The constitution guarantees freedom of religion and its public expression and prohibits compelling participation in religious ceremonies. Roman Catholicism is the state religion and state ceremonies often include Catholic rituals. Religious groups have to apply to the government to build a public place of worship and to receive recognition, which provides certain legal rights and privileges. Optional Catholic religious instruction is available in public schools. In February the government again refused to recognize the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the group again appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, where the case was pending at year’s end. Without recognition, the group said it could not open a place of worship in the country.
The only private religious schools were Catholic. According to the government, there was insufficient demand for non-Catholic private religious schools. The government said it did not receive any requests from religious groups during the year to build places of worship.
In October representatives from the U.S. Consulate General in Marseille inquired about the government’s nonrecognition of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Consulate officials also discussed religious issues with members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Protestant, Jewish, and Muslim communities.