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United States Releases 2005 International Religious Freedom Report

"Countries of Particular Concern" include China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan

Posted: November 9, 2005 > The 2005 International Religious Freedom Report  
Related item: Religious Freedom a "Universal Human Right," Says Rice  

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice introduces the 2005 Report on International Religious Freedom during a State Department briefing in Washington, Tuesday, November 8. The annual report to Congress reviews the status of religious freedom around the world and examines barriers to religious freedom in individual countries. (State Dept. photo - Janine Sides)

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice introduces the 2005 Report on International Religious Freedom during a State Department briefing in Washington, Tuesday, November 8. The annual report to Congress reviews the status of religious freedom around the world and examines barriers to religious freedom in individual countries. (State Dept. photo - Janine Sides)

The U.S. Department of State released the seventh annual International Religious Freedom Report, which examines the status of religious freedom around the world.

The annual report to Congress, released November 8, is mandated by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 and seeks to examine barriers to religious freedom in 197 countries and territories. The report also notes countries in which conditions have improved and outlines U.S. actions to promote international religious freedom.

The 2005 report redesignates Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Vietnam as "Countries of Particular Concern" (CPC) for severe violations of religious freedom. The same countries were listed as CPCs in the 2004 report.

The report reviews countries’ commitments to religious freedom and examines barriers to the free practice of religion in several countries, including CPCs.

According to the report, Georgia, India, Turkmenistan and United Arab Emirates have showed “significant improvement” in the protection and promotion of religious freedom through modification of legal and social barriers.

Some countries cited in the report curtail religious freedom by controlling religious expression and practice. These countries “regard some or all religious groups as enemies of the state because of their religious beliefs or their independence from central authority.”

Other countries named in the report allow the free practice of religion for established, majority religions but curtail religious freedom of “minority or non-approved” religions. These governments are “hostile and oppressive” toward minority religions and implement policies that “demand adherents to recant their faith, cause religious group members to flee the country, or intimidate and harass certain religious groups, or have as their principal effect the intimidation and harassment of certain religious groups,” according to the report.

The report also identifies countries that restrict religious freedom through state neglect or discrimination against or persecution of minority religions, discriminatory legislation or policies prejudicial to certain religious practices and denunciations of certain religions by affiliating them with dangerous "cults" or "sects."

The report concludes with an overview of U.S. efforts to promote and support international religious freedom through public advocacy and support of active monitoring of religious freedom conditions.

“The pursuit of religious liberty supports other freedoms, including speech, assembly, and conscience,” according to the report. “When the cause of religious freedom is furthered, so is the pursuit of democracy.”

The full text of the 2005 report and previous reports are available on the State Department Web site.

For more information, see International Religious Freedom.

Alexandra Abboud
Washington File Staff Writer


URUGUAY SEGMENT OF THE 2005 INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM REPORT:

International Religious Freedom Report 2005
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

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

There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom during the period covered by this report, and government policy continued to contribute to the generally free practice of religion.

The generally amicable relationship among religions in society contributed to religious freedom.

The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights.

Section I. Religious Demography

The country has an area of 68,039 square miles, and its population is estimated at 3.2 million. While the Government keeps no statistics concerning religious affiliation, an October 2004 academic survey published in the daily newspaper El Pais reported that 54 percent of those surveyed designated themselves as Roman Catholics, 6.3 percent as evangelical Protestants, 5 percent as Protestants, 9 percent as believers without a religious affiliation, and 26 percent as nonbelievers. The mainline Protestant minority is composed primarily of Anglicans, Methodists, Lutherans, and Baptists. Other denominations and branches include evangelicals, Pentecostals, Mennonites, Eastern Orthodox, and members of Jehovah's Witnesses. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) claims 85,000 members. There are approximately 30,000 Jews, who support 15 synagogues.

The Unification Church is active in the country and has major property holdings. There also is a Muslim population that lives primarily near the border with Brazil. The estimated 4,000 Baha'is are concentrated primarily in Montevideo.

Many Christian groups perform foreign missionary work. For example, there are an estimated 360 Mormon missionaries in the country.

Section II. Status of Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice. The Government at all levels strives to protect this right in full and does not tolerate its abuse, either by governmental or private actors. The Constitution and law prohibit discrimination based on religion.

There is strict separation of church and state. All religious groups are entitled to tax exemptions on their houses of worship, and there were no reports of difficulties in receiving these exemptions. To receive the tax exemptions, a religious group must register as a nonprofit entity and draft organizing statutes. It then applies to the Ministry of Education and Culture, which examines the legal entity and grants religious status. The group must reapply every 5 years. Once the ministry grants religious status, the church can request an exemption each year from the taxing body, which is usually the municipal government.

Religious instruction in public schools is prohibited. Public schools allow students who belong to minority religions to miss school for religious holidays without penalty. There are private religious schools, which are mainly Catholic and Jewish.

The holy days of Three Kings Day, Carnival (the Monday and Tuesday prior to Ash Wednesday), Holy Thursday, Good Friday, All Souls' Day, and Christmas are celebrated as official national holidays.

The Penal Code prohibits mistreatment of ethnic, religious, and other minority groups. The House of Deputies' Constitutional Legislative Affairs Commission revised the code to broaden the definition of hate crimes, thereby making it easier for police to classify certain offenses as hate crimes and to provide the judicial system with the tools necessary to sentence violators to jail. In September 2004, Law 17.817, which specifically penalizes acts of xenophobia and other types of discrimination, went into effect.

Foreign missionaries face no special requirements or restrictions.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

Government policy and practice contributed to the generally free practice of religion.

There were no reports of religious prisoners or detainees.

Forced Religious Conversion

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

Abuses by Terrorist Organizations

There were no reported abuses targeted at specific religions by terrorist organizations during the period covered by this report.

Section III. Societal Attitudes

The generally amicable relationship among religions in society contributed to religious freedom. The Christian-Jewish Council meets regularly to promote interfaith understanding. In addition, the mainstream Protestant denominations meet regularly among themselves and with the Roman Catholic Church. There are several nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that promote interfaith understanding.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights. During the period covered by this report, U.S. Embassy representatives met with human rights and religious NGOs, including B'nai B'rith and the Israeli Central Committee of Uruguay. They also met with the leaders of religious communities, including representatives of the Catholic Church, the Jewish community, the Islamic community, and Mormon and Protestant groups.

The Embassy maintains frequent contact with religious and nonreligious organizations that are involved in the protection of human rights, such as Mundo Afro, which represents the interests of citizens of African descent.

Released on November 8, 2005


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