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. There is no state religion; however, the Catholic Church enjoys some privileges unavailable to other faiths.

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 relationships 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 area of 194,897 square miles, and its population is approximately 41 million.

According to 1998 statistics collected by the Roman Catholic Church, 93.63 percent of citizens are Roman Catholic. This figure is drawn in part from records of events such as baptisms, first communions, and weddings; the number of self-described Catholics is lower. A survey published in February 2002 by the Center for Sociological Investigations found that 82.1 percent of citizens consider themselves Catholic, of whom 19 percent attend Mass regularly. Two percent are followers of other religions; 10.2 percent are nonbelievers or agnostics; and 4.4 percent are atheists. The Federation of Evangelical Religious Entities (FEREDE) represents 350,000 Spanish Protestants, but estimates that there are 800,000 foreign Protestants, mostly European, who reside in the country at least 6 months of each year. The Federation of Spanish Islamic Entities (FEERI) estimates that there are close to 1 million Muslims, including both legal and illegal immigrants. Approximately 50,000 Jews attend religious services. There are approximately 9,000 practicing Buddhists.

In May 2002, the Register of Religious Entities listed 11,706 entities created by the Catholic Church, as well as 1,188 non-Catholic churches, confessions, and communities in the register, including 604 Protestant church entities. Protestant entities include 89 Charismatic churches, 120 Assemblies of Brothers, 213 Baptist churches, 64 Pentecostal churches, 36 Presbyterian churches, 1 Evangelical Church of Philadelphia, 9 Church of Christ churches, 1 Salvation Army entity, 17 Anglican churches, 60 interdenominational churches, 25 Churches for Attention to Foreigners, 3 Seventh-day Adventist churches, and 106 other evangelical churches. In addition, there are also 5 Orthodox entities, 3 Christian Scientist entities, 1 entity of Jehovah's Witnesses, 1 entity of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), 1 entity of the Unification Church, 10 entities of other Christian confessions, 15 entities of Judaism, 159 entities of Islam, 2 entities of the Baha'i Faith, 3 entities of Hinduism, 13 entities of Buddhism, and 3 entities of other confessions.

Section II. Status of Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, 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. Discrimination on the basis of religious beliefs is illegal.

The Constitution, which declares the country to be a secular state, and various laws provide that no religion should have the character of a state religion. However, the Government treats religions in different ways. Catholicism is the dominant religion, and enjoys the closest official relationship with the Government as well as financial support. The relationship is defined by four 1979 accords between the country and the Holy See, covering economic, religious education, military, and judicial matters. Jews, Muslims, and Protestants have official status through bilateral agreements, but enjoy fewer privileges. Other recognized religions, such as Jehovah's Witnesses and the Mormons, are covered by constitutional protections but have no special agreements with the Government.

Among the various benefits enjoyed by the Catholic Church is financing through the tax system. A box on the income tax form permits taxpayers to assign approximately 0.5 percent of their taxes to the Catholic Church. The State ensures a minimum level of financing regardless of taxpayer contributions. Direct payments in 2001 amounted to approximately $120 million (21,746 million pesetas), not including state funding for religion teachers in public schools, military and hospital chaplains, and other indirect assistance.

The Organic Law of Religious Freedom of 1980 implements the constitutional provision for freedom of religion. The 1980 law establishes a legal regime and certain privileges for religious organizations. To enjoy the benefits of this regime, religious organizations must be entered in the Register of Religious Entities maintained by the General Directorate of Religious Affairs of the Ministry of Justice, which is updated regularly. To register with the Ministry of Justice, religious groups must submit documentation supporting their claim to be religions. If a group's application is rejected, it may appeal the decision to the courts. If it is judged not to be a religion, it may be included on a Register of Associations maintained by the Ministry of Interior. Inclusion on the Register of Associations grants legal status as authorized by the law regulating the right of association. Religions not officially recognized, such as the Church of Scientology, are treated as cultural associations.

The Catholic Church does not have to register with the Ministry of Justice's religious entities list; however, some Catholic entities do register for financial or other reasons. The first section of the Register of Religious Entities, called the special section, contains a list of religious entities created by the Catholic Church and a list of non-Catholic churches, confessions, and communities that have an agreement on cooperation with the State. Agreements on cooperation with the State have been signed by three organizations on behalf of Protestants, Jews, and Muslims; the organizations were the Federation of Evangelical Entities of Spain (FEREDE), the Federation of Israelite Communities of Spain (FCIE), and the Islamic Commission of Spain (CIE).

Leaders of the Protestant, Muslim, and Jewish communities report that they continue to press the Government for comparable privileges to those enjoyed by the Catholic Church. Their list of concerns includes public financing, expanded tax exemptions, improved media access, removal of Catholic symbols from some official military acts, and fewer restrictions on opening new places of worship. Minority religious groups sometimes have difficulty navigating city requirements such as municipal building codes to open storefront places of worship. Protestant and Muslim leaders also called for the Government to provide more support for public religious education in their respective faiths.

Religion courses are offered in public schools but are not mandatory. The Catholic Church and other religious entities support religious schools.

Foreign and national missionaries proselytize without restriction.

National religious holidays include Epiphany (January 6), Holy Thursday and Good Friday, Assumption (August 15), All Saints Day (November 1), Immaculate Conception (December 8), and Christmas (December 25); some communities celebrate local religious holidays. National religious holidays do not have a negative impact on other religious groups.

Restrictions on Freedom of Religion

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

The Islamic federation (FEERI) reported that the building permit process for new mosque construction can be difficult and lengthy, especially for building sites in central urban locations. According to FEERI, new mosque construction sometimes is forced into less-visible suburban areas, primarily due to resistance from neighborhood groups. However, in 2003 the construction of a large and prominent mosque was completed in Granada.

FEERI noted that the Government has been very supportive of female Muslim students who face problems with school dress codes because of their use of headscarves. The Government has consistently held that the right of education takes priority over the enforcement of clothing regulations.

The State funds Catholic chaplains for the military, prisons, and hospitals. The 1992 bilateral agreements recognize the right of Protestant and Muslim members of the armed forces to have access to religious services, subject to the needs of the service and authorization by their superiors. According to the agreements, such services are to be provided by ministers and imams approved by the religious federations and authorized by the military command. However, Protestant and Muslim leaders report that there are no military regulations to implement the 1992 agreements. Muslim leaders report that prison officials generally provide access for imams to visit Muslim prisoners, but officials have not granted permission for imams to hold religious services on prison grounds.

In December 2001, a Madrid court acquitted 15 persons of charges of illicit association and tax evasion. The charges arose from a fraud complaint against Church of Scientology offices Dianetica and Narconon and the subsequent arrest of Scientology International President Heber Jentzsch and 71 others at a 1988 convention in Madrid. Scientology representatives asserted that the indictment against Jentzsch, who was not part of the trial, was religiously based; officials denied this assertion. At the prosecutor's recommendation, the court dismissed the case against Jentzsch in April 2002.

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

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

The growth of the country's immigrant population at times has led to social friction, which in isolated instances has had a religious component. Many citizens place blame on recent Moroccan immigrants for increased crime rates in the country. These beliefs sometimes result in anti-Muslim sentiment.

In May 2002, arsonists burned an evangelical church in the town of Arganda del Rey, in the Madrid Autonomous Community. The church, whose congregation was predominantly Romanian, previously had been vandalized with anti-immigrant graffiti. Police arrested four youths, who according to the local mayor were associated with an ultra-right group.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government in the context of its overall dialog and policy of promoting human rights. Embassy officials also meet with religious leaders of various denominations.

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