International Religious Freedom Report 2003
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice. The Roman Catholic Church is the official state church.

There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom during the period covered by this report, and government policy continued to contribute to the generally free practice of religion.

The generally amicable relationship among religions in society contributed to religious freedom.

The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government in the context of its overall dialog and policy of promoting human rights.

Section I. Religious Demography

The country has a total land area of 61.7 square miles (160 square kilometers) and a total population of 32,883 (as of June 30, 2002, according to the Office of the National Economy). There are 25,676 Roman Catholics, 2,348 Protestants, 1,347 Muslims, 254 Eastern Orthodox, 70 Buddhists, 32 members of Jehovah's Witnesses, 13 Anglicans, 17 Jews, 14 Baha'is, 8 New Apostolics, 8 members of other religions, and 3,569 persons who were undecided.

There are no significant foreign missionary groups in the country.

Section II. Status of Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

The Constitution provides for freedom of creed and conscience, and the Government generally respects this right in practice. The Government at all levels strives to protect this right in full, and does not tolerate its abuse, either by governmental or private actors. The Criminal Code prohibits any form of discrimination, or debasement of any religion or any of its adherents. The Constitution provides for the Catholic Church as the established church of the country and as such it enjoys the full protection of the State.

Church funding comes from the general budget, as decided by Parliament, and is not a direct "tithe" paid by the citizens. The Government gives money not only to the Catholic Church but also to other denominations. The budget is allocated proportionately according to membership numbers. The Roman Catholic Church's finances are integrated directly into the budgets of the national and local governments. The Catholic Church receives approximately $190,000 (300,000 Swiss francs) per year, plus additional sums from the 11 communes. The relationship between the State and the Roman Catholic Church is being redefined. Under an interim regulation of December 1998, the state contributions to the Catholic Church temporarily had been paid into a blocked special account to be released when a new agreement was reached. The 1998 regulation expired on January 1, 2002, before a consensus had been reached. Therefore, the Church again is entitled to the State's annual contributions under the terms of a 1987 law. The Government missed its self-imposed 2002 deadline because it wanted to allow additional time to find the widest possible consensus on the redefinition of the relationship between the State and the Catholic Church. The State's financial contributions for 1999, 2000, and 2001 have been paid out to the Church. All religious groups enjoy tax-exempt status.

There are no significant foreign missionary groups in the country. In order to receive a religious-worker visa, an applicant must demonstrate that the host organization is important for the entire country. An applicant must have completed theological studies and be accredited with an acknowledged order. Visa requests normally are not denied and are processed in the same manner as requests from other individuals or workers.

In the course of the on-going discussion on the redefinition of the relationship between the State and the Catholic Church, a new agreement with the Catholic Church has been created for religious education in schools. According to this agreement, pupils at secondary schools may choose between traditional confessional religious education (provided for by the Catholic or the Protestant Church) or non-confessional classes on "Ethics and Culture." In the past, confessional religious classes were compulsory unless parents explicitly requested that the school board exempt their child from religious classes. Under the new agreement, parents automatically have a choice. In February the Government briefed parents of the pupils concerned about the changes and requested that they return a form to the school board to express their preference for the religious education for their children. Denominations other than the Catholic and the Protestant Church are free to regulate their own religious education.

The Government collaborates with religious institutions by supporting interfaith dialogs and providing adult education courses in religion, as well as other subjects.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

Government policy and practice contributed to the generally free practice of religion.

There were no reports of religious prisoners or detainees.

Forced Religious Conversion

There were no reports of forced religious conversion, including of minor U.S. citizens who had been abducted or illegally removed from the United States, or of the refusal to allow such citizens to be returned to the United States.

Section III. Societal Attitudes

There are amicable relations between the religious communities. Catholics, Protestants, and members of other faiths work well together on an ecumenical basis. Differences among religious faiths are not a significant source of tension in society.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. Embassy discusses religious freedom issues with the Government in the context of its overall dialog and policy of promoting human rights.

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