groups operate private schools, which receive financial support contingent on registration with the government.
The government provides the Catholic Church with tax-exempt subsidies, institutional privileges such as school subsidies, significant autonomy for parochial schools, and licensing preferences for radio frequencies.
Foreign religious officials of registered religious groups may apply for a separate category of visa to enter the country. The length of the visa can vary depending on the purpose of the travel. Foreign missionaries of registered religious groups must apply to the Secretariat of Worship, which in turn notifies immigration authorities to request the issuance of the appropriate documents.
The board of the National Institute against Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Racism (INADI), a government agency under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, includes representatives of the major religious groups. INADI investigates suspected and reported incidents of discrimination based on religion. INADI does not have the authority to enforce recommendations or findings, but its reports may be used as evidence in civil court. The agency also supports victims of religious discrimination and promotes proactive measures to prevent discrimination. INADI produces and distributes publications to promote religious tolerance.
The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The investigation into the death of Special Prosecutor Alberto Nisman continued through the year. In January 2015 Nisman, the lead federal prosecutor responsible for the investigation of the 1994 bombing of the AMIA community center in Buenos Aires, was discovered dead in his apartment from a gunshot to the head. In March President Macri told leaders attending the Plenary Assembly of the World Jewish Congress that his government was “fully committed to… mak[ing] headway” with the investigation of the unsolved death of Special Prosecutor Nisman. The government also continued its investigation into the 1994 bombing of the Argentina Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) community center. In March President Macri told leaders attending the Plenary Assembly of the World Jewish Congress that his government was “fully committed to… mak[ing] headway” in the investigations of the AMIA attack, the 1992 terrorist bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, and the unsolved death of AMIA Special Prosecutor Alberto Nisman.
The government continued to protect Pastor Marcelo Nieva and his Baptist Evangelical church in Rio Tercero, Cordoba Province, following violence directed towards his church in October 2014. Nieva stated that on April 24, an assailant in an automobile threatened him and his spouse, and that criminal groups continued to harass him and his church because of his social work, particularly with victims of sex trafficking and gender-based violence.
In August the institutional relations director for the city of Chacabuco, Buenos Aires Province provoked widespread criticism on traditional and social media after he published an anti-Islamic statement on his Facebook account. The official resigned his position with the local legislature as a result of the controversy.
In September the government announced that INADI would conduct an education campaign at public and private schools to facilitate a better understanding of Islamic culture, religion, and tradition among young people. The educational campaign was designed to counter a rise in reported complaints of discrimination against Muslims that media reports attributed to public reaction to news of terrorist attacks in Europe credited to ISIS, and to the government’s decision to accept 3,000 Syrian refugees.
Jewish groups reported that relations with the government had improved since the change of administration in December 2015. The groups said the environment between the government and the Jewish community transformed from one of hostility to one of close collaboration.
The secretary of worship, the Buenos Aires director general for religious affairs, and other government representatives hosted and attended religious freedom conferences, interreligious dialogues, rabbinical ordinations, and Rosh Hashanah, Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr celebrations, as well as other religious activities, including those held by Protestant and Orthodox churches throughout the year.
The government is a member of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.