The following text is taken by permission from Frank Cranmer’s “Notes on Church and State . . .” – see this introductory note.
Chapter 2, Article 16(1) of the Constitution provides for freedom of religion and freedom of worship; moreover, under Article 16(3) Ninguna confesión tendrá carácter estatal: “There shall be no State religion”. That said, however, under the same Article 16(3) “[t]he public authorities shall take into account the religious beliefs of Spanish society and maintain the appropriate relations of cooperation with the Catholic Church and other denominations”.
Because Article 16(2) declares that no-one may be obliged to make a declaration of ideology, religion, or belief, there are no formal Government statistics on religious demography. Iván Ibán suggests that though four Spaniards in five regard themselves as Roman Catholics, this “should be seen in the context of an increasingly secular society which considers that standards of conduct should not be determined by any official religion”. (Ibán 2005: 140). Nevertheless, as a result of four Accords with the Holy See signed in 1979, the Roman Catholic Church has a special status with respect to finance, religious education, involvement with the armed forces, and judicial matters.
Article 1 of the General Act on Religious Freedom 1980 (Ley orgánica 7/1980 de 5 de julio de libertad religiosa) guarantees the fundamental right to freedom of worship and religion under the Constitution, ensures equal treatment before the law and reiterates the secular nature of the State. Article 2 expands on freedom of worship, asserts the right of faith-communities to establish places of worship, to appoint and train their ministers, to promulgate and propagate their own beliefs and to maintain relations with their own organisations or other religious faiths whether in Spain or beyond. Article 3.3 obliges public authorities to facilitate attendance at religious services in public, military, hospital, community establishments and prisons and to facilitate religious training in State schools. Article 5 confers legal personality on registered faith-groups provided that they are entered on the public Registry kept by the Ministry of Justice, Article 6 guarantees independence and internal self-regulation and Article 7 provides for cooperation agreements which, subject to approval by statute, may confer upon faith-groups the same tax benefits that apply to not-for-profit entities and charitable organisations. Article 8 establishes an advisory Committee on Freedom of Worship within the Ministry of Justice consisting of equal numbers of representatives of central government and of the faith-communities – with expert assistance – to review, report on and make proposals on the enforcement of the Act and with a mandatory role in the preparation of and recommendations for cooperation agreements under Article 7.
Article 3.2 of the Act, however, makes an important reservation: organisations involved in the study or practice of psychic or parapsychological phenomena or the dissemination of humanistic or spiritualistic values or other similar non-religious aims do not qualify for the protection provided under the Act. This does not, however, constitute a blanket rejection of “new religious movements”. In 2007 the Audiencia Nacional de España (roughly equivalent to the English Court of Appeal) ruled on the status of Scientology in Spain and concluded that its new statutes did not satisfy the test of exclusion under Article 3.2 – and thereby declared its activities legal.
As noted above, under Articles 5.1 and 5.2, in order to acquire legal personality a faith community must register with the Ministry of Justice, submitting evidence its foundation or establishment in Spain, a declaration of religious purpose, and its rules. However, if such a group is judged not to be a religion, it may nevertheless be included on a Register of Associations maintained by the Ministry of the Interior, which gives it legal status under the law regulating the right of association. (IRFR 2006: Spain). The first section of the Register of Religious Entities lists religious entities of the Roman Catholic Church and those non-Catholic churches, denominations and communities that have a cooperation agreement with the State.
As regards finance, the Roman Catholic Church is supported both through direct payments and through voluntary tax contributions of up to 0.5 per cent of income tax. In 2003 voluntary taxpayer contributions amounted to some £90 million (€135 million) while the Government also provided an additional £18 million (€28 million) in direct payments – a figure that does not include support for the teaching of religion in public schools nor for military and hospital chaplains (IRFR 2005: Spain). Representatives of Protestant, Jewish, and Islamic faiths have also signed bilateral agreements with the Government and are seeking parity of treatment on the matter of voluntary income tax contributions.
-  There has been speculation that a new General Act on Religious Freedom might be brought before the Cortes in 2010. ↩
-  Iglesia de Scientology de España v Ministerio de Justicia  Audencia Nacional 11 October 2007 (No 0000352/2005). ↩
This content last updated 4 November 2011 @ 12:28 pm