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

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice.

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 61.8 square miles and a total population of 32,015 (as of December 31, 1998, according to the Office of the National Economy). There are 24,993 Roman Catholics; 2,276 Protestants; 1,139 Muslims; 225 Eastern Orthodox; 2 Buddhists; 3 members of the Jehovah's Witnesses; 17 Anglicans; 15 Jews; 12 Baha'is; 11 New Apostolics; 7 members of other religions; 3,029 persons 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 religion, and the Government respects this right in practice. The Government at all levels generally protects this right in full, and does not tolerate its abuse, either by governmental or private actors.

Religious liberty is protected by article 37 of the Constitution, granting freedom of creed and conscience, and by Article 283 in the Criminal Code, prohibiting any form of discrimination or debasement of any religion or any of its adherents.

Normally, church funding comes from the general budget, as decided by Parliament, and is not a direct "tithe" paid by the citizen. The Constitution establishes the Roman Catholic Church as the official state church of the country and its finances are integrated directly into the budgets of the national and local governments; approximately $196,000 (CHF 300,000) was budgeted for 2000, plus additional sums from the 11 communes. However, the relationship between the State and the Roman Catholic Church currently is being redefined. As an interim solution, the State's financial contributions for 1999, 2000, and 2001 are paid into a special account. When a new agreement is reached (no later than 2002), the agreed amount will be released to the Catholic Church. The Government gives money not only to the Catholic Church but also to other denominations. The budget is allocated proportionately according to membership numbers. 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 to an acknowledged order. Visa requests normally are not denied and are processed in the same manner as requests from other individuals or workers.

Roman Catholic or Protestant religious education is compulsory in all schools, but the authorities routinely grant exemptions for children whose parents so request. Both religions typically are taught separately but simultaneously in primary and secondary schools, normally 2 hours per week.

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 unrestricted 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 Government's 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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