U.S. Department of State Annual Report on International Religious Freedom for 2000 - Costa Rica

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government respects this right in practice. While the Constitution establishes Roman Catholicism as the state religion, people of all denominations freely practice their religion without government interference.

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

Both government policy and the generally amicable relationship among religions in society contribute to the free practice of religion.

The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government in the context of its overall dialog and policy of promoting human rights.

Section I. Government Policies on Freedom of Religion

Legal/Policy Framework

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

The Constitution establishes Roman Catholicism as the state religion and requires that the State contribute to its maintenance; however, it also prohibits the State from impeding the free exercise of other religions "that do not impugn universal morality or proper behavior." Members of all denominations freely practice their religion without Government interference.

The law grants the Catholic Church tax-free status and allows for the Government to provide land to the Catholic Church. In some cases, the Government retains ownership of the land but grants the Church free use while, in other situations, property simply is donated to the Church. This second method commonly is used to provide land for the construction of local churches. These methods do not meet all needs of the Church, which also buys some land outright. Government-to-Church land transfers are not covered under any blanket legislation. Instead, they are handled by specific legislative action once or twice per year.

The Government does not inhibit the establishment of churches through taxes or special licensing for religious organizations. However, churches must incorporate to have legal standing, like any other organizations.

Despite the official status of the Catholic Church, ties between it and the State are limited clearly. The Constitution prohibits Church involvement in political campaigning.

Religious Demography

An April 2000 Demoscopia, Inc. poll reported 73 percent of the population as Catholic, with 15 percent belonging to other Christian denominations. The mainstream Protestant denominations – largely Methodist, Baptist, and Episcopalian – account for slightly less than 1 percent. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) claims a membership of less than 1 percent, spread evenly throughout the country. In June 2000, it finished the construction of a temple that is to serve as a regional worship center for Panama, Nicaragua, and Honduras. Jehovah's Witnesses have a presence on the Caribbean coast but represent only about 1 percent of the population. Seventh-Day Adventists are present and operate a university, attracting students from throughout the Caribbean basin. Non-Christian religions (e.g., Judaism and Islam) represent 3 percent of the population. Groups such as the Unification Church and Hare Krishna are in the country in small numbers. Approximately 8 percent of the population do not practice any religion.

The country's tradition of tolerance and professed pacifism has attracted many religious groups. The Jewish population constitutes less than 1 percent of the country's total; many of its members found refuge before and during the Second World War. The mountain community of Monteverde, a popular tourist destination, was founded during the Korean War by a group of Quakers from the United States, acting on their convictions as conscientious objectors. This community, as well as those of Mennonites, Beechy Amish, and other pacifist religious groups, was welcomed by Costa Rica.

Although not mandatory, Catholic religious instruction is permitted in the public schools. Religious education teachers, including those in public schools, must be certified by the Roman Catholic Episcopal Conference, which does not certify teachers from other denominations or faiths. Private schools, including those affiliated with Protestant denominations, are free to include any religious instruction they see fit.

The Government does not restrict the establishment of places of worship. New churches, primarily evangelical Protestant churches that are located in residential neighborhoods, occasionally have conflicts with local governments due to neighbors' complaints about noise and traffic. In contrast, established Catholic Churches are built around the municipal square and do not present such problems.

Foreign missionaries and clergy of all denominations work and proselytize freely.

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.

Forced Religious Conversion of Minor U.S. Citizens

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

Amicable relations exist between members of the country's different religions, including religious minorities. The country has a history of tolerance.

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.

This report is submitted to the Congress by the Department of State in compliance with Section 102(b) of the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998. The 2000 Report covers the period from July 1, 1999 to June 30, 2000

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