U.S. Department of State Annual Report on International Religious Freedom for 1999 - Honduras

Section I. Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government respects this right in practice.

There is no state religion. However, the Government consults with the Roman Catholic Church on key issues of mutual concern, such as education and foreign debt relief.

The Constitution grants the President the power to grant "juridical personality" to associations, including churches. This personality is a prerequisite to being accorded certain rights and privileges, such as tax exemption. Associations are required to submit an application describing their internal organization, by-laws, and goals to the Ministry of Government and Justice. In the case of evangelical churches, the application is then referred to a group of leaders from the "Evangelical Fraternity of Churches" for review. This group has the power to suggest, but not require, changes. All religious applications also are referred to the State Solicitor's Office for a legal opinion that all elements meet constitutional requirements. Applications almost always meet these requirements. The President ultimately signs the approved resolutions granting juridical personality. The Ministry of Government and Justice did not turn down any applications for juridical personality on behalf of a church during the period covered by this report. The Catholic Church and other recognized churches are accorded tax exemptions and waivers of customs duty on imports.

There are no reliable government statistics on the distribution of membership in churches. The Catholic Church reports a total membership of just over 80 percent of the country's 6.0 million citizens. In February and March 1999, the Le Vote company conducted personal interviews on religious issues with persons age 18 or older in 1,330 households distributed throughout the country. The company reported that 60.3 percent of the respondents identified themselves as Catholics, 28.7 percent as evangelical Christians, and 6.8 percent as other; 4.2 percent either did not know or provided no answer. The principal faiths include Roman Catholicism, Judaism, the Greek Orthodox rite, the Episcopal Church, the Lutheran Church, Jehovah's Witnesses, the Mennonite Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the Union Church, and some 300 evangelical Protestant churches, the most prominent of which include the Abundant Life, Living Love, and Grand Commission churches. The National Association of Evangelical Pastors represents the evangelical leadership.

There are religious schools and schools operated by churches; they receive no special treatment from the Government, nor do they face any restrictions.

The Government requires foreign missionaries to obtain permits to enter and reside in the country. A Honduran institution or individual must sponsor a missionary's application for residency, which is submitted to the Ministry of Government and Justice. Once granted by the Ministry, the resolution granting residency is registered with the Directorate General of Population and Migration Policy.

However, the Government's attitude toward non-mainstream religious groups can be less hospitable. In May 1998, government officials indicated that adherents of Reverend Sun Myung Moon would not be welcome to visit the country to conduct a mass wedding. The wedding did not take place.

The Catholic Church is seeking the return of former properties of historic interest confiscated by the Government at independence in 1825.

There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom during the period covered by this report.

There were no reports of religious detainees or prisoners.

There were no reports of the forced religious conversion of minor U.S. citizens who had been abducted or illegally removed from the United States, or of the Government's refusal to allow such citizens to be returned to the United States.

Section II. Societal Attitudes

Relations between the principal religious communities are amicable. The Catholic Church has designated the Archbishop of Tegucigalpa as the national-level official in charge of ecumenical relations and the Archbishop has established an ecumenical and interreligious dialog section within his Archdiocese. The Archdiocese also is planning to build an interfaith library in Tegucigalpa to display books from a wide variety of Christian denominations. Christian churches work together through the private Christian Development Commission, currently directed by a Mennonite official. There is some concern by established churches over an alleged influx of Brazilian-origin religious groups who have religious beliefs different from those held by the established rites.

The Catholic Church sponsors a television station supported by a studio and other facilities.

Section III. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. Embassy discusses religious freedom issues with the Government in the overall context of the promotion of human rights. The U.S. Embassy also maintains a regular dialog with religious leaders, church-sponsored universities, and non-governmental religious organizations.

The Annual Report to Congress on International Religious Freedom describes the status of religious freedom in each foreign country, and government policies violating religious belief and practices of groups, religious denominations and individuals, and U.S. policies to promote religious freedom around the world. It is submitted in compliance with P.L. 105-292 (105th Congress) and is cited as the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.

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