| Religious Freedom Ranking:
3 out of 5 stars: Needs Improvement
Peru has an area of 496,225 square miles and a population of 29.5 million.
The 1979 Constitution of Peru provides for freedom of conscience and free exercise of religion. There is no state church, but the Constitution expressly recognizes the Catholic Church as "an important element” in the historic, cultural, and moral development of Peru. Other religions include Protestant denominations, Jews, Bahai’s, Hare Krishnas, Mormons and Muslims. The Constitution mandates ethical and civic training in schools and states that "religious training is provided without violating freedom of conscience. It is determined freely by heads of family." The Constitution specifically prohibits discrimination based on religion, but the Catholic Church receives preferential treatment in education, tax benefits, immigration of religious workers, and other areas, in accordance with the 1980 agreement. The government observes the following religious holidays as national holidays: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Saints Peter and Paul Day, Saint Rose of Lima Day, All Saints' Day, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, and Christmas.
The law states that all schools, public and private, must teach religious education as part of the curriculum. The Catholic religion was the only religious teaching taught in public schools. Many non-Catholic schools were granted exemptions from this requirement.
Non-Catholic organizations complained that although their adherents were exempted from attending Catholic instruction, students who did not attend lost academic credits. Students who graduated from primary and secondary schools without these credits could not be at the top of their class, regardless of other academic achievement, and were thus disadvantaged in competition for scholarships and admission to universities.
Two terrorist groups who oppose religion, the Sendero Luminoso and Movimiento Revolucinario Tupac Amaru, threaten and intimidate religious workers. They have particularly targeted Mormon missionaries who work in the territories where they are active. Prior to 1996, 24 Mormon houses were bombed, several Mormon officials were murdered; officials of the Mormon church in Lima were threatened with death unless they handed over large amounts of money. Since 1996, the Mormons have not been targeted. They attribute this to the fact that Senerdo Luminoso is operating in a more limited area, and they are not sending missionaries to the highland areas in which the terrorist groups are most active.
2008 U.S. State Department International Religious Freedom Report on Peru
Peru - New World Encyclopedia