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Freedom of religion in Estonia

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Freedom of religion in Estonia

The status of religious freedom around the world varies from country to country.



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:

  1. Afghanistan shall be an Islamic Republic, independent, unitary, and an indivisible state.
  2. 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.
  3. No law shall contravene the tenets and provisions of the holy religion of Islam in Afghanistan.


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."[1]


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.[2]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.[2]p. 7


Bangladesh was founded as a secular state, but Islam was made the state religion in the 1980s. But in 2010, the High Court held up the secular principles of the 1972 constitution.[3] The Constitution of Bangladesh establishes Islam as the state religion but also allows other religions to be practiced in harmony.[4] It also states that every religious community or denomination has the right to establish, maintain, and manage its religious institutions. While the Government publicly supports freedom of religion, attacks on religious and ethnic minorities continued to be a problem.

However the main religion in Bangladesh is Islam (89.7%)


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.

Burma (Myanmar)

Every year since 1999 the U.S. State Department has designated Burma as a country of particular concern with regard to religious freedom.[5]


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."[6]


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.

Again, like most countries, the specific form of separation unique to the US does not apply here. There is no restriction on government funding of "faith-based" activities. Religious activity in schools is not excluded constitutionally (though in public schools it is usually not undertaken). Some Canadian public schools used to have the students recite the Lord's Prayer daily, some schools did not recite it. This type of prayer is no longer practiced in public schools.

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."[7] 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., [1985] (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.)


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."[8] Every year since 1999 the U.S. State Department has designated China as a country of particular concern with regard to religious freedom.[9]


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."


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.[10] 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.[11]

See also Egyptian identification card controversy.


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."[12]


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.[13] [14] [15]

Teaching Christianity in schools continued after they became a part of municipal jurisdiction in 1866.[16] 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.[17] How well different schools and school districts conformed to the law varied, though. 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.[18]

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"[19] (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.[20] A teaching group for a minority religion or for ethics can be arranged for several schools together.[18]

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.[18]


1905 caricature depicting the separation of the church and state. The man in the middle is Jean-Baptiste Bienvenu-Martin, Minister of Education at the time

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 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.


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.

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. 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.

As immigration has significantly increased the numbers of Muslim inhabitants, there is ongoing discussion about introducing an Islamic religious instruction for Muslim pupils, but such plans have yet been hampered by difficulties in organising a curriculum for the whole Islamic spectrum. The Federal Administrative Court has ruled that the Berlin Islamic Federation was a qualified religious community under Berlin law (which differs considerably from most of the rest of the country); hence, the Berlin State Government decided to begin Islamic religious instruction in public schools in areas with significant Islamic populations.

The government generally respected 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.[21]


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.[22]

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[23] 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.[24] 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.[25] 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.[26]

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.[27]

In 2006 an Athens court decreed the official recognition of the ancient Greek pantheon as a "known religion".[28][29]


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.[30]


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.[31]

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".[32] The government, however, officially only recognises six religions, namely Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism.[33][34]


The Iranian constitution was drafted during the Iranian Constitutional Revolution in 1906;[35] While the constitution was modelled on Belgium's 1831 constitution, the provisions guaranteeing freedom of worship were omitted.[36] 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."[36] 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.[37] 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.[37] 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.[37] Bahá'í cemeteries have been desecrated and property seized and occasionally demolished, including the House of Mírzá Buzurg, Bahá'u'lláh's father.[38] The House of the Báb in Shiraz has been destroyed twice, and is one of three sites to which Bahá'ís perform pilgrimage.[38][39][40]


For most practical purposes, Ireland has separation of church and state. Article 44.1 of the constitution states that 'The State acknowledges that the homage of public worship is due to Almighty God. It shall hold His name in reverence, and shall respect and honour religion.' However, Article 44.2 goes on to state that '1˚Freedom of conscience and the free profession and practice of religion are, subject to public order and morality, guaranteed to every citizen. 2˚The State guarantees not to endow any religion.' While many religious schools are publicly funded, the religious link is due to the way the national school system is funded - a board of management runs the school, which is usually privately owned, while teachers' salaries are paid by the state. In 1973, the Fifth Amendment of the constitution removed the section which referred to the special position of the Catholic Church, though it has been argued that this section was more symbolic than of actual influence. The Irish President has to swear an oath that does contain an explicit religious reference, though this may be changed in future. Occasionally, there is mild controversy that the Angelus bell is broadcast by RTE on RTÉ 1 TV and radio station, but it generally peters out, due to the indifference of the population at large to the issue. RTÉ is theoretically not state-owned, being a semi state corporation. Only one of RTÉ's eight radio stations and one of its two television stations shows this. The Catholic Church is still one of the top religions there.


Modern Israel came into existence on 14 May 1948 as a homeland for the Jewish people and is the world's only Jewish-majority state. Israel's Basic Laws declare it to be a "Jewish state", a definition that is the subject of continuing debate, in part because the term "Jewish" can refer to religion, ethnicity, and/or nationality. Notwithstanding, this definition is often cited as justification for enforcement of religious laws as official state policies.

In principle every citizen of Israel, regardless of his or her religious or national affiliation, enjoys equal civil rights, including the large Arab and Muslim minority. However, highly religious Jews are exempt from military service, mandatory for most Israelis. Israel also offers automatic citizenship to any Jew who wishes to become a citizen. Critics consider such privileges to be state-sanctioned religious discrimination in violation of the principle of separation of state and religion.

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[41] and a 1998 ban on the importation of nonkosher meat.[42] Such practices differentiate Israel from other, secular democracies.


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:[43]

"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:[43]

"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."


Historically, Japan had long tradition of mixed religious practice between Shinto and Buddhism since the introduction of Buddhism in 7th century. Though the Emperor of Japan is supposed to be the direct descendant of Amaterasu Oomikami, 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.

Korea, Democratic People's Republic of (North)

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."[44]

Korea, Republic of (South)

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.[45]

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."[46]


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.


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 between 1859 and 1863 in the backdrop of the Guerra de Reforma. 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.[47] However, the Catholic Church owns and operates a national cable television channel. Government permission is required to transmit religious programming on commercial broadcast radio or television, and permission is granted routinely.


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.[2]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.

New Zealand

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.


Nigeria allows freedom of religion.[48] Islam and Christianity are the two major religions.[49] In many predominantly Muslim states, conversion from Islam to another religion is illegal and often a capital offense.[50] Northern Nigeria is mainly Muslim while southern Nigeria is mainly Christian. The Roman Catholic Church leads in terms of population in Christianity. While the Christian south is secular, Islamic law is strictly enforced in the north.


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.[51]


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.


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.[52] 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.[2]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."[53]

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.

Republic of China (Taiwan)

Article 13 of the constitution of the Republic of China provides that the people shall have freedom of religious belief.[54]


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.[2]p. 107

Saudi Arabia

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.


The constitution and other laws and policies protect religious freedom and, in practice, the government generally respected religious freedom.[55]

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.[56]


Exterior view of the Hagia Sophia, once a Christian cathedral

Nominally, 99.0% of the Turkish population is Muslim[57] 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.[58] 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.[59]

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.[60]

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,[61] 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.[62]

In reverse, the mainstream Hanafite school of Sunni Islam is largely organised by the state, through the Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı (Religious Affairs Directorate), which controls all mosques and Islamic clerics. All Islamic views which are deemed political are censored in accordance with the principle of secularism. All mosques are state funded and it is the state that appoints their imams. The content of the weekly seminars of these mosques has to be approved a priori by the DRI. As such, independent Sunni communities and mosques are illegal. Minority religions, like Alevi Islam or Armenian or Greek Orthodoxy, are guaranteed by the constitution as individual faiths and are mostly tolerated, but this guarantee does not give any rights to religious communities. However, the Treaty of Lausanne gives certain minority religious rights to Jews, Greeks and Armenians, but not, for example, to Syriac-Orthodox or Roman Catholics. The question over the re-establishment of an ancient Greek Orthodox seminary in Istanbul has become a political issue in regard to the accession of Turkey to the European Union. The EU considers such prohibition to amount to suppression of religious freedom. However, it is pointed out that, if the Greek Orthodox are allowed to reopen the school, they will become the only religion in Turkey with the right to independent religious schools.

United Kingdom

Freedom of religion and worship is a fundamental feature of Britain's traditions, except for the provisions of the Act of Settlement 1701 which ensures that no Catholic shall ever 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.[2]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 wet 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.[2]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.

United States

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.

The Christian flag displayed alongside the flag of the USA next to the pulpit in a church in California. Note the eagle and cross finials on the flag poles.

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 " 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..."

The court-enforced separation does not extend to all elements of civil religion. By law, the country's currency now carries the motto "In God We Trust." Congress begins its sessions with a prayer, and since 1954 the Pledge of Allegiance contains the phrase, "one nation, under God". Court rulings have upheld these apparently religious references, officially viewing them as non-substantive "ceremonial deism" or utilizing other legal theories. Recent lawsuits have unsuccessfully attempted to challenge this view. Some expressions of religion on public property, such as certain displays of the Ten Commandments in courtrooms or Nativity scenes on public land have been ruled to be unconstitutional. The government is also permitted to restrict religious activities so long as these restrictions do not target religion specifically. For instance, a religious group cannot perform human sacrifice under the veil of separation of church and state because the government views it as murder and murder is illegal.

Religion plays a strong role in US politics, especially in controversial issues like abortion, euthanasia, and homosexuality. Direct church-state issues also arise, currently including the question of whether or not school vouchers should be used to help parents pay for education at private schools which may have religious affiliations, and the status of the faith-based initiatives.

It is common practice for national politicians with strongly religious constituencies to cite religious texts or beliefs in support of certain policies. In other areas voters may be more disapproving of expressions of religious faith by political candidates and government officials.


The Constitution formally allows religious freedom.[63] 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.[63]

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."[64]

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.[65]

See also


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  56. ^ International Religious Freedom Report 2010 : Sweden (Report). U.S. Department of State. November 17, 2010.
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  58. ^ Shankland, David (2003). The Alevis in Turkey: The Emergence of a Secular Islamic Tradition. Routledge (UK). p. 20. ISBN . Some [researchers] claim that the number of Alevis is as high as 30 per cent of Turkey's population. Others state that there are as few as 10 per cent. My own feeling ... offered purely tentatively, is that the proportion of Turkeys' population that today holds itself to be Alevis is ... perhaps nearer to 15 per cent. 
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External links

  • "International Religious Freedom Report 2011". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 2012-11-27. 
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