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Honduras - Religion

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 8.7 million (July 2015 estimate). The principal religious groups are Roman Catholics and evangelical Protestants. The Roman Catholic Church states it has approximately 6.85 million adherents, or 79 percent of the population. A 2014 survey by a local marketing research and public opinion company, however, reported that 45 percent of respondents self-identified as evangelical Protestants, 41 percent as Roman Catholics, and 11 percent as unaffiliated with any religious organization. Other prominent religious groups with their stated number of adherents include the Seventh-day Adventist Church (230,000); The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons, 165,000 adherents); Jehovah’s Witnesses (22,000); and a variety of Anabaptist/Mennonite groups (18,000), Episcopalians, and Lutherans.

The most prominent evangelical churches include the Church of God, the Assemblies of God, the Abundant Life Church, the Living Love Church, the International Christian Center, and various Great Commission churches. A growing number of evangelical churches have no denominational affiliation. The Moravian Church has a broad presence in the La Mosquitia region in the eastern part of the country. There is one Orthodox Christian church in San Pedro Sula, which primarily serves persons of Arab descent. Some indigenous groups and Afro-Hondurans practice African and Amerindian faiths or incorporate elements of Christianity, African, and Amerindian religions into their religious practices and beliefs. Representatives of the respective communities reported there are approximately 1,500 Muslims and a few hundred Jews.

The constitution provides for the free exercise of all religions. The government provides official recognition only to the Roman Catholic Church, classifying other religious groups as religious associations with fewer rights and privileges than the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church and others criticized the state’s nonrecognition of religious weddings performed without an attendant civil marriage certificate. Non-Catholic religious communities criticized the lack of equal recognition and treatment for all churches, including the government’s imposition of an income tax on the salaries of non-Catholic clergy and import taxes on religious materials received from abroad.

Seventh-day Adventists said educational institutions sometimes failed to respect their observance of the Sabbath on Saturdays. Jehovah’s Witnesses said that some educational institutions required them to participate in patriotic activities contrary to their faith and some government medical facilities refused to treat them because they would not accept blood transfusions. Some Muslims reported being denied the right to wear the hijab in both government and private sector offices. The government worked with religious organizations to address their concerns regarding registration of churches and to facilitate missionaries’ residency status.

Public comments by some activists disparaged some religious groups and their beliefs and practices. There was evidence of a lack of tolerance toward religious groups by some sectors of society, particularly on issues in the public sphere, such as alleged political activism and close ties to the government by some religious groups. Incidents of anti-Semitic statements on the internet arose in the context of discussions about violence between Israelis and Palestinians in the Middle East. Some Muslims reported being denied the right to pray during work hours. Some civil society activists protested the selection of an evangelical leader as a member of the nominating board for candidates seeking appointment to the Supreme Court.

U.S. embassy officials maintained a dialogue with religious leaders and organizations, which included discussions regarding differential treatment of religious groups. One important topic was the absence of a religious organization registration law that treated religious groups differently than nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

Foreign religious workers can request residency for up to five years. Some churches, including the Seventh-day Adventists and the Mormons, have migration facilitation agreements with the Secretary of Governance and Justice which specifies required documentation to process residency permits for religious workers from those churches. Churches that do not have such an agreement must provide proof of employment with the respective church and proof of income. To renew their residence permits, religious workers must submit proof of continued employment with the sponsoring church at least 30 days before their residency expires. The law prohibits the immigration of foreign missionaries who practice religions claiming to use witchcraft or satanic rituals, and allows the deportation of foreigners who practice witchcraft or “religious fraud.” According to the country’s immigration law, individuals who “fraudulently exercise their [religious] profession or office, or commit fraud against the health or religious beliefs of citizens of the country, or the national patrimony,” can also be fined or face other legal consequences.

The criminal code protects clergy who are authorized to operate in the country from being forced to testify about privileged information obtained in confidence during a religious confession. Vicars, bishops, and archbishops of the Roman Catholic Church and comparably ranked individuals from other churches that are legally recognized are not required to appear in court if subpoenaed. They are still required, however, to make a statement at a location of their choosing.

The government continued to identify the Catholic Church as the only legally recognized church, and continued to classify other religious groups as religious associations. Other religious groups criticized the government’s failure to recognize them as churches and their inability to receive attendant benefits such as tax exemptions for clergy salaries and imported religious materials. Religious groups criticized the state’s failure to recognize religious marriages conducted without a civil license.

Religious organizations criticized the application of one uniform set of registration rules to all nonprofit organizations, and said that they should be recognized as religious groups rather than NGOs. The government’s registration office for civil organizations published separate, but apparently identical guidelines for churches. The government continued to work with some religious organizations to address concerns regarding registration. Religious organizations strongly criticized the government’s requirement that all such organizations have a board of directors registered by the government and file annual financial and activity reports. Small or nondenominational groups stated these requirements were particularly difficult to meet.

Some Muslims reported that Muslim women were not permitted to wear the hijab while working as government employees in public healthcare facilities, the offices of the national healthcare system, or in judicial facilities. Private female lawyers were reportedly allowed to wear the hijab in court.

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One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias

Page last modified: 10-11-2016 10:35:13 ZULU