The constitution guarantees individuals freedom of religion and public worship and protects the freedom to express opinions on all issues, provided no crimes are committed in the exercise of those freedoms. No one may be compelled to participate in the rites or ceremonies of any religion or to observe its days of rest.
The constitution states Roman Catholicism is the state religion.
Religious associations wishing to establish an office or place of worship, own or lease property, or hire employees must first obtain official recognition from the Ministry of the Interior, which responds to such requests within one month. The government has granted recognition to the Protestant, Russian Orthodox, and Jewish communities.
In addition to obtaining official government recognition, any religious group wishing to construct a place of worship in a public space must seek prior approval from the Ministry of Interior.
The government does not tax religious institutions.
Catholic religious instruction is available in public schools as an option and requires parental authorization. Private schools may provide instruction for religions other than Catholicism.
The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
On February 18, the Supreme Court annulled the government’s 2018 decision to reject the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ second application for recognition. In 2017, the Supreme Court annulled the government’s 2016 rejection of the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ first recognition application. On April 2, the Jehovah’s Witnesses applied for recognition for a third time; on April 29, Minister of State (prime minister equivalent) Serge Telle issued a written decision that again refused to extend government recognition to the group. Jehovah’s Witnesses stated that without recognition they could not establish a headquarters in the country where they could worship and welcome new members. According to the government, the group’s religious doctrine was hostile to the Catholic Church, and the hostility undermined the state and its institutions as well as public order. In its February ruling, the Supreme Court stated the government refused to recognize the group because it was concerned about proselytism and considered the Jehovah’s Witnesses to have an extreme and intolerant nature. According to the same court ruling, the government also argued the Jehovah’s Witnesses presented a danger to public order because of what it termed “troubling practices, such as: 1) refusing blood transfusions; 2) not denouncing pedophilia; 3) asking members to donate their property for the benefit of the church; 4) being hostile to other religions; 5) refusing to grant freedom of expression to members; 6) encouraging members to isolate themselves from the world and their families under penalty of excommunication; and 7) compelling converts to conform to all doctrines.”
The government again reported it did not receive any requests for new sites during the year from any religious group.
Catholic rituals continued to be a part of many state ceremonies, including annual national day celebrations.