The constitution provides for freedom of religion and belief. A concordat with the Holy See, in place and unmodified since 1954, designates Catholicism as the official religion and extends special privileges to the Catholic Church not granted to other religious groups. These include the legal recognition of Catholic law, use of public funds to underwrite some Catholic Church expenses, and exclusion from customs duties. The Catholic Church retains the authority to revise all textbooks used in public schools throughout the country.
To request exclusion from customs duties, non-Catholic religious groups must register as NGOs with the attorney general’s office and later with the Ministry of Finance and the Directorate General of Customs. Registration with the attorney general’s office is a two-step process. First, the organization must provide documentation of a fixed address and the names of seven elected officers, have a minimum of 25 members, and pay a nominal fee. Second, the organization must draft and submit statutes and provide copies of government-issued identification documents for the board of directors. After registering, religious groups may request custom duties exclusion from the Ministry of Finance.
The law provides for government recognition of marriages performed by religious groups that register with the Central Electoral Board, provided they otherwise comply with the law.
As part of the concordat with the Vatican, the law requires Bible studies in all public schools; the government does not normally enforce this law. The concordat provides parents with the option of exempting their children from religious studies in public schools. Private schools are exempt from the Bible studies requirement.
The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Non-Catholic religious groups continued to say the Catholic Church had advantages that they did not. According to these groups, the Catholic Church received significant financial support from the government, including properties that were transferred to the Catholic Church as well as subsidies to the salaries of Catholic Church officials. The Catholic Church reportedly enjoyed broader customs exemptions than non-Catholic organizations, which were required to pay customs duties and then seek refunds on imported food or other goods intended for religious use. These religious groups also continued to report difficulties when applying for and receiving customs duty refunds from the Ministry of Finance. Additionally, non-Catholic missionaries and religious leaders could not obtain visas under the same immigration category as Catholic religious leaders, which non-Catholic groups said made it more expensive and difficult to bring missionaries into the country.