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Guatemala PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 15 September 2011 15:25
Religious Freedom Ranking:
3.5 out of 5 stars: Needs Improvement

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<td width="50%"><strong> Religious Freedom Ranking</strong>: 3<br /><em><span style="font-size: 8pt;"> 1-5 stars</span></em></td>
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</tThe Constitution provides for religious freedom.  Although there is no state religion, the Constitution specifically recognizes the special status of the Catholic Church.

The country has a population of 14.3 million. There is no official census of religious affiliation.  In 2010 the Roman Catholic Episcopal Conference of Guatemala estimated that 65 to 70 percent of the population is Catholic.  Alianza Evangelica, the representative umbrella organization for Protestants, estimated that 35 to 40 percent of the population is Protestant.  Protestant groups include the Full Gospel Church, the Assemblies of God, the Central American Church and the Prince of Peace Church.  Other religious groups include Baptists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Seventh-day Adventists, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Jehovah’s Witnesses.  There are approximately 2,000 Jews.  A small Muslim population resides mainly in Guatemala City.

Catholics and Protestants are present in major political parties.  Leaders of Mayan spiritual organizations claim that many indigenous Catholics and Protestants also practice a form of indigenous spiritual ritual.

The government observes the following religious holidays as national holidays: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter and Christmas. The Virgin of the Assumption is the patron saint of Guatemala City, and the Feast of the Assumption is a local holiday.

It is required that all religious organizations as well as nonreligious associations and NGOs register with the government as legal entities to conduct business activities and obtain a tax-exempt status.  To receive formal recognition, religious groups other than the Catholic Church may file a copy of its bylaws and a list of its initial membership with the Ministry of Government.  There have been no reports of a religious group being denied registration and recognition.  However, some Protestant leaders asserted that the application process was lengthy.

Foreign missionaries must obtain tourist visas or temporary visas to operate freely.

The Constitution permits, but does not require, religious instruction in public schools.  The Ministry of Education likes to focus its efforts mostly on general values and good citizenship.

Registered religious groups are officially exempt from taxes.  However, Protestant leaders have claimed that local administrators occasionally mandated their churches to pay property taxes.

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

Representatives of Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and traditional Mayan spirituality groups participated in the Interreligious Dialogue and the Foro Guatemala to discuss communal and political topics.  On occasion, these representatives promoted an interreligious and multicultural viewpoint.

Protestant churches have been less tolerate of indigenous practices than the Catholic Church.

2010 U.S. State Department International Religious Freedom on Guatemala

Last Updated on Monday, 13 February 2012 18:43