The status of religious freedom around the world varies from country to country. Over 120 national constitutions mention equality regardless of religion.
- South Africa
- Sudan and South Sudan
- Burma Myanmar
- North Korea
- South Korea
- Republic of China Taiwan
- Saudi Arabia
- United Kingdom
- United States
- New Zealand
Freedom of religion in Algeria is regulated by the Algerian Constitution, which declares Islam to be the state religion (Article 2) but also declares that "freedom of creed and opinion is inviolable" (Article 36); it prohibits discrimination, Article 29 states "All citizens are equal before the law. No discrimination shall prevail because of birth, race, sex, opinion or any other personal or social condition or circumstance". In practice, the government generally respects this, with some limited exceptions. The government follows a de facto policy of tolerance by allowing, in limited instances, the conduct of religious services by non-Muslim faiths in the capital which are open to the public. The small Christian and tiny Jewish populations generally practice their faiths without government interference. The law does not recognize marriages between Muslim women and non-Muslim men; it does however recognise marriages between Muslim men and non-Muslim women. By law, children follow the religion of their fathers, even if they are born abroad and are citizens of their (non-Muslim) country of birth.
The Constitution of Angola provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice. There were no reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious belief or practice.
Egypt has a predominantly Islamic population. The Constitution of Egypt makes no reference to an official State Church because Egypt is an Arab Republic that recognizes Islam as the State Religion. Egypt's largest Christian population, which makes up approximately 10% of Egypt's total population follow the Coptic Orthodox Church.
Other churches exist in Egypt, such as the Coptic Catholic Church as well as some Protestant denominations. However, their population composes a very small portion of Egypt's population.
The separation of the state's influence on religion and vice versa is often undetermined; many rights groups have claimed that some laws passed by the State are heavily influenced by the State Religion, and sometimes aimed at particular minorities in Egypt. The Coptic Orthodox Church is in fairly good relations with the State. This was seen when the State officially declared January 7, the Coptic Orthodox Christmas, as an official holiday in Egypt. However, some laws (e.g., the 19th century Hamayouni Decree, which requires that the President of Egypt must approve any permits to build or repair any church in Egypt) still aim at persecuting the Coptic Orthodox Church.
Freedom of religion in Mauritania is limited by the Government. The constitution establishes the country as an Islamic republic and decrees that Islam is the religion of its citizens and the State.
Non-Muslim resident expatriates and a few non-Muslim citizens practice their religion openly with certain limitation on proselytizing of Muslims and transmitting religious materials.
Relations between the Muslim community and the small non-Muslim community are generally amicable.
Nigeria allows freedom of religion. Islam and Christianity are the two major religions. In 12 states of Nigeria which have a sharia-based penal code, conversion from Islam to another religion is illegal and often a capital offense.
South Africa is a secular democracy with freedom of religion.
Sudan and South Sudan
Although the 2005 Interim National Constitution (INC) of Sudan provides for freedom of religion throughout the entire country of Sudan, the INC enshrines Shari'a as a source of legislation in the north and the official laws and policies of the Government favor Islam in that part of the country.
The constitution of Southern Sudan provides for freedom of religion, and other laws and policies of the Government of South Sudan (GoSS) contribute to the generally free practice of religion. There was some improvement in religious freedom during the reporting period. Restrictions on Christians in the north were relaxed, continuing gains realized with the creation of the Government of National Unity (GNU) in 2005. The GoSS generally respects religious freedom in the ten states of the South.
There were some reports of societal abuses and discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice, and religious prejudice remains widespread. Muslims in the north who express an interest in Christianity, or convert to Christianity, face strong social pressure to recant. Muslims who convert to Christianity can face the death penalty for apostasy, see Persecution of Christians in Sudan and Mariam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag.
The current government of Afghanistan has only been in place since 2002, following a U.S.-led invasion which displaced the former Taliban government. The Constitution of Afghanistan is dated January 23, 2004, and its initial three articles mandate:
- Afghanistan shall be an Islamic Republic, independent, unitary, and an indivisible state.
- The sacred religion of Islam shall be the religion of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Followers of other faiths shall be free within the bounds of law in the exercise and performance of their religious rights.
- No law shall contravene the tenets and provisions of the holy religion of Islam in Afghanistan.
The Constitution of Armenia as amended in December 2005 provides for freedom of religion; however, the law places some restrictions on the religious freedom of adherents of minority religious groups, and there were some restrictions in practice. The Armenian (Apostolic) Church, which has formal legal status as the national church, enjoys some privileges not available to other religious groups. Some denominations reported occasional discrimination by mid- or low-level government officials but found high-level officials to be tolerant. Jehovah's Witnesses reported that judges sentenced them to longer prison terms for evasion of alternative military service than in the past, although the sentences were still within the range allowed by law. Societal attitudes toward some minority religious groups were ambivalent, and there were reports of societal discrimination directed against members of these groups.
The Constitution of Azerbaijan provides that persons of all faiths may choose and practice their religion without restriction; however, some sources state that there have been some abuses and restrictions. Some religious groups reported delays in and denials of registration. As in previous years, there continued to be some limitations upon the ability of groups to import religious literature. Most religious groups met without government interference; however, local authorities monitored religious services, and officials at times harassed and detained members of "nontraditional" religious groups. There were some reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious belief or practice. The US. State Department reported prejudice against Muslims who convert to other faiths and hostility toward groups that proselytize, particularly evangelical Christian and other missionary groups, as well as Iranian groups and Salafists, who are seen as a threat to security.
Bangladesh was founded as a secular state, but Islam was made the state religion in the 1980s. However, in 2010, the High Court held up the secular principles of the 1972 constitution. The Constitution of Bangladesh establishes Islam as the state religion but also allows other religions to be practiced in harmony.
Every year since 1999 the U.S. State Department has designated Burma as a country of particular concern with regard to religious freedom.
Article 43 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia reads: "Khmer citizens of either sex shall have the right to freedom of belief. Freedom of religious belief and worship shall be guaranteed by the State on the condition that such freedom does not affect other religious beliefs or violate public order and security. Buddhism shall be the State religion."
The Constitution of the People's Republic of China provides for freedom of religious belief; however, the Government restricts religious practice to government-sanctioned organizations and registered places of worship and controls the growth and scope of the activity of religious groups. Despite formal recognition of religious liberty, "religious freedom is accorded little respect in China." Every year since 1999 the U.S. State Department has designated China as a country of particular concern with regard to religious freedom.
Following the 1974 division of Cyprus, religious freedom for Muslim Turkish Cypriots has considerably improved in the predominantly Greek-inhabited Republic of Cyprus. While in Turkish occupied Northern Cyprus, freedom of religion is constitutionally protected, vandalized and looted Orthodox churches have been repurposed as stables, mosques or military camps. A controversial 2016 decision restricts most Orthodox churches to celebrate a single religious service per year.
The Indian constitution's preamble states that India is a secular state. Freedom of religion is a fundamental right guaranteed by the constitution. According to Article 25 of the Indian Constitution, every citizen of India has the right to "profess, practise and propagate religion", "subject to public order, morality and health" and also subject to other provisions under that article.
The constitution accords “all persons the right to worship according to their own religion or belief” and states that “the nation is based upon belief in one supreme God.” The first tenet of the country’s national ideology, Pancasila, similarly declares belief in one God. The government does not allow for nonbelief. Government employees must swear allegiance to the nation and to the Pancasila ideology. Other laws and policies at the national and regional levels restrict certain types of religious activity, particularly among unrecognized religious groups and “deviant” sects of recognized religious groups.
The Indonesian Constitution states "every person shall be free to choose and to practice the religion of his/her choice" and "guarantees all persons the freedom of worship, each according to his/her own religion or belief". The government, however, officially only recognises six religions, namely Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism.
The Iranian constitution was drafted during the Iranian Constitutional Revolution in 1906; While the constitution was modelled on Belgium's 1831 constitution, the provisions guaranteeing freedom of worship were omitted. Subsequent legislation provided some recognition to the religious minorities of Zoroastrians, Jews and Christians, in addition to majority Muslim population, as equal citizens under state law, but it did not guarantee freedom of religion and "gave unprecedented institutional powers to the clerical establishment." The Islamic Republic of Iran, that was established after the Iranian revolution, recognizes four religions, whose status is formally protected: Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Members of the first three minority religions receive special treatment under Iranian law.
However, adherents of the Bahá'í Faith, Iran's largest religious minority are not recognized and are persecuted. Bahá'ís have been subjected to unwarranted arrests, false imprisonment, executions, confiscation and destruction of property owned by individuals and the Bahá'í community, denial of civil rights and liberties, and denial of access to higher education. Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Iranian Bahá'ís have regularly had their homes ransacked or been banned from attending university or holding government jobs, and several hundred have received prison sentences for their religious beliefs. Bahá'í cemeteries have been desecrated and property seized and occasionally demolished, including the House of Mírzá Buzurg, Bahá'u'lláh's father. The House of the Báb in Shiraz has been destroyed twice, and is one of three sites to which Bahá'ís perform pilgrimage.
Iraq is a constitutional democracy with a republican, federal, pluralistic system of government, consisting of 18 provinces or "governorates." Although the Constitution recognizes Islam as the official religion and states that no law may be enacted that contradicts the established provisions of Islam, it also guarantees freedom of thought, conscience, and religious belief and practice.
While the Government generally endorses these rights, unsettled conditions have prevented effective governance in parts of the country, and the Government's ability to protect religious freedoms has been handicapped by insurgency, terrorism, and sectarian violence.
Since 2003, when the government of Saddam Hussein fell, the Iraqi government has generally not engaged in state-sponsored persecution of any religious group, calling instead for tolerance and acceptance of all religious minorities. However, some government institutions have continued their long-standing discriminatory practices against the Baha'i and Wahhabi Sunni Muslims.
Radical Islamic elements continued to exert tremendous pressure on other groups to conform to extremist interpretations of Islam's precepts. In addition, frequent sectarian violence, including attacks on religious places of worship, hampered the ability to practice religion freely. This sectarian violence was heightened by the February 22, 2006, attack on the al-Askari Mosque in Samarra, one of the most significant Shi'a mosques in the world, containing the mausoleums of the 10th and 11th imams.
Most recently, uprisings of the Islamic State (IS), formerly called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), have led to violations of religious freedom in certain parts of Iraq. IS is a Sunni jihadist group that claims religious authority over all Muslims across the world and aspires to bring most of the Muslim-inhabited regions of the world under its political control beginning with Iraq. ISIS follows an extreme anti-Western interpretation of Islam, promotes religious violence and regards those who do not agree with its interpretations as infidels or apostates. Concurrently, IS aims to establish a Salafist-orientated Islamist state in Iraq, Syria and other parts of the Levant.
English Common Law, rather than Judaic Talmudic Law, is the legal tradition of Israel. However, Judaic law applies in many civil matters, such as laws relating to marriage and divorce, and politics concerning the Temple Mount. Israeli authorities have codified a number of religious laws in the country's political laws, including an official ban on commerce on Shabbat and a 1998 ban on the importation of nonkosher meat.
According to the 2009 US Department of State report on Israel and the occupied territories, "The Israeli Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty provides for freedom of worship and the Government generally respected this right in practice." However, Pew Research Center has identified Israel as one of the countries that places high restrictions on religion, and the U.S. State Department notes that there have been limits placed on non-Orthodox streams of Judaism. Likewise, the Israeli police enforces a controversial ban against both Jewish and Christian prayer at the Temple Mount where the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque stand. This is a move to prevent any attempts on part of the Muslims or the Waqf (an "Islamic Religious Endowments" organization) to claim offence and start attacking Jews and Christians as a result of the said offence.
Historically, Japan had long tradition of mixed religious practice between Shinto and Buddhism since the introduction of Buddhism in the 7th century. Though the Emperor of Japan is supposed to be the direct descendant of Amaterasu Ōmikami, the Shinto sun goddess, all Imperial family members, as well as almost all Japanese, were Buddhists who also practiced Shinto religious rites as well. Christianity flourished when it was first introduced by Francis Xavier, but was soon violently suppressed.
After the Meiji Restoration, Japan tried to remodel the state in line of modern European constitutional monarchy. Upon learning that many European states sourced their constitutional authority to the Christian God, which Japanese religious tradition did not have, the emperor itself was substituted to its position. Buddhism and Shintoism were officially separated and Shintoism was set as the state religion. The Constitution specifically stated that Emperor is "holy and inviolable" (Tennou ha shinsei nishite okasu bekarazu). During the period of Emperor Showa, the status of emperor was further elevated to be a living god (Arahito gami). This ceased at the end of World War II, when the current constitution was drafted. (See Ningen-sengen.)
Article 20 the constitution of Japan drafted by the US occupation forces, in 1946 and currently in use, mandates a separation of religious organizations from the state, as well as ensuring religious freedom: "No religious organization shall receive any privileges from the State, nor exercise any political authority. No person shall be compelled to take part in any religious act, celebration, rite or practice. The State and its organs shall refrain from religious education or any other religious activity."
Like Germany, which has the CDU, Japan is not without a religiously affiliated political party. The New Komeito Party is affiliated with Sōka Gakkai, a minor religion in Japan. Japanese in general mix Buddhism, Shinto, and secularism in practice. Japanese often have "Christian" weddings, though Japan is less than one percent Christian, but generally have Buddhist funerals. A secular form of Christmas is widely observed. Tenrikyo and other Japan-centered faiths are also present.
The Constitution of Jordan provides for the freedom to practice the rights of one's religion and faith in accordance with the customs that are observed in the kingdom, unless they violate public order or morality. The state religion is Islam. The Government prohibits conversion from Islam and proselytization of Muslims.
In June 2006 the Government published the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in the Official Gazette, which, according to Article 93.2 of the Constitution, gives the Covenant the force of law. Article 18 of the ICCPR provides for freedom of religion (See Legal and policy framework). Despite this positive development, restrictions and some abuses continued. Members of unrecognized religious groups and converts from Islam face legal discrimination and bureaucratic difficulties in personal status cases. Converts from Islam additionally risk the loss of civil rights. Shari'a courts have the authority to prosecute proselytizers.
Relations between Muslims and Christians generally are good; however, adherents of unrecognized religions and Muslims who convert to other faiths face societal discrimination. Prominent societal leaders took steps to promote religious freedom.
The Constitution of Kazakhstan provides for freedom of religion, and the various religious communities worship largely without government interference. Local officials attempt on occasion to limit the practice of religion by some nontraditional groups; however, higher-level officials or courts occasionally intervene to correct such attempts.
The government's enforcement of previously amended laws led to increased problems for some unregistered groups. As of 2007, the law on religion continues to impose mandatory registration requirements on missionaries and religious organizations. Most religious groups, including those of minority and nontraditional denominations, reported that the religion laws did not materially affect religious activities. Unregistered religious groups experienced an increase in the level of fines imposed for nonregistration in addition to stronger efforts to collect such fines. Most registered groups experienced no problems, but the Hare Krishna movement, a registered group, suffered the demolition of 25 homes as part of the Karasai local government's campaign to seize title to its land based on alleged violations of property laws.
The population maintained its long tradition of secularism and tolerance. In particular, Muslim, Russian Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Jewish leaders reported high levels of acceptance in society. During the reporting period, the dominant Islamic and Russian Orthodox leaders publicly criticized a number of nontraditional religious groups. The number of registered religious groups and places of worship increased during 2007 for virtually all religious groups, including minority and nontraditional groups.
The U.S. government discusses religious freedom issues with the Kazakhstan government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights. The ambassador and other U.S. officials supported the country's efforts to increase links and mutual understanding among religious groups. U.S. officials engaged in private and public dialogue at all levels to urge that proposed amendments to the religion laws are consistent with the country's constitutional guarantees of religious freedom and with the country's tradition of religious tolerance. U.S. government officials visited religious facilities, met with religious leaders, and worked with government officials to address specific cases of concern. During 2007, the Embassy sponsored exchange programs for leaders of various religious groups to meet with a diverse range of counterparts in the United States. Embassy officials maintained an ongoing dialogue with a broad range of groups within the religious community.
The North Korean constitution guarantees freedom of belief; however, the US Department of State International Religious Freedom Report for 2011 claims that "Genuine religious freedom does not exist."
According to the US Department of State, As of 2012, the constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the government generally respected this right in practice.
Article 11 [Equality], paragraph 1, of the Constitution declares: "All citizens are equal before the law, and there may be no discrimination in political, economic, social, or cultural life on account of sex, religion, or social status."
The Constitution and the law of Kyrgyzstan provide for freedom of religion in Kyrgyzstan, and the Government generally respected this right in practice; however, the Government restricted the activities of radical Islamic groups that it considered threats to stability and security and hampered or refused the registration of some Christian churches. The Constitution provides for the separation of religion and state, and it prohibits discrimination based on religion or religious beliefs. The Government did not officially support any religion; however, a May 6, 2006 decree recognized Islam and Russian Orthodoxy as traditional religious groups.
There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom during the period covered by this report. The Government continued to monitor and restrict Islamist groups that it considered to be threats to security. Some Christian groups continued to face delays in registration. The State Agency for Religious Affairs (SARA), formerly called the State Commission on Religious Affairs (SCRA), is responsible for promoting religious tolerance, protecting freedom of conscience, and overseeing laws on religion. All religious organizations, including schools, must apply for approval of registration from SARA.
Although most religious groups and sects operated with little interference from the Government or each other, there were several cases of societal abuse based on religious beliefs and practices. There was an increase in tensions between Muslims and former Muslims who had converted to other religious groups. In one case, a mob upset at a Baptist pastor's conversions of Muslims to Christianity publicly beat the pastor and burned his Bibles and religious literature (see section 3).
The Constitution of Laos provides for freedom of religion; however, the Government restricted this right in practice. Some government officials committed abuses of citizens' religious freedom. During the period covered by this report, the overall status of respect for religious freedom did not significantly change. While respect for non-Protestant groups appeared to improve slightly, respect for Protestant groups appeared to decline in several parts of the country. In most areas, officials generally respected the constitutionally guaranteed rights of members of most faiths to worship, albeit within strict constraints imposed by the Government. Authorities in some areas continued to display intolerance for minority religious practice especially by Protestant Christians. The Lao Front for National Construction (LFNC), a popular front organization for the Lao People's Revolutionary Party (LPRP), was responsible for oversight of religious practice. The Prime Minister's Decree on Religious Practice (Decree 92) was the principal legal instrument defining rules for religious practice. Decree 92 also institutionalized the Government's role as the final arbiter of permissible religious activities. Although this decree has contributed to greater religious tolerance since it was promulgated in 2002, authorities have increasingly used its many conditions to restrict some aspects of religious practice.
During the period covered by this report, some local officials pressured minority Protestants to renounce their faith on threat of arrest or forceful eviction from their villages. Such cases occurred in Bolikhamsai, Houaphan, and Luang Namtha provinces. Arrests and detention of Protestants occurred in Luang Namtha, Oudomsai, Salavan, Savannakhet, and Vientiane provinces. Two Buddhist monks were arrested in Bolikhamsai Province for having been ordained without government authorization. In some areas, minority Protestants were forbidden from gathering to worship. In areas where Protestants were actively proselytizing, local officials have sometimes subjected them to “reeducation.”
A Christian man in Salavan Province was arrested on April 1, 2006 for refusing to renounce his faith and placed under house arrest until his release in late July 2006. At the end of the period covered by this report, there were four known religious prisoners, as well as at least seven other Protestants who were apparently being detained without charges for other than religious reasons, but in whose cases religion was suspected to have played a role. Conflicts between ethnic groups and movement among villages sometimes exacerbated religious tensions. The efforts of some Protestant congregations to establish churches independent of the Lao Evangelical Church (LEC) continued to cause strains within the Protestant community.
The Constitution of Lebanon provides for freedom of religion and the freedom to practice all religious rites provided that the public order is not disturbed. The Constitution declares equality of rights and duties for all citizens without discrimination or preference but establishes a balance of power among the major religious groups. The Government generally respected these rights; however, there were some restrictions, and the constitutional provision for apportioning political offices according to religious affiliation may be viewed as inherently discriminatory. There were no reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious belief or practice. There were, however, periodic reports of tension between religious groups, attributable to competition for political power, and citizens continued to struggle with the legacy of a 15-year civil war that was fought largely along sectarian lines. Despite sectarian tensions caused by the competition for political power, churches, mosques, and other places of worship continued to exist side-by-side, extending a centuries-long national heritage as a place of refuge for those fleeing religious intolerance.
The status of religious freedom in Malaysia is a controversial issue. Islam is the official state religion and the Constitution of Malaysia provides for limited freedom of religion, notably placing control upon the 'propagation' of religion other than Islam to Muslims, a fundamental part of a number of other religions. However, questions including whether Malays can convert from Islam and whether Malaysia is an Islamic state or secular state remains unresolved. For the most part the multiple religions within Malaysia interact peacefully and exhibit mutual respect. This is evident by the continued peaceful co-existence of cultures and ethnic groups.
The Constitution of Mongolia provides for freedom of religion, and the Mongolian Government generally respects this right in practice; however, the law somewhat limits proselytism, and some religious groups have faced bureaucratic harassment or been denied registration. There have been few reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious belief or practice.
Nepal is a secular state under the Interim Constitution, which was promulgated on January 15, 2007. The Interim Constitution provides for freedom to practice one's religion. The Interim Constitution also specifically denies the right to convert another person. The now-defunct constitution of 1990, which was in effect until January 15, 2007, described the country as a "Hindu Kingdom," although it did not establish Hinduism as the state religion. The Government generally did not interfere with the practice of other religious groups, and religious tolerance was broadly observed; however, there were some restrictions.
The Government took positive preliminary steps with respect to religious freedom during the period covered by this report, and government policy contributed to the generally free practice of religion. The Interim Parliament, through the Interim Constitution, officially declared the country a secular state in January 2007; however, no laws specifically affecting freedom of religion were changed. Nonetheless, many believed that the declaration made it easier to practice their religion freely.
Adherents of the country's many religious groups generally coexisted peacefully and respected places of worship, although there were reports of societal abuses and discrimination based on religious belief or practice. Those who converted to another religious group at times faced violence and occasionally were ostracized socially but generally did not fear to admit their affiliations in public. But overall, Nepal is viewed as a religiously harmonious place for its state of development.
Religious freedom in Pakistan has come into conflict with sharia law. The original Constitution of Pakistan did not discriminate between Muslims and non-Muslims. Blasphemy laws stifle free speech. Speaking in opposition to Islam and publishing an attack on Islam or its prophets are prohibited. Pakistan's penal code now mandates the death penalty for anyone defiling the name of the Prophet Muhammad. This penal code mandates life imprisonment for desecrating the Quran, and up to 10 years' imprisonment for insulting another's religious beliefs with intent to outrage religious feelings.
The Pakistan government does not ban formally the public practice of the Ahmadi Muslim sect, but its practice is restricted severely by law. A 1974 constitutional amendment declared Ahmadis to be a non-Muslim minority because, according to the Government, they do not accept Muhammad as the last prophet of Islam. However, Ahmadis consider themselves to be Muslims and observe Islamic practices. In 1984, under Ordinance XX the government added Section 298(c) into the Penal Code, prohibiting Ahmadis from calling themselves Muslim or posing as Muslims; from referring to their faith as Islam; from preaching or propagating their faith; from inviting others to accept the Ahmadi faith; and from insulting the religious feelings of Muslims.
By passing through the numerous phases of colonial occupation, the relationship of the church and state in the Philippines has gradually changed from the collaboration of the Roman Catholic Church with the government during the Spanish era to the constitutionally mandated separation today.
Republic of China (Taiwan)
Article 13 of the constitution of the Republic of China provides that the people shall have freedom of religious belief.
The kingdom of Saudi Arabia is an Islamic theocratic monarchy in which Islam is the official religion; the law requires that all Saudi citizens be Muslims, but permits non-Muslim visitors or foreign workers to live among and deal with Muslims except in certain areas. The Saudi Mutaween (Arabic: مطوعين), or Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (i.e., the religious police), prohibits the public practice of non-Muslim religions. The Government claims to recognize the right of non-Muslims to worship in private; however it does not always respect this right in practice.
Freedom of religion in Singapore is guaranteed under the Constitution. However, the Government of Singapore restricts this right in some circumstances. The Government has restricted the Jehovah's Witnesses and banned the Unification Church. The Government does not tolerate speech or actions that it deems could adversely affect racial or religious harmony.
The constitution of the Syrian Arab Republic guarantees freedom of religion. Syria has had two constitutions: one passed in 1973, and one in 2012 through a referendum. Opposition groups rejected the referendum; claiming that the vote was rigged.
Syria has come under international condemnation over their alleged "anti-Semitic" state media, and for alleged "sectarianism towards Sunni Muslims". This is a claim that Damascus denies. While secular, Syria does mandate that all students go through religious education of the religion that their parents are/were.
Freedom of religion in Tajikistan is provided for in Tajikistan's constitution. However, respect for religious freedom has eroded during recent years, creating some areas of concern.
Tajikistan's policies reflect a concern about Islamic extremism, a concern shared by much of the general population. The government actively monitors the activities of religious institutions to keep them from becoming overtly political. There were no closures of officially registered mosques, although the government of Tajikistan closed several unregistered mosques, prayer rooms, and madrassahs, and made the registration process to establish new mosques difficult. A Tajikistan Ministry of Education policy prohibited girls from wearing the hijab at public schools. The government uses the registration process to hinder some organizations' religious activity. Some religious organizations and individuals face harassment, temporary detention, and interrogation by government authorities. The Tajikistan government, including President Emomali Rahmon, continue to enunciate a policy of active secularism.
Nominally, 99.0% of the Turkish population is Muslim of whom a majority belong to the Sunni branch of Islam. The percentage of non-Muslims was much higher in the Ottoman Empire. A sizeable minority of the population (10%-30%) is affiliated with the Alevi sect. The remainder of the population belongs to other beliefs, particularly Christian denominations (Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Syriac Orthodox, Chaldean Catholic, Church of the East), Judaism, Yezidism and others are nonreligious.
There were reports of societal abuses and discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice. Threats against non-Muslims created an atmosphere of pressure and diminished freedom for some non-Muslim communities. Many Christians, Baha’is, Jews, and Alevis faced societal suspicion and mistrust, and some elements of society continued to express anti-Semitic sentiments. Additionally, persons wishing to convert from Islam sometimes experienced harassment and violence from relatives and neighbors.
Religious minorities complain that they are effectively blocked from careers in state institutions because of their faith. Christians, Baha'is, and some Muslims face societal suspicion and mistrust, and more radical Islamist elements continue to express anti-Semitic sentiments. Additionally, persons wishing to convert from Islam to another religion sometimes experience social harassment and violence from relatives and neighbors.
According to the most recent Eurobarometer Poll 2005, Turkey is a country with a strong stance of secularism since the republican revolution of October 29, 1923 and Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's modernization movement on March 3, 1924 which, among other things, abolished the Caliphate and removed all religious influence over the affairs of the state. Even though the state has no official religion nor promotes any, it actively monitors the area between the religions. The constitution recognises freedom of religion for individuals, whereas religious communities are placed under the protection of the state; but the constitution explicitly states that they cannot become involved in the political process (by forming a religious party, for instance) or establish faith-based schools. No party can claim that it represents a form of religious belief; nevertheless, religious sensibilities are generally represented through conservative parties.
The Constitution of Turkmenistan provides for freedom of religion and does not establish a state religion; however, in practice the Government imposes legal restrictions on all forms of religious expression. All groups must register in order to gain legal status; unregistered religious activity is illegal and may be punished by administrative fines. While the 2003 law on religion and subsequent 2004 amendments had effectively restricted registration to only the two largest groups, Sunni Muslim and Russian Orthodox, and criminalized unregistered religious activity, presidential decrees issued in 2004 dramatically reduced the numerical thresholds for registration and abolished criminal penalties for unregistered religious activity; civil penalties remain. As a result, nine minority religious groups were able to register, and the Turkmenistan government has permitted some other groups to meet quietly with reduced scrutiny.
There was no substantial change in the degree of religious tolerance by the Turkmenistan government during the period covered by this report, and there were troubling developments in the treatment of some unregistered groups. Following a sharp decrease in harassment of both registered and unregistered groups in late 2006, mistreatment of some registered and many unregistered religious minority group members, similar to that in previous reporting periods, resumed in February 2007. On December 21, 2006, President Saparmurat Niyazov died. The State Security Council appointed Deputy Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers and Minister of Health Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedov Acting President; Berdimuhammedov was elected President in February, 2007. During the reporting period there were no indications the Turkmenistan government planned to rescind or modify previous policies regarding religious freedom. The Turkmenistan government threatened members of minority religious groups with fines, loss of employment and housing, and imprisonment because of their beliefs.
There were no reports of societal abuses or violence based on religious beliefs or practice. The overwhelming majority of citizens identify themselves as Sunni Muslim; ethnic Turkmen identity is linked to Islam. Ethnic Turkmen who choose to convert to other religious groups, especially the lesser-known Protestant groups, are viewed with suspicion and sometimes ostracized, but Turkmenistan society historically has been tolerant and inclusive of different religious beliefs.
The Constitution of Uzbekistan provides for freedom of religion and for the principle of separation of church and state; however, the Government continued to restrict these rights in practice. The Government permits the operation of what it considers mainstream religious groups, including approved Muslim groups, Jewish groups, the Russian Orthodox Church, and various other Christian denominations, such as Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and Baptists. Uzbek society generally tolerates Christian churches as long as they do not attempt to win converts among ethnic Uzbeks; the law prohibits or severely restricts activities such as proselytizing, importing and disseminating religious literature, and offering private religious instruction.
The status of religious freedom remained restricted with a specific decline for some Pentecostal and other Christian groups during the period of this report. A number of minority religious groups, including congregations of some Christian denominations, continued to operate without registration because they had not satisfied the strict registration requirements set out by the law. As in previous periods, Protestant groups with ethnic Uzbek members reported operating in a climate of harassment and fear. Using new criminal statutes enacted in 2006, the Government brought criminal charges against two pastors. One was sentenced to 4 years in a labor camp; the other received a suspended sentence and probation. Law enforcement officials raided and harassed some unregistered groups, detaining and fining their leaders and members. The Government continued its campaign against unauthorized Islamic groups suspected of extremist sentiments or activities, arresting numerous alleged members of these groups and sentencing them to lengthy jail terms. Many of these were suspected members of Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT), a banned extremist Islamic political movement, the banned Islamic group Akromiya (Akromiylar), or unspecified "Wahhabi" groups. The Government generally did not interfere with worshippers attending sanctioned mosques and granted approvals for new Islamic print, audio, and video materials. A small number of "underground" mosques operated under the close scrutiny of religious authorities and the security services.
Religious groups enjoyed generally tolerant relations; however, neighbors, family, and employers often continued to pressure ethnic Uzbek Christians, especially recent converts and residents of smaller communities. There were several reports of sermons against missionaries and persons who converted from Islam. A Pentecostal deacon was severely beaten after his church was prominently featured in a documentary on state television directed against Christian evangelicals. Unlike in previous periods, there was only one report of individuals being charged with the distribution of HT leaflets, which often contain strong anti-Semitic rhetoric, during the period of this report.
The Constitution formally allows religious freedom. Every citizen is declared to be allowed to freely follow no, one, or more religions, practice his or her religion without violating the law, be treated equally regardless of his or her religion, be protected from being violated his or her religious freedom, but is prohibited to use religion to violate the law.
Despite the official position, Freedom House states that, although the conditions had improved in recent years, "freedom of religion and expression are again under attack in Vietnam" and "that the country’s recent economic liberalization is not equally matched by necessary improvements in political rights and civil liberties."
All religious groups and most clergy must join a party controlled supervisory body, religions must obtain permission to build or repair houses of worship, run schools, engage in charity or ordain or transfer clergy, and some clergy remain in prison or under serious state repression.
Austria guarantees freedom of religion through various constitutional provisions and through membership in various international agreements. In Austria, these instruments are deemed to allow any religious group to worship freely in public and in private, to proselytize, and to prohibit discrimination against individuals because of their religious allegiances or beliefs. However, part of the Austrian constitutional framework is a system of cooperation between the government and recognized religious communities. The latter are granted preferential status by being entitled to benefits such as a tax-exempt status and public funding of religious education.p. 7
Currently, Austria recognizes twelve religions. In addition to various Christian denominations including Jehovah's Witnesses, these include Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam. To date, Austria has not granted full recognition to several newer and allegedly controversial religions such as the Church of Scientology. Some newer religious groups, however, have applied under the 1998 Act and thereby attained the preliminary status of communities of believers.p. 7
The Constitution of Belarus provides for freedom of religion; however, the Government restricted this right in practice.
Respect for religious freedom has recently worsened. The Government continued to restrict religious freedom in accordance with the provisions of a 2002 law on religion and a 2003 concordat with the Belarusian Orthodox Church (BOC), a branch of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) and the only officially recognized Orthodox denomination. Although there is no state religion, the concordat grants the BOC privileged status. Protestants in particular attracted negative attention, presumably for their perceived links with the United States. Numerous anti-Semitic acts and attacks on religious monuments, buildings, and cemeteries occurred with little discernible response from the Government. Authorities kept many religious communities waiting as long as several years for decisions about property registration or restitution. Authorities also harassed and fined members of certain religious groups, especially those that the authorities appeared to regard as bearers of foreign cultural influence or as having a political agenda. Foreign missionaries, clergy, and humanitarian workers affiliated with churches faced many government-imposed obstacles, including deportation and visa refusal or cancellation.
While some members of society took positive actions to promote religious freedom, instances of societal abuses and discrimination occurred, including numerous acts of vandalism and arson of religious sites, buildings, and memorials.
The constitution of Bulgaria provides for freedom of religion, and other laws and policies contributed to the generally free practice of religion. However, the constitution designates Eastern Orthodox Christianity as the "traditional" religion, exempting it from having to register in court as required for all other religious groups.
The government generally respected the religious freedom of registered religious groups. There were some concerns that the government did not proactively intervene to prevent societal abuses. There also were continuing reports of intolerance from police and local authorities during the reporting period.
There were continued reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice. Discrimination, harassment, and general public intolerance of some religious groups remained an intermittent problem. There was an increasing number of anti-Semitic incidents and vandalism against mosques.
The Constitution of Croatia provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects these rights in practice.
Denmark has freedom of worship, however the Church of Denmark does hold certain privileges. According to Section 4 in the Constitution of Denmark: "The Evangelical Lutheran Church shall be the Established Church of Denmark, and, as such, it shall be supported by the State."
Article 40 The Constitution of the Republic of Estonia reads: "Everyone has freedom of conscience, religion and thought. Everyone may freely belong to churches and religious societies. There is no state church. Everyone has the freedom to exercise his or her religion, both alone and in community with others, in public or in private, unless this is detrimental to public order, health or morals."
As the national churches of Finland, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland and the Finnish Orthodox Church have a status protected by law. The special legal position of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland is also codified in the constitution of Finland. Both churches have the right to levy an income tax on their members and every Finnish company as a part of Corporation Tax. The tax is collected by the state. The administration of the national churches is regulated by their respective church laws, which are drafted by the churches and enacted or rejected by the parliament. State universities, religiously non-aligned in themselves, provide the theological education that is required to be ordained as clergy of the national churches. The general direction has been to restrict and remove the privileges of the national churches, and as of 2004, in most other official business (such as officiating marriages) any registered religious community has a status comparable to that of the national churches.
Teaching Christianity in schools continued after they became a part of municipal jurisdiction in 1866. Students, who were not members of either national church, gained the lawful right to be freed from such teaching with §8 of the Act of Religious Freedom of 1922 (in Finnish "Uskonnonvapauslaki", in Swedish "Religionsfrihetslagen"). The legal guardian of the pupil had to apply for the pupil to be freed. Requirements for teacher competency for the teaching of religion and the corresponding subject for freed students "The history of religions and ethics" (in Finnish "Uskontojen historia ja siveysoppi", in Swedish "Religionshistoria och etik") have also varied.
Since 2003, world view related teaching is compulsory for all students in basic education (primary and secondary school). Each primary and secondary school municipality must arrange teaching in the religion, which the majority of the students in the municipality are members of. Also, for every group of at least three students, who belong to some other organized religion, teaching in their own religion must be arranged. For a group of at least three students within the municipality, who do not belong to any organized religion, teaching in the subject "ethics" (in Finnish "elämänkatsomustieto", in Swedish "livsåskådningskunskap"), must be arranged. If there are too few students for a teaching group for the student's own religion to be arranged, the student (or as most such students are minors, their parents) can choose between joining the teaching group for the majority religion, requesting ethics education or arranging the teaching from their own religious organization. A teaching group for a minority religion or for ethics can be arranged for several schools together.
Current teacher education in Finland gives primary and secondary school teachers a basic competence to teach the national churches' religion, major world religions and ethics as school subjects. However, it is also noted that a teacher should not have to teach a particular religion, if that offends her or his conscience, and any conflicts between students' right to education and teachers' religious freedom should be solved on a case-by-case basis.
Since 1905, France has had a law requiring separation of church and state, prohibiting the state from recognizing or funding any religion. According to the French constitution, freedom of religion was already a constitutional right. The 1905 law on secularity was highly controversial at the time. France adheres to the notion of laïcité, that is, noninterference of the government into the religious sphere and noninterference of religion into government, and a strict neutrality of government in religious affairs.
References to religious beliefs by politicians to justify public policies are considered a political faux pas, since it is widely believed that religious beliefs should be kept out of the public sphere.
Public tax money supports some church-affiliated schools, but they must agree to follow the same curriculum as the public schools and are prohibited from forcing students to attend religion courses or to discriminate against students on the basis of religion.
Churches, synagogues, temples and cathedrals built before 1905, at the taxpayers' expense, are now the property of the state and the communes; however they may be gratuitously used for religious activities provided this religious use stays continuous in time. Some argue that this is a form of unfair subsidy for the established religions in comparison to Islam.
The Alsace-Moselle area, which was part of Germany at the time the 1905 law was passed and was returned to France only after World War I, is still under the pre-1905 regime established of the French Concordat, which provides for the public subsidy of the Roman Catholic Dioceses of Metz and of Strasbourg, the Lutheran Protestant Church of Augsburg Confession of Alsace and Lorraine, the Protestant Reformed Church of Alsace and Lorraine and the three regional Israelite consistories as well as public education in those religions. An original trait of this area is that priests are paid by the state; the bishops are named by the President on the proposal of the Pope. Controversy erupts periodically on the appropriateness of these and other extraordinary legal dispositions of Alsace-Moselle (known as the local law), as well as on the exclusion of other religions in Alsace-Moselle from this arrangement.
In recent years, some legislation such as the About-Picard law and government actions were taken against some groups considered to be dangerous or criminal. Officials and associations fighting excesses of such groups, justified these measures by the need to have appropriate legal tools and the need to fight criminal organizations masquerading as legitimate religious groups. Critics such as the Church of Scientology, contended that those actions unfairly targeted minority religions, jeopardized freedom of religion, and were motivated by prejudice. The matters were made even more complex by the fact that some of the groups involved are based in the United States, which prompted the intervention of the government of that country. According to pastor Jean-Arnold de Clermont, head of the French Protestant federation and himself a strong critic of the first draft of the law, the complaints originating in the United States concerning religious freedom in France were largely based on biased, poor information.
The Georgian Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice.
After the wars that followed the Reformation, the principle cuius regio, eius religio divided the Holy Roman Empire in statelets with a homogeneous faith. This principle was changed to religious freedom as a result of the Thirty Years' War in the 17th century.
Today, church and state are "separate," but there is cooperation in many fields, most importantly in the social sector. Churches and religious communities, if they are large, stable and loyal to the constitution, can get special status from the state as a "corporation under public law" which allows the churches to levy taxes called Kirchensteuer (literally church tax) on their members. This revenue is collected by the state for a cost-covering fee. Payment of this tax is not voluntary for adherents of the respective religion who are otherwise obligated to pay taxes. Since one's religion is officially recorded, exemption from this tax is possible only through leaving one's religion. Being a member of one's own religious tradition in Germany therefore requires monetary payment to the respective ecclesiastical body (and, indirectly, a small portion to the state).
Religious instruction (for members of the respective religions) is an ordinary subject in public schools (in most states). It is organized by the state, but also under the supervision of the respective religious community. Teachers are educated at public universities, in departments that are nevertheless affiliated with a specific church (Protestant or Catholic) or with confessional Islam. Parents, or students 14 years old and above, can decide not to take those religion classes, but most federal states require classes in "ethics" or "philosophy" as replacements. A small but significant number of religious schools, which receive the majority of their funding (but never all of it) from the state, exist in most parts of the country; however nobody can be compelled to attend them. There was considerable public controversy when the Federal Constitutional Court declared a Bavarian law requiring a crucifix in every classroom to be unconstitutional in 1997; Bavaria replaced it with a law still demanding the same, unless parents file a formal protest with the state.
The government generally respects religious freedom in practice. There were reports of societal abuses based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice. Right-wing groups and Muslim youth from immigrant backgrounds committed politically motivated crimes against some minority religious groups. Some Jewish cemeteries were desecrated, and individuals from Muslim communities sometimes suffered societal discrimination. The Roman Catholic and Protestant churches continued to use “sect commissioners” to warn the public of alleged dangers from some minority religious groups such as the Unification Church, Scientologists, Universelles Leben (Universal Life), and Transcendental Meditation practitioners. Scientologists continued to find that “sect filters” were used to discriminate against them in education, employment, and political party membership. A sect filter is defined as a written agreement a new employee has to sign stating that he or she has no contact with Scientology, has not participated in its training courses, and rejects its doctrines. Prominent societal leaders, however, took positive steps to promote religious freedom and tolerance. Many members of civil society, such as members of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, members of the Turkish community, and members of prominent Jewish organizations, initiated discussions regarding Muslim integration and expressed commitment to that process.
Greece, as the only European Union (EU) country to ban proselytism in its constitution, is the only EU country that has been condemned by the European Court of Human Rights for a lack of religious freedom. The position of the Church of Greece and its relations with the State are set forth in Article 3, par. 1 of the present Constitution (1975/1986/2001). According to this article: (a) The Greek-Orthodox dogma is the prevailing religion, (b) The Church of Greece is inseparably united in doctrine with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and with all other Orthodox Churches, and (c) The Church is self-administered and autocephalous. Freedom of religion for all Greeks is guaranteed in the constitution and proselytism is outlawed.
An estimated 98 percent of the population identifies itself as Greek Orthodox. The 1923 Treaty of Lausanne created an officially recognized “Muslim minority,” which consists of an estimated 140,000 to 150,000 individuals (approximately 1.3 percent of the Greek population) residing in Thrace. The remaining population is composed of Roman Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Old Calendarist Orthodox, Jehovah’s Witnesses, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), Scientologists, Baha’is, Hare Krishna devotees, and followers of polytheistic Hellenic religions. Church leaders estimated that 30 percent of self-identified Orthodox regularly participates in religious services. The government supports the Orthodox Church financially. For example, the government pays for the salaries and religious training of Orthodox clergy, partially finances the maintenance of Orthodox Church buildings, and provides a tax exemption for the Orthodox Church’s property revenues. Orthodox religious instruction in primary and secondary schools, at government expense, is mandatory for all students, although non-Orthodox students may exempt themselves by turning in a statement requesting exemption. However, public schools offer no alternative activity or non-Orthodox religious instruction for these children. Many private schools offer alternative religious instruction to their students.
Religious instruction is provided in Greek public schools, and students are taught the tenets of the Christian Orthodox faith (or, respectively, Islam, for the Muslim religious minority in Thrace). Typically, one hour per week (out of the 32-hour program of studies) is devoted to these lessons. However, students and parents can choose to opt out of religious instruction lessons by providing a written note to their school stating they desire to do so. The Lord's Prayer or another prayer is typically recited before lessons, once a day, but school prayer attendance is not mandatory.
A Greek Government plan exists which would build an Islamic center and mosque on some 35,000 square meters of donated land in the Athens suburb of Peania. The plan has drawn fire on grounds that Peania currently has no Muslim community. The Mayor of Peania has initiated legal action, pointing to a century-old deed which, municipal authorities say, proves that the land on which the Mosque would be built belongs to Peania and not the central government. Muslim communities have also criticized the Peania project, noting that such a mosque would be located some 30 kilometers (19 mi) from Athens, where most of the capital's Muslim faithful live.
Das Leben des Jesus (The Life of Jesus), a satire which portrays Jesus as an incense-addicted hippy, was banned in Greece in 2005 under a blasphemy statute, while its writer, Gerhard Haderer, received a suspended six-month jail sentence. However, both the ban and sentence were repealed on appeal and the book has circulated freely since.
In 2006 an Athens court decreed the official recognition of the ancient Greek pantheon as a "known religion".
Freedom of religion in Iceland is guaranteed by the 64th article of the Constitution of Iceland. However at the same time the 62nd article states that the Evangelical Lutheran Church shall be the national church (þjóðkirkja) and the national curriculum places emphasis on Christian studies.
A religion tax is collected by the Þjóðkirkja. Those that belong to other religious groups do not pay that tax, but those who are registered as non-religious (not belonging to any religious group) do pay the tax which used to be earmarked for the University of Iceland but now goes into the tax budget.
The constitution of the Republic of Ireland, as well as its laws and policies generally protect religious freedom, and the Irish government generally respects religious freedom in its actions. There is no state religion. The constitution mandates that “the State shall not … make any discrimination on the ground of religious belief, profession or status,” and it prohibits favoring one religious group over another. Discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief is likewise prohibited. The law does not restrict the teaching or practice of any faith. Religious groups are not required to register with the government. The government allows religious instruction in public schools, and primary and secondary schools are religiously based. In 2012 a convention met to consider the blasphemy prohibition law, and voted to change it to make it illegal to incite religious hatred. Certain state agencies, such as the Equality Authority and the Garda Racial and Intercultural Office (GRIO), are chartered with enforcing equality legislation and working on behalf of minority religious groups. GRIO created an official training program for An Garda Síochána liaison officers who then regularly engage with immigrant communities and minority religious groups. The 2011 census indicates the population is approximately 84 percent Roman Catholic, 3 percent Church of Ireland, 1 percent Muslim, 1 percent Orthodox Christian, 1 percent unspecified Christian, a small number of Presbyterians and Jews, with 6 percent of residents no claiming religious affiliation.
In Italy there is not a state religion, however the Catholic Church enjoys a special status due to its historical political authority and its sovereign status, both of which other religions do not have. The Constitution recognises the Lateran treaty of 1929, later modified in 1984, which gave this special status to the Catholic Church, but also recognizes the separation of church and state, as stated in Article 7:"The State and the Catholic Church are independent and sovereign, each within its own sphere. Their relations are regulated by the Lateran pacts. Amendments to such Pacts which are accepted by both parties shall not require the procedure of constitutional amendments."
Freedom of religion is enshrined in Article 8, which also gives the possibility to make arrangements with the State to other religions, not only Catholicism:"All religious denominations are equally free before the law. Denominations other than Catholicism have the right to self-organisation according to their own statutes, provided these do not conflict with Italian law. Their relations with the State are regulated by law, based on agreements with their respective representatives."
In the Netherlands, freedom of religion found its roots in the religious wars that took place in the 16th century and which led to the first limited form of constitutional recognition of the freedom of religion in 1579. With the last major revision of the Constitution in 1983 with respect to freedom of religion, the secularization between state and church that started in the 19th century was completed. In Article 6, all discrimination based on religion or philosophy of life is forbidden. With the insertion of the term "philosophy of life," the equal treatment of religious and non-religious philosophies of life is guaranteed in conformity with the international commitments of the Netherlands. This article briefly reviews the legal and constitutional background of the Netherlands and the constitutional provisions relevant to freedom of religion. It then lists the most important international agreements and laws affecting religious organizations.p. 76
The Netherlands has separation of church and state, but the government does recognize religious communities, especially in cultural affairs. Schools founded by religious communities, whether Protestant, Catholic, Jewish or Islamic, receive government finance. This was instituted in 1917 in what is known as the Pacification. Religiously inspired broadcasting associations are also allowed to broadcast on the Netherlands Public Broadcasting. As such the Netherlands does not have a strong separation between church and state, but instead the state sustains a plural society, which historically consists of multiple separated religious groups. The Dutch monarch has always been a member of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands or its forebears, but there is no law anymore that states this has to be so.
The Republic of Poland is predominantly a Roman Catholic state with approximately 89 percent of the population Roman Catholic. Groups that constitute less than 5 percent of the population include Polish Orthodox, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Lutherans, Greek Catholics, Pentecostals, and others. The remainder of the state encompasses more than 151 churches or other religious organizations. Freedom of religion is guaranteed by the Polish Constitution and major international conventions and agreements related to religion. Most of these have been signed and ratified by Poland. The Constitution provides, without any exception, separation of church and state, freedom of faith and religion, and equal rights for churches and other religious organizations. After registration, churches and other religious organizations may enjoy their rights provided by various laws. The relations between the State and the Roman Catholic Church are determined by the Concordat Between the Holy See and the Republic of Poland and by other laws. The relations between the State and other major churches and religious organizations are determined by laws adopted pursuant to agreements concluded between their appropriate representatives and the Council of Ministers.p. 85
Article 13 of the Portuguese Constitution states, in part, that "No one may be privileged, favored, prejudiced, deprived of any right or exempted from any duty for reasons of ancestry, sex, race, language, territory of origin, religion, political or ideological beliefs, education, economic situation, social circumstances or sexual orientation."
The country is mostly Roman Catholic, although other Christian churches are on the rise since the 1974 Revolution which inserted the aforementioned article in the constitution.
Immigrants from ex-colonies are Muslim and Hindu.
Recent immigration from Eastern European countries also brought the presence of the Orthodox faith.
From the foundation of the Kievan Rus dynasty until the institution of bolshevism, Russia maintained very close ties between the officially recognized religion, the Russian Orthodox Church, and the government. These bonds became tightest under tsar Peter I ("Peter the Great"); in 1721, the office of Patriarch of Moscow was eliminated and replaced with a "Holy Governing Synod," presided over by an Imperial appointee and regulated by Imperial law. From that point until 1917 the Russian Orthodox Church was explicitly a department of the Russian government.
After the October Revolution and bolshevik coup, the government of the Soviet Union was quite active in religious affairs, even though it was theoretically atheist and purely secular. Between 1917 and 1922, Soviet authorities executed 28 Orthodox Bishops and over 1,000 priests. A government-sponsored "renovation" known as the Living Church was instigated in May 1922 as a replacement for the Russian Orthodox Church. It was eliminated in 1943 during the Second World War, but state intervention in religious affairs did not end, and religion was highly regulated and controlled until the end of the Soviet Union. The 1930s witnessed severe persecution of all religions in the country as the state attempted to completely obliterate religious belief among the population. Thousands of churches and monasteries were closed down and demolished and scores of clergy executed or sent to labor camps. Stalin was forced to rehabilitate the ROC during the war as a means of rallying patriotism among the masses, leading to it being granted limited tolerance afterwards. Nikita Khrushchev reintroduced harsh anti-religious campaigns in the 1950s-60s, but these ended with his expulsion as CPSU General Secretary in 1964. From thenceforth, the Soviet government preferred more subtle atheistic propaganda to outright suppression of religion.
On October 9 and November 10, 1990, the Russian Parliament passed two freedom of conscience laws that formally disestablished the Russian Orthodox Church as the state church of Russia (this step had never actually been explicitly taken in the Soviet Union). In 1997, however, the Russian Parliament passed a law restricting the activities of religious organizations within Russia. Complete freedom is given to any religious organization officially recognized by the Soviet government before 1985: the Orthodox Church, Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism. The basis for consideration as an official religion of the Russian Federation is supposed to be a 50-year presence in the state. According to this criterion, Roman Catholicism, Lutheranism, and the Baptist faith should all enjoy official status as Russian religions. However, this is not the case. Non-official religions are strictly limited in that they are not permitted to operate schools or import non-Russian citizens to act as missionaries or clergy. Likewise, they must annually re-register with local officials.
This act has been sharply criticized as antithetical to the concept of freedom of religion, especially in countries with religious organizations that expend a great deal of money and effort in proselytizing.
The Russian government also engages in practices that have been accused of being discriminatory against citizens who profess faiths other than Orthodox Christianity. In the Russian armed forces — for which there continues to be universal conscription — no form of religious worship other than Orthodox Christian is permitted. Thus, conscripted Jews, Muslims, and Buddhists (despite their ostensible religious freedom granted in the 1997 law) are prohibited from engaging in prayer, even if they do so in solitude.
Despite these overtly religious practices listed above, The Constitution of the Russian Federation adopted on December 12, 1993, declares the state to be secular, and that no religion shall be declared an official or compulsory religion. The Constitution further provides for equality of all religious associations before the law and states in Article 14 that all religious organizations shall be separate from the state. This provision is contained in the chapter that constitutes the fundamental principles of the constitutional system of the Russian Federation and cannot be changed except by a very complicated procedure established by the Constitution. No other legal acts may contradict the fundamental principles of the Russian constitutional system.p. 107
The constitution and other laws and policies protect religious freedom and, in practice, the government generally respected religious freedom.
The Church of Sweden lost its position as the state church on 1 January 2000. Since then, 22 recognized religious denominations, in addition to the Church of Sweden, raise revenues through member-contributions made through the national tax system. All recognized denominations are entitled to direct government financial support, contributions made through the national tax system, or a mix of both. The state does not favor the Church of Sweden at the expense of other religious groups in any noticeable way. Certain Christian religious holy days are national holidays. School students from minority religious backgrounds are entitled to take relevant religious holidays.
Freedom of religion and worship is a fundamental feature of Britain's traditions, except for the provisions of the Act of Settlement 1701 which mandates that no Catholic shall be the monarch of the United Kingdom, nor shall they be married to one. For a mature democracy, the freedom was achieved relatively late, and some discriminatory laws against minority religions survived into modern times. The new Human Rights Act 1998, which incorporates the European Convention on Human Rights into domestic law, guarantees the protection of individual rights, including freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, and the freedom to hold or adopt a religion or belief of one's choice. Religious organizations are generally accorded the status of tax exempt public charities. Religious education is mandated in state schools based on a syllabus reflecting the country's Christian traditions, but taking into account the other principal represented religions. Students may be excused from attendance at religious worship or instruction upon the request of a parent. Recent laws have shown sensitivity towards religious practices of different groups. A greater role for the judiciary in protecting religious liberties is envisaged under the Human Rights Act.p. 159
Britain is a predominantly Christian country with two established, the Church of England (COE), the mother church of the Anglican Communion and state church in England and the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. Roman Catholics, Baptists, Lutherans, Methodists and Orthodox are among the other Christian faiths present. Most of the world's religions are also represented, including a large number of Muslims (2.7 million), Hindus (800,000), Sikhs (500,000), and Jews (285,000). There are smaller communities west of Bahá'í (6,000), Buddhists (over 500 groups and centers), Jains (25,000) and Zoroastrians (5,000), as well as followers of new religious movements and pagans. Many Britons consider themselves agnostic.p. 159
The Church of Scotland is Presbyterian while the Church of England is Anglican (Episcopalian). The former is a national church guaranteed by law to be separate from the state, while the latter is a state-established church and any major changes to doctrine, liturgy, or structure must have parliamentary approval. Neither Wales nor Northern Ireland currently have established churches: the Church in Wales was disestablished in 1920, the Church of Ireland in 1871. The king or queen must promise to uphold the rights of the Presbyterian church in Scotland and the Anglican church in England. He or she is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, holding the title of Defender of the Faith, but an ordinary member of the Church of Scotland. Neither church receives direct funding from taxation. State schools must provide religious instruction and regular religious ceremonies, though parents may withdraw their children from either; the choice of religion is left up to the school governors, but in the absence of an explicit choice it is by default "broadly Christian;" the Church of England and the Catholic Church operate many state-funded schools and there are a small number of Jewish and Muslim ones. Senior Church of England bishops have a right to sit in the House of Lords, the upper chamber of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.
Religious freedom in Canada is a constitutionally protected right, allowing believers the freedom to assemble and worship without limitation or interference.
There is no established church, however religious groups can qualify for tax-exemption. The amount of funding religious schools receive varies from province to province. In many provinces religious schools are government funded in the same way other independent schools are. In most parts of Canada there is a Catholic education system alongside the secular "public" education system. They all run on Catholic principles and include religious activities and instruction as a matter of course. They are not exclusively attended by practicing Catholics.
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is entrenched in the Constitution, states in the preamble that Canada "is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law." Freedom of religion as also guaranteed. The Supreme Court of Canada, in the case of Her Majesty The Queen in Right of Canada v. Big M Drug Mart Ltd.,  (1 S.C.R. 295) ruled that a 1906 statute that required most places to be closed on Sunday did not have a legitimate purpose in a "free and democratic society," and was an unconstitutional attempt to establish a religious-based closing law (see Blue law.)
A precedent of limiting the rights of the church – especially the Roman Catholic Church– was set by President Valentín Gómez Farías in 1833. Later, President Benito Juárez enacted a set of laws that came to be known as the Leyes de Reforma (or Reform laws) between 1859 and 1863 in the backdrop of the Reform War. These laws mandated, among other things, the separation of church and state, allowed for civil marriages and a civil registry, and confiscated the church's property.
Tensions also existed between the Roman Catholic Church and the post-Revolution Mexican government. Severe restrictions on the rights of the Church and members of the clergy were written into the country's 1917 constitution that led to the eruption of the Cristero War in 1926. In 1992 the government reestablished diplomatic relations with the Holy See and lifted almost all restrictions on the Catholic Church. This later action included granting all religious groups legal status, conceding them limited property rights, and lifting restrictions on the number of priests in the country. However, the law continues to mandate a strict separation of church and state. The constitution still bars members of the clergy from holding public office, advocating partisan political views, supporting political candidates, or opposing the laws or institutions of the state.
The constitution provides that education should avoid privileges of religion, and that one religion or its members may not be given preference in education over another. Religious instruction is prohibited in public schools; however, religious associations are free to maintain private schools, which receive no public funds.
Religious groups may not own or administer broadcast radio or television stations. Government permission is required for commercial broadcast radio or television to transmit religious programming.
The Constitution of Panama provides for freedom of religion, with some qualifications, and other laws and policies contribute to the generally free practice of religion. The law at all levels protects this right in full against abuse, either by governmental or private actors. The Government generally respects religious freedom in practice. In 2007, the US government received no reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice.
The principle of freedom of religion is officially protected by the US constitution. US Supreme Court rulings have re-stated and expanded upon the legal individual right of freedom of religion within the United States of America.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, many Europeans emigrated to what would later become the United States. For some this was driven at least partly by the desire to worship freely in their own fashion. These included a large number of nonconformists such as the Puritans and the Pilgrims as well as English Catholics. However, with some exceptions, such as Roger Williams of Rhode Island, William Penn of Pennsylvania or the Roman Catholic Lord Baltimore in Maryland, most of these groups did not believe in religious toleration and in some cases came to America with the explicit aim of setting up an established religion.
The original U.S. Constitution stated that "...no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States." As a result of popular support, freedom of religion was re-emphasized in the U.S. Constitution with the passing of the Bill of Rights containing the First Amendment. The clauses of the First Amendment stating that the federal government should not establish an official religion and should allow religious freedom are known respectively as the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause. They state, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."
Chapter V. The States; Section 116 of the Australian Constitution reads: "The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth."
There has never been a state church in New Zealand, although prayers are said in Parliament. The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 codified freedom of religion and belief in Section 15.
Article 2 of the Constitution of Argentina reads: "The Federal Government supports the Roman Catholic Apostolic religion." Article 14 guarantees all the inhabitants of the Nation the right "to profess freely their religion."
Religious freedom has been codified into law since January 7, 1890, with a decree signed by President Deodoro da Fonseca in the newly established Republic. It is a Constitutional right since the 1946 Constitution was enacted, up to and including the current 1988 Constitution of Brazil.
January 7 is the National Day of Religious Freedom in Brazil.
Freedom of religion in Colombia is enforced by the State and well tolerated in the Colombian culture.
Freedom of religion in Ecuador is guaranteed by the country's constitution, and the government generally respects this right in practice. Government policy contributes to the generally free practice of religion. The United States received no reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious belief or practice in 2007.
Freedom of religion in Paraguay is provided in the Constitution of Paraguay, and other laws and policies contributed to the generally free practice of religion. The law at all levels protects this right in full against abuse, either by governmental or private actors. The government generally respects religious freedom in practice; however, it occasionally fails to enforce religious freedom laws when abuses occurred. There were some reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice; however, prominent societal leaders took positive steps to promote religious freedom.