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Tuesday, 07 June 2011 00:00

Religious Freedom Ranking:

3.5 out of 5 stars: Needs Improvement

ChileChile is a country that has an area of 292,260 square miles and an estimated population of 17 million. Seventy percent of the population over the age of 15 identify themselves as being Catholic. One percent is evangelical non-Catholics. Approximately 90 percent of "evangelicals" are Pentecostal. Anglican, Baptist, Episcopalian, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Reformed Evangelical, and Wesleyan churches make up the remaining 10 percent. Other groups include Baha'is, Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, and members of the Unification Church.

In 1980 the Political Constitution of the republic of Chile adopted Article 19, which assures all persons the freedom of conscience, belief and all forms of religious practice which do not oppose good morals, customs, or the public order. Religious communities may erect and maintain houses of worship so long as they abide by safety and health regulations. Religious property which is used exclusively for religious purposes of all denominations and religions is exempt from any form of taxation.

The Constitution and laws of the country provide for the free practice of religion. Church and state are generally separated. A 1999 law prohibits religious discrimination. However, the Catholic Church enjoys a privileged status and receives preferential treatment. Good Friday, the Feast of the Virgin of Carmen, the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, the Feast of the Assumption, All Saints' Day, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and Christmas are all religious holidays observed by the government. The law allows any religious group to apply for comprehensive religious nonprofit status. Once a religious entity is registered, it cannot be dissolved by the state by decree. Schools, clubs, and sports organizations can be established without registering them as separate corporations. During the reporting period, 165 religious organizations registered under the 1999 law and gained legal public right status, bringing the total to more than 2,000 registered religious groups.

In 1995 the government passed a municipal ordinance making it illegal to cause disturbances in the streets. This has been interpreted by some evangelical groups to be an attempt to limit street witnessing. The U.S. State Department also reports that there has been some non-governmental discrimination in public against Jews. In general, however, all religions in Chile are free to practice their faiths as provided for in the Constitution.

2010 U.S. State Department International Religious Freedom Report on Chile

Last Updated on Tuesday, 27 September 2011 20:53