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Costa Rica
Saturday, 10 September 2011 02:54

Religious Freedom Ranking:
3 out of 5 stars: Needs Improvement

Costa Rica


The Constitution provides for religious freedom:  Article 75 provides the right to freely practice the religion of one’s choice. Nondiscriminatory laws are applied and enforced.

However, Catholicism is the state religion, and the state is legally required to help maintain this particular church. On the other hand, the Constitution establishes the separation of church and state. The president, vice president, cabinet members and Supreme Court justices cannot be Catholic clergy.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Religion manages the government’s relationship with the Catholic Church and other religious organizations.  The Catholic Church receives land grants and exemptions from income and real estate taxes, giving this church a substantial advantage over competing faiths. The Catholic Church can perform marriages that are immediately acknowledged by the state. Other religious groups can perform wedding ceremonies, but the marriage must later be legalized through a civil union.

The country has a population of 4.5 million. A 2009 nationwide survey of religion found that 42.8 percent of the population are Roman Catholic, 17 percent evangelical Protestants, 9.1 percent report no religious affiliation and 4.1 percent practice “another religion.”  Other religious groups include Baptist, Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-day Adventists and Judaism. The Unification Church has its continental headquarters for Latin America in San José.  Other groups also include Islam, Taoism, Krishna Consciousness, Scientology, Tenrikyo and the Baha’i Faith.  Indigenous peoples practice animism.

The government observes the following religious holidays as national holidays: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Our Lady of the Angels Day and Christmas.

The government does not require religious groups to register.  Religious groups wanting to engage in fundraising activities must register with the Public Registry.

Public schools provide Catholic religious instruction. Students do not have to participate in such classes with the permission of their parents. Private schools offer any religious instruction they chose.

In September 2009, Catholic bishop of Cartago, José Francisco Ulloa advised parishioners not to vote for candidates in the February 2010 presidential elections that “denied God and defend principles that go against life, matrimony and family.” Ulloa was found guilty of violating article 28 of the Constitution, which forbids clergy from making political speeches for religious reasons. Ulloa was ordered to pay damages.

There have been no reports of religious prisoners or forced religious conversions.

There have been a few reports of anti-Semitic graffiti in San José.

The Ecumenical Affairs Committee of the Catholic Conference of Bishops and the Commission on Interfaith Dialogue routinely holds the affairs of the Catholic Church with other religious organizations.  The Jewish-Christian Fraternity and the Costa Rican-Jewish Cultural Institute promote religious understanding.


2010 U.S. State Department International Religious Freedom on Costa Rica

Last Updated on Friday, 21 October 2011 15:49