| Religious Freedom Ranking:
2.5 out of 5 stars: Needs Improvement
The Constitution protects religious freedom, providing that “Christian morality and public order” are respected. It recognizes Catholicism as “the religion of the majority” of citizens but it is not the official state religion. It limits public offices that religious leaders may hold to those related to social assistance, education and scientific research.
The country has a population of 3.3 million. There are no official government statistics on religious affiliation, but sources estimate that 75 to 85 percent of the population identifies itself as Roman Catholic and 15 to 25 percent as evangelical Christian. Other groups include Episcopalians, who number between 7,000 to 10,000 members; Seventh-day Adventists; other Christians; the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with an estimated 36,000 to 38,000 members; Jehovah’s Witnesses; Jewish and Muslim communities, with approximately 10,000 members each; and Hindus, Buddhists, Baha’is and Rastafarians.
The government observes the following religious holidays as national holidays: Good Friday and Christmas Day.
According to a 2009 Gallup poll, the mainstream Protestant denominations include Southern Baptist Convention and other Baptist congregations, United Methodist, Methodist Church of the Caribbean and the Americas and Lutheran.
The Constitution grants religious associations “juridical capacity,” which means they are free to handle and administer their property within limits stipulated by law. The Ministry of Government and Justice grants “juridical personality,” permitting a religious organization to apply for all tax benefits obtainable to nonprofit organizations.
Most foreign religious workers are granted temporary missionary workers visas that must be renewed every two years for up to six years total.
The Constitution stipulates that Catholicism shall be taught in public schools. However, parents have the right to excuse their children from such religious instruction.
2010 U.S. State Department International Religious Freedom on Panama