The constitution accords individuals the right to choose, change, and freely practice their religion and prohibits religious discrimination. It specifically recognizes the right of indigenous communities to express their religions freely. The constitution states the relationship between the state and the Roman Catholic Church is based on independence, cooperation, and autonomy. The Vice Ministry of Worship (VMW) continued to implement a law requiring all religious and philosophical groups to complete a mandatory registration process but did not impose penalties or monetary sanctions on groups that did not register by the end of the year, extending the deadline indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the VMW, approximately 50 percent of religious groups were registered at year’s end. In August, the Catholic Christian Apostolic National Church of Paraguay (ICCAN) began its third attempt to register with the VMW following a second VMW rejection in 2020. By year’s end, VMW had not responded to ICCAN. The Jehovah’s Witnesses Association reported the Supreme Court concluded three cases involving individual Jehovah’s Witnesses receiving hospital blood transfusions against their will, ruling against two of the suits and dismissing the third.
Some religious representatives said the Roman Catholic Church continued to exercise greater influence in politics by swaying public opinion more than any other religious group. On May 14, the Roman Catholic Church hosted its annual religious service to honor the country’s independence. President Mario Abdo Benitez and other members of the government attended. During the service, Archbishop of Asuncion Edmundo Valenzuela criticized the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In October, U.S. embassy officials met with VMW Director General Marco Mendez and discussed ICCAN’s registration status, government actions to facilitate the registration process, the promotion of religious freedom, interreligious dialogue, and the provision of state funding for schools run by religious groups. Embassy officials met with representatives of the Roman Catholic, evangelical Protestant, Mennonite, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Church of Jesus Christ), Muslim, ICCAN, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Jewish communities to discuss interfaith respect for religious diversity and hear their views on the status of religious freedom in the country and the government’s attitude towards and treatment of their communities.