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In July the Ambassador hosted an event to foster interreligious dialogue, mutual respect, and cooperation, bringing together representatives of the AAC, religious and ethnic minorities, and civil society and sharing the previous Department of State report on international religious freedom.

The embassy used Facebook and Twitter to send messages in support of religious tolerance. According to the census, approximately 92 percent of the population identifies with the AAC. According to members of the Jewish community, there are approximately Jews in the country. Yezidis are concentrated primarily in agricultural areas northwest of Yerevan around Mount Aragats, and Armenian Uniate Catholics live primarily in the north.

The constitution states everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. The constitution allows restrictions on this right to protect state security, public order, health, and morals, or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others. It allows conscientious objectors to military service to perform alternative civilian service. By law, a registered religious group may minister to the religious and spiritual needs of its faithful; perform religious liturgies, rites, and ceremonies; establish groups for religious instruction; engage in theological, religious, historical, and cultural studies; train members for the clergy or for scientific and pedagogical purposes; obtain and utilize objects and materials of religious significance; use media; establish ties with religious organizations in other countries; and engage in charity.

The law does not require religious groups to register, but they must do so to conduct business in their own name e. The law does not stipulate rights accorded to unregistered groups. A religious community may appeal a decision by the Office of the State Registrar through the courts. The Office of the Human Rights Defender ombudsman has a mandate to address violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of religion, committed by officials of the state and local governments.

The law also prohibits police, prosecutors, and other state and civil servants from conducting other religious activities while performing official duties. If a member of the military is a member of a religious association, the member does not have the right to preach to other service personnel during the military service. The penitentiary code allows penal institutions to invite clergy members to conduct religious ceremonies and use religious objects and literature.

Prisoners may request spiritual assistance from the religious group of their choice. The law allows the AAC free access to, and the right to station representatives in, hospitals, orphanages, boarding schools, military units, and places of detention, while other religious groups may have representatives in these locations only with permission from the head of the institution.

While adding an HAC course in a public or private school is optional, once a school chooses to do so, the course is mandatory for all students in grades five to 11; there is no opt-out provision for students or their parents. The AAC has the right to participate in the development of the syllabi and textbooks for the HAC course and to define the qualifications of their teachers.

The Church may nominate candidates to teach the courses, although the teachers are state employees. The law grants the AAC the right to organize voluntary extracurricular religious instruction classes in state educational institutions. Other religious groups may provide religious instruction to their members in their own facilities, but not within the premises of state educational institutions.

The labor code prohibits employers from collecting and analyzing data on religious views of employees. Evasion of alternative service is a criminal offense. On March 30, Epress. Protesters insulted him in the presence of police. On July 15, on Facebook Livestream, Prime Minister Pashinyan described these developments as an internal church matter into which the government should not interfere and urged the clergy to discuss and find a solution to those internal disagreements.

After three days, however, police removed them. On several occasions, Pashinyan reiterated that state and church were separate and the government would not interfere in church affairs. According to religious freedom experts and many members of the religious community, the most recent version of the draft package, published in November , sought to control religious organizations, including by banning religious expression under certain circumstances and banning foreign funding of religious organizations.

The draft also included mandatory public reporting, with the possibility of suspending an organization for failure to report. In July the trial court judge released him on bail. Once it became clear that three of the four teachers were AAC followers and that the other teacher was a member of an evangelical Protestant church, the latter became the sole target of the protests, even though the activists admitted they had no proof she was preaching or proselytizing during school activities.

According to the Center for Religion and Law, which represented the teacher, the latter was subject to reprisal and discrimination because of her religion. The vast majority of public and private schools continued to teach HAC courses throughout the country in grades five through According to official information, the HAC was taught in all public schools with no exceptions, although during the year there were anecdotal reports that at least one public school and two schools in Yezidi villages did not teach the course.

During a parliamentary briefing on November 14, the new minister of education stated the HAC course needed serious revisions. In the interim, beginning with the academic year, national minorities could choose an alternative course to the HAC. Several non-AAC religious groups said they did not object to the inclusion of the HAC course in public schools, although some objected to the prayers and crossing that reportedly occurred during those classes and said they would like to see a more accurate portrayal of religious groups other than the AAC.

The Ministry of Education stated that during the year it did not receive any complaints about the HAC course and that it had instructed HAC teachers to maintain the secular nature of the class and refrain from religious propaganda. NGOs, other religious organizations, atheists, and nonpracticing members of the AAC publicly voiced concerns about what they stated were elements of religious indoctrination contained in the HAC course, as well as material equating AAC affiliation with national identity.

There were reports of AAC clergy teaching the course in some schools and requiring visits to AAC churches as part of the course, without providing opportunities for discussion of other faiths or for students to visit non-AAC religious sites. According to the government, during the academic year, six AAC clergy members taught the HAC course in four public and two private schools. Human rights activists expressed their concern that religious elements were a consistent part of the public education process and were present even outside the AAC course.

During the new school year, 74 schools followed this option. According to the government, no religious groups other than the AAC requested to visit a military unit. According to the government, during the year, the AAC conducted visits, up to three times per week, to each of the 12 penitentiaries to engage in spiritual discussions with incarcerated followers and to hold services, baptisms and other religious events.

Seventh-day Adventists reported their dissatisfaction over some schools operating on Saturdays or school- or state-level examinations scheduled for Saturdays, a day of worship for the community. The group stated, however, that on an individual level their members were able to resolve the issue. The new government stopped the practice of designating AAC holidays as nonworking days, making the following or preceding Saturday a working day.

These individuals alleged those religious minority groups continued to influence the new government. According to World of Life Church representatives, among other posts, the Facebook page posted a photograph of the senior pastor of the Word of Life Church and included an article with anti-Armenian and anti-AAC statements, causing a public uproar against the Church. Word of Life Church representatives said they believed an organized group, mostly likely a political adversary of the new government, was behind the fake Facebook page.

Social media criticized several government officials because of their affiliation with minority religious groups. On one occasion, a member of the Word of Life Church, appointed to a position in the new government, said he resigned following public pressure. The Ambassador and other embassy officials continued to promote religious tolerance and interfaith dialogue during meetings with government officials. Embassy officials and a visiting official from the Department of State Office of International Religious Freedom met with representatives of the Ministry of Justice in April to discuss concerns raised by religious minorities and human rights groups about restrictive provisions in the proposed package of legislation on religious freedom.

Embassy officials met with representatives of the Ministry of Education to discuss concerns about the HAC course and steps undertaken by the government to address those concerns. The Ambassador regularly met with representatives of the government, political parties, social groups, and religious minorities to discuss problems of discrimination faced by religious minorities, foster a dialogue between the government and the religious groups, and explore cooperative solutions to those problems.

In July the Ambassador hosted an event to foster interreligious dialogue, mutual respect, and cooperation, bringing together representatives of the AAC, religious and ethnic minorities, and civil society to discuss issues of concern and foster a dialogue between the groups and share the Department of State report on international religious freedom.

In the meeting, the Ambassador emphasized the fundamental universal right for every person to have freedom of worship and the freedom to choose to believe or not believe. The Ambassador met with leaders of the AAC and engaged them on the importance of supporting the right of religious minorities to practice their faiths without restrictions. Embassy officials attended conferences and discussions on nondiscrimination and religious tolerance regularly hosted by the Eurasian Partnership Foundation in its religious tolerance projects.

They visited a Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian village, attending the celebration of the th anniversary of the establishment of the Assyrian community in the country. In these meetings, embassy officials and religious group representatives discussed the state of religious freedom in the country, including minority religious group concerns. They also met with civil society groups to discuss concerns about the HAC courses taught in public schools. Embassy officials met with a joint delegation of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and European Union Venice Commission to discuss the concerns raised by some religious groups over the draft package of legislation on religious freedom.

The embassy used social media, including Twitter and Facebook, to send messages supporting religious diversity and tolerance and to highlight the January 11 annual International Religious Freedom Day and the release of the Department of State report on international religious freedom.

Historical and modern constitutional and legal documents provide for freedom of religious belief and affiliation and prohibit religious discrimination. The law bans public incitement to hostile acts against religious groups. The law divides recognized religious groups into three categories; 16 groups recognized as religious societies receive the most benefits. Scientologists and the Unification Church said government-funded organizations advised the public against associating with them.

The government tightened controls on ritual slaughter. Muslim and Jewish groups and nongovernmental organizations NGOs expressed concerns over anti-Semitic and anti-Islamic sentiment in the Freedom Party FPOe , the junior partner in the coalition government. Authorities dropped an investigation of an FPOe politician on anti-Semitism charges because the statute of limitations had run; he resumed his position as party chair in Lower Austria.

The government collaborated with the Muslim community to combat extremism and with a Jewish NGO on Holocaust awareness training for teachers. More than half of the incidents occurred online; others included verbal abuse and vandalism. Courts convicted individuals of anti-Islamic rhetoric and anti-Semitic or neo-Nazi activity, generally handing down fines or sentences, some of which they suspended.

Embassy representatives regularly engaged with officials from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Interior on religious freedom, concerns of religious groups, integration of religious minorities, and measures to combat anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim sentiment and encourage interreligious dialogue. Embassy officials served on the advisory board of the Mauthausen Memorial Agency, which promoted Holocaust remembrance, spoke on religious freedom at public ceremonies, and supported programs to combat anti-Semitism and promote religious dialogue and tolerance.

According to religious groups and December figures from the government Austrian Integration Fund, Roman Catholics constitute 58 percent of the population and Muslims — predominantly Sunni — 8 percent, while approximately 25 percent is unaffiliated with any religion. Several constitutional provisions protect religious freedom. The main pillars are historical laws on fundamental rights and freedoms, including religious freedom, and treaties and conventions such as the European Convention on Human Rights, which form part of the constitution.

Antidiscrimination legislation prohibits discrimination on religious grounds. Citizens have the right to sue the government for constitutional violations of religious freedom. The prohibition also applies specifically in the case of incitement in print, electronic, or other media available to a broad public.

The law also prohibits incitement, insult, or contempt against religious groups, if such action violates human dignity. Each category possesses specific rights, privileges, and legal responsibilities. The law grants registered religious societies the right to public practice and independent administration of their internal affairs, to participate in the program requiring mandatory church contributions by church members, and to bring religious workers into the country to act as ministers, missionaries, or teachers.

Additionally, religious societies are exempt from the surveillance charge, payable when state security is required, and the administrative fee levied at the municipal level. Responsibilities of religious societies include a commitment to sponsor social and cultural activities that serve the common good and to ensure their teachings do not violate the law or ethical standards. Religious groups seeking to achieve religious society status for the first time must apply for recognition with the Office for Religious Affairs in the Federal Chancellery.

Religious groups recognized as societies prior to retained their status. The government grandfathered in 14 of the 16 recognized religious societies under this provision of the law. To gain recognition as a religious society, religious groups not recognized prior to must have membership equaling 0. Groups that do not meet these criteria may still apply for religious society status under an exception for groups that have been active internationally for at least years and active as an association in the country for 10 years.

Groups sharing a broad faith with an existing society or confessional community, for example Christianity, may register separately as long as they can demonstrate that they have a different theology. The law allows religious groups not recognized as societies to seek official status as confessional communities with the Office for Religious Affairs in the Federal Chancellery.

The government recognized the latter as a confessional community on April A recognized confessional community has the juridical standing needed to engage in such activities as purchasing real estate in its own name and contracting for goods and services, but it is not eligible for the financial and educational benefits available to recognized religious societies.

To gain government recognition as a confessional community, a group must have at least members and submit to the Office for Religious Affairs its statutes describing the goals, rights, and obligations of members, as well as membership regulations, a list of officials, and financing information.

A group must also submit a written description of its religious doctrine, which must differ from that of any previously recognized religious society or religious confessional community. A religious group seeking to obtain confessional community status is subject to a six-month waiting period from the time of application to the chancellery. After this period, groups that have applied automatically receive the status unless the government issues a decree rejecting the application.

Religious groups not qualifying for either religious society or confessional community status may apply to become legal associations, a status applicable to a broad range of civil groups. Some groups organize as associations while waiting for the government to recognize them as confessional communities. The Church of Scientology and a number of smaller religious groups, such as Sahaja Yoga and the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, have association status.

Religious groups registered as associations have the right to function in public, but they may not provide religious instruction in schools or pastoral care in hospitals or prisons. According to the law, any group of more than two persons pursuing a nonprofit goal qualifies to organize as an association. Groups may apply to the Ministry of Interior to gain such status.

To become an association, a group must submit a written statement citing its common, nonprofit goal and commitment to function as a nonprofit organization. Associations have juridical standing and many of the same rights as confessional communities, including the right to own real estate and to contract for goods and services. Unlike confessional communities, associations may not offer pastoral care in hospitals or prisons or receive tax-deductible contributions.

The law provides an explicit legal definition of, and legal protection for, Islamic practices, such as circumcision and preparation of food in conformity with religious rules, and states Muslims may raise children and youth in accordance with Islamic traditions. Muslim groups with at least members and a theology not distinct from a pre-existing Islamic religious society or confessional community are considered cultural communities and fall under the umbrella of the pre-existing, legally recognized Islamic religious society or confessional community.

The law allows for Islamic theological university studies, which the University of Vienna offers. Separate laws govern relations between the government and each of the other 14 state-recognized religious societies. The laws have similar intent but vary in some details, given they were enacted at different times over a span of approximately years. Failure to comply with the law is an administrative violation.

The government funds, on a proportional basis, religious instruction for any of the 16 officially recognized religious societies by clergy or instructors provided by those groups for children in public schools and government-accredited private schools. The government does not offer such funding to other religious groups. A minimum of three children is required to form a class.

Attendance in religion classes is mandatory for all students unless they formally withdraw at the beginning of the school year; students under the age of 14 require parental permission to withdraw from religion classes. The government funds the instruction, and religious groups provide the instructors. Religious instruction takes place either in the school or at sites organized by religious groups. Some schools offer ethics classes for students not attending religious instruction.

Religious education and ethics classes include the tenets of different religious groups as comparative religious education. The curriculum for both public and private schools includes compulsory antibias and tolerance education, including religious tolerance, as part of civics education across various subjects, including history and German-language instruction.

Holocaust education is part of history instruction and appears in other subjects such as civics. The agency provides legal counseling and mediation services, and it assists with bringing cases before the Equal Treatment Commission, another independent government agency.

In cases where it finds discrimination, the commission makes a recommendation for corrective action. In a case of noncompliance with the recommendation, the case goes to court. The commission may issue expert reports for plaintiffs to present before the court. Only a court may order corrective action and compensation. Foreign religious workers of groups recognized as confessional communities or associations must apply for a general immigrant visa that is not employment or family based, and is subject to a quota.

The government requires a visa for visitors from non-visa waiver countries or individuals who would stay beyond 90 days, including religious workers of confessional communities or associations. Foreign religious workers belonging to religious societies do not require visas for either shorter visits or stays beyond 90 days.

Religious workers from Schengen or European Union-member countries are exempt from all visa requirements. On November 20, parliament enacted a law providing for financial support for the costs of preschools to the provinces, which included an obligation for provincial governments to ban headscarves for children in preschools. The government continued to implement the ban on the wearing of full-face coverings in public that went into effect in October Because authorities did not file charges when persons paid fines immediately, there were an unspecified number of additional cases in which police enforced the law.

Citing the ban on face coverings as well as the prohibition on foreign funding of mosques, the Freedom House report lowered its rating of the country from four to three on a scale of four in the category of freedom to practice and express religious faith or nonbelief. Only the Roman Catholic Church received government funding for pastoral care in prisons pursuant to the law covering relations between the government and the Catholic Church.

On November 22, the government coalition parties introduced a bill stipulating a ban of headscarves for children, 10 and under, in elementary schools. Some Scientologists and representatives of the Unification Church continued to state the Federal Office of Sect Issues and other government-associated entities fostered societal discrimination against religious groups not registered as religious societies or confessional communities.

The office was nominally independent but government-funded, and the minister for women, family and youth both appointed and oversaw its head. The society reportedly also received support from the city of Vienna. In June the government completed an investigation of several mosques of the Arab Cultural Community over allegations the mosques preached extremist teachings and concluded the allegations were unfounded. The councilor had sought a list of the Jews and Muslims in the province to determine the amount of halal and kosher meat required to meet demand.

The Jewish and Islamic communities had previously voiced concerns about the proposal and said they would not provide any lists of their members. The governor stressed that the government would not require any registrations of persons intending to buy kosher or halal meat. Also in August, a decree by the Ministry of Social Affairs provided for stricter controls against illegal ritual slaughtering.

The decree included stricter monitoring of farmers who sold sheep to private persons, a practice which primarily affected Muslims. Muslim groups stated the existing provisions to prevent illegal slaughter were sufficient, and criticized the decree as a populist measure. The government continued to apply a policy of banning headwear in official identification documents, with an exception for religious purposes as long as the face was sufficiently visible to allow for identification of the wearer.

On December 11, parliament adopted an amendment to existing law banning certain symbols, including the symbols of ISIS and al-Qaida-affiliated groups. The amendment, scheduled to enter into force in March , expanded the ban to include symbols of other groups the government considered extremist, including the Muslim Brotherhood.

The international NGO Anti-Defamation League conducted teacher-training seminars on Holocaust awareness with Austrian schools, reaching approximately teachers. In addition, provincial school councils and the education ministry invited Holocaust survivors to talk to school classes about National Socialism and the Holocaust. The counseling office for extremism prevention of the Ministry of Women, Family and Youth cooperated with the IGGIO to conduct training courses for imams on community work and prevention of extremism, including promoting religious tolerance.

In November Landbauer returned to the Lower Austrian FPOe as its acting chairman and acting floor leader in the provincial legislature. The party said the commission would include experts from Israel and the United States. At the annual ceremony commemorating the liberation of the concentration camp Mauthausen in May, Deutsch referred to charges of 23 anti-Semitic or neo-Nazi incidents among FPOe rank and file since the party became a junior partner in the coalition government in December The program included a suggestion to include new provisions in the criminal statute to combat violence motivated by religious fundamentalism.

Specific proposals to prevent radicalization include limiting foreign financing of religious organizations, monitoring and potentially closing private Islamic schools not complying with legal requirements, and entrusting law enforcement with the authority to close places of worship that supported terrorism. The report stated extremist activities of FPOe politicians had increased, citing 68 incidents occurring in the four and a half years before the parliamentary elections, compared with 38 incidents in the six months after those elections.

According to the report, of the 38 cases, 14 were connected with anti-Semitism and eight involved FPOe leaders or members of the federal government. Germany needs you! Sickl, according to the Mauthausen report, was co-editor of Aula , a publication that disseminated anti-Semitic content. According to the report, Robert Kiesinger, a consultant at the FPOe educational institute, posted a cover page of a Nazi calendar from as his Easter greeting on social media. Law enforcement authorities stated the government provided the protection due to general concerns over the potential for anti-Semitic acts against Jewish institutions.

The event brought together leaders from Europe and the Jewish community on both sides of the Atlantic and focused on concrete measures to combat anti-Semitism, including providing better physical security for Jewish communities, and reinforcing legislation and improving education to combat anti-Semitism.

I can assure you that Austria will fight all forms of anti-Semitism in Europe with determination, be it the still-existing one or also new imported anti-Semitism. For example, he issued a statement on November 9, commemorating the 80th anniversary of the Kristallnacht Nazi pogroms against Jews.

In March President Alexander Van der Bellen gave a speech during the commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the Nazi German annexation of the country. The cemetery was closed at the end of the 19th century and partly destroyed during the National Socialist era. The government continued to refuse residence permits for foreign imams financed by foreign sources.

They criticized what they described as the deterioration of the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia over the previous two years. According to the interior ministry, there were 39 anti-Semitic and 36 anti-Muslim incidents reported to police in , the most recent year for which statistics were available, compared with 41 and 28 incidents, respectively, in The majority of cases involved hate speech on the internet by neo-Nazis, as well as instances of persons giving the Hitler salute or shouting Nazi slogans.

It received reports of anti-Muslim incidents during the year, a 75 percent increase over the reports in , which represented a 22 percent increase over The center attributed the increase in reported incidents in part to its higher public profile.

More than half of the incidents in occurred online. Other incidents included verbal abuse and anti-Muslim graffiti. According to the center, in , as in previous years, 98 percent of all incidents were directed against women. Of the total in that year, 30 percent of cases involved hate speech, and 28 percent verbal aggression. Others included discrimination and graffiti. The center stated it believed a large number of cases were related to tensions during the national parliamentary election campaign, where the European migration crisis was a contentious topic of debate.

Many involved charges of discrimination against female students for their use of a headscarf. In another case, a parent complained that a teacher assumed her child did not speak German adequately because she wore a headscarf. In , the government recorded cases of incitement to hatred based on national origin, race or religion, and convictions, up from cases and 55 convictions in The government did not provide any information on how many of the cases involved religion.

EU-FRA targeted Jewish populations through community organizations, Jewish media, and social networks; individuals who identified themselves as Jewish residents of Austria responded to the online survey. Twenty-two percent said they had witnessed other Jews being physically attacked, insulted, or harassed in the previous 12 months, and 28 percent reported being harassed over the same period.

One-fifth of respondents said they had felt discriminated against because of their religion or belief; 75 percent thought anti-Semitism had increased over the previous five years. In May Croats and Bosniaks gathered in Bleiburg for an annual commemoration of Nazi-allied Croatian troops and civilians killed in In June the state court in the southern city of Klagenfurt handed down a month suspended sentence to a Croatian man on charges of the glorification of Nazi ideology for giving a Nazi salute during the Bleiburg commemoration.

In August the public prosecutor in the Province of Burgenland launched investigations of five students who allegedly played Nazi guards as part of coursework designed to teach them about the risks of indoctrination. Also in March, the Vienna criminal court convicted a former physician of glorifying Nazi crimes and sentenced him to a one-and-a-half year suspended prison sentence.

In March a court in the Lower Austrian town of Krems convicted a year-old prison inmate of neo-Nazi activity for writing letters while in prison to government officials in , denying the existence of gas chambers in Nazi concentration camps. The court sentenced the man to a four-year suspended prison sentence and ordered his transfer to an institution for mentally ill criminals.

Baptists and the Salvation Army had observer status on the council. The council met twice a year. Topics discussed included the concerns of religious groups, integration of Muslim refugees, cooperation with religious groups in combating terrorism, and measures to combat anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim sentiment.

The embassy also met with youth groups of religious organizations to discuss issues such as anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim sentiment. The embassy continued to engage with and support the Jewish community to promote religious tolerance and combat anti-Semitism. Embassy representatives again participated in the International Advisory Board of the Mauthausen Memorial Agency to promote remembrance of the Holocaust and Holocaust education and advocated continued efforts of the agency to pursue increased outreach to combat anti-Semitism among youth, such as by encouraging more school groups to visit the Mauthausen site.

The embassy supported the first ever Muslim-led initiative to counter anti-Semitism in the country. The initiative, led by the MJOe, headed by three former participants of Department of State-sponsored exchange programs, conducted a series of events, roundtables, and visits to Auschwitz for MJOe members. The MJOe worked closely with the Jewish community and the Jewish museum to foster dialogue and promote awareness among Muslim youth.

Mission to the United Nations in Vienna, attended the commemoration of the liberation of the Mauthausen concentration camp in May. By law, all registered religious groups must seek permits to hold events outside of their premises, including proselytizing activities, and must obtain prior governmental approval to import and distribute religious literature.

The law bans all religious activity by unregistered groups. The government continued to detain or fine individuals for proselytizing, including a Baptist couple in Lepel who were singing Christian songs and distributing Christian literature. Minority religious groups continued to have difficulty registering. Some groups remained reluctant to apply for registration, reportedly due to fear of harassment and punishment.

The government continued its surveillance of minority and unregistered religious groups. Human rights groups said that while BOC and some Roman Catholic clergy had access to prisoners of their faiths, Muslim and Protestant clergy and clergy from nontraditional faiths did not. Minority religious groups said they continued to have difficulties acquiring buildings to use as houses of worship.

Roman Catholic groups reported the government denied visas and requests to extend the stay of some foreign missionaries. Authorities convicted a number of individuals reportedly associated with neo-Nazis or skinhead movements for inciting ethnic and religious hatred against Jews and other religious minorities.

On February 27, a court in the Vitsyebsk region sentenced a resident in Navapolatsk to three years in prison for posting videos on his social media featuring mass killings of Jews in the Holocaust and skinheads beating Muslims. In a similar case, authorities convicted an individual from the Baranavichy district for posting videos with anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim content and sentenced him to a year and a month in jail on April Despite a government ban, anti-Semitic print and video material continued to be imported from Russia and available locally.

Interdenominational Christian groups worked together on charitable projects and programs. In October U. The delegation also participated in the Foreign Ministry-sponsored international roundtable to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the destruction of the Minsk ghetto on October Also in October the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs met with senior government officials for discussions that included religious freedom concerns. According to a January survey by the state Information and Analytical Center of the Presidential Administration, approximately 53 percent of the adult population belongs to the BOC and 6 percent to the Roman Catholic Church.

Jewish groups state there are between 30, and 40, Jews. Ethnic Poles, who constitute approximately 3 percent of the population, tend to be Roman Catholic. The constitution grants individuals the freedom to profess any religious beliefs and to participate in the performance of acts of worship not prohibited by law. It stipulates all faiths are equal before the law. The constitution states the law shall determine the conditions for exemption from military service and the performance of alternative service as a substitute.

The law does not consider as traditional faiths newer religious groups or older groups such as the priestless Old Believers, Greek Catholics Uniates , and the Calvinist churches, which have roots in the country dating to the 17th century. A concordat between the government and the BOC provides the BOC with autonomy in its internal affairs, freedom to perform religious rites and other activities, and a special relationship with the state.

The concordat also serves as the framework for agreements between the BOC and individual state agencies. Religious communities must include at least 20 persons over the age of 18 who live in one or several adjoining areas. Religious associations must include at least 10 religious communities, one of which must have been active in the country for at least 20 years, and may be constituted only by a national-level religious association. According to government data as of January 1, , the most recent data available , there are 25 religious faiths and denominations registered in the country, encompassing 3, religious communities and religious associations, monasteries, missions, brotherhoods, sisterhoods, and schools.

The BOC has 1, religious communities, 15 dioceses, seven schools, 35 monasteries, 15 brotherhoods, and 10 sisterhoods. The Roman Catholic Church has four dioceses, five schools, 11 missions, nine monasteries, and communities. Protestant religious organizations of 14 denominations have 1, religious communities, 21 associations, 22 missions, and five schools. There are 33 registered religious communities of Old Believers. There are three Jewish religious associations — Orthodox, Chabad-Lubavitch, and Reform Judaism — comprising 52 communities, including 10 autonomous communities.

In addition, 24 Muslim religious communities — 23 Sunni and one Shia — are registered. A religious group not previously registered by the government must also submit information about its beliefs. The law stipulates authorities may take up to six months to review a new registration application due to an additional evaluation of the religion by a state-appointed religious commission of experts.

The commission evaluates the fundamental teachings of the religion; rituals, practices, history, and forms and methods of activities; welfare and charitable services; proselytizing and missionary activities; approaches towards marriage and family; educational activities; attitudes toward health care; and compliance with legal requirements. In addition, the community must submit any texts written by its founder or considered sacred by the followers of the religion, information about prohibitions on clergy or adherents, a list of countries where the religion is widely practiced, and a list of countries officially recognizing the religion.

It also must submit information about countries that have refused to recognize the religion and information about court cases against followers of the religion in other countries. Regional government authorities, as well as Minsk city authorities or local municipal authorities for groups outside of Minsk , review all registration applications.

Permissible grounds for denial of registration are broad and include failure to comply with requirements for establishing a community, an inconsistent or fraudulent charter or other required document, violations of the procedures to establish religious organizations, or a negative evaluation by the state-appointed religious commission of experts.

Communities may appeal refusals in court. In order to register as a religious association or national religious association, a group must provide an official application with a copy of the founding statutes, a list of members of the managing body with biographical information, proof of permission for the association to be at its designated location, and the minutes from its founding congress.

Religious associations have the exclusive right to establish religious educational institutions and organize cloistered and monastic communities. All applications to establish religious associations and national associations must be submitted to OPRRNA, which has 30 days to respond. Grounds for refusal are the same as for religious communities except they also include failure to comply with requirements for establishing an association rather than a community.

The law confines the activities of religious communities and associations to the jurisdictional area where they are registered. The government may apply to a relevant court, depending upon jurisdiction, to shut down the group if it has not ceased the illegal activity outlined in the written warning within six months or if the activity is repeated within one year of the warning.

The law contains no provision for appeal of the warning or suspension. The law bans all religious activity by unregistered groups and subjects group members to penalties ranging from unspecified fines to two years in prison. The housing code permits religious groups to hold services at residential premises if local authorities grant permission. The local authorities must certify the premises comply with a number of regulations, including fire safety, sanitary, and health code requirements.

The government does not grant such permission automatically, and the law does not permit religious groups to hold services in private residences without prior permission from local authorities. By law, all religious groups must obtain permits to hold events outside of their premises, including proselytizing.

The law requires all religious groups to receive prior governmental approval to import and distribute religious literature. The approval process includes official examination of the documents by state-appointed religious studies experts. Although there is no law providing for a systematic restitution process for property, including religious property, seized during the Soviet and Nazi periods, groups may apply for the restitution of property to local authorities. The law on religion specifically bans the restitution of seized property currently used for cultural or sports purposes.

The law permits associations and national associations to establish schools to train clergy; however, it does not permit religious communities to do so. The law permits only registered religious groups that are members of national religious associations to organize extracurricular religious activities at educational institutions. The law states the national religious association must first conclude an agreement on cooperation with the Ministry of Education; the BOC is currently the only religious group to have such an agreement.

The law prohibits religious groups from conducting activities in any school without identifying themselves. It also prohibits visits from representatives of foreign religious groups; missionary activities; collections of donations or fees from students for religious groups or any charity; distribution of religious literature, audio, video, and other religious materials; holding prayer services, religious rituals, rites, or ceremonies; and placing religious symbols or paraphernalia at educational institutions.

The law does not allow private religious elementary, junior, or senior high schools or homeschooling for religious reasons. The law establishes penalties ranging from fines to five years in prison for failure to fulfill mandatory military service, with an exemption for conscientious objectors for religious reasons. The law allows alternative civilian service for conscientious objectors.

By law, individuals who evade alternative civilian service may face up to five years in prison. OPRRNA must grant permission before foreign religious workers may serve in local congregations, teach or study at local institutions, or participate in charitable work.

The government generally grants such permission for a period of one year, which may be reduced or extended. OPRRNA has 30 days to respond to requests for foreign clergy permits religious visas and may deny requests without explanation. There is no provision for appeals. By law, the government permits foreign missionaries to engage in religious activity only in the territorial area where their religious association is registered.

Transfers of foreign clergy within a religious association, including from one parish to another, require prior government permission. By law, foreigners may not lead religious groups. The authorities may reprimand or expel foreign citizens who officially are present in the country for nonreligious work if they lead any religious activities.

Law enforcement agencies on their own initiative or in response to recommendations from other government entities, such as the security service, may require foreign clergy to depart the country. The international religious freedom nongovernmental organization NGO Forum 18 reported that on October 27, police in Lepel in the Vitsyebsk Region detained Baptist husband and wife Andrei and Tatsyana Fokin, who were singing Christian songs and distributing Christian literature.

Authorities charged both with violating procedures for organizing a mass event or demonstration and fined the husband Andrei Fokin said he and his wife were still in debt from fines levied following their detention in for similar activities. Forum 18 also reported that on November 26, authorities detained for 24 hours Father Vikentsy, a priest of the Belarusian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, which is not officially registered, for preaching and seeking donations in an apartment block in Minsk.

Forum 18 stated that on November 30, a Minsk district court found Vikentsy not guilty and closed the case. The government continued surveillance on minority religious groups of various Protestant denominations. According to religious leaders, state security officers also continued to attend religious services of registered Protestant communities to conduct surveillance, which group members described as intimidation and harassment.

The Roman Catholic Church expressed concerns that in some regions of the country local ideology officers requested the church provide them with Sunday school programs and lists of children attending them. According to the independent Belarusian Christian news portal krynica.

Christian groups continued to state the registration requirements for religious groups remained complex and difficult to fulfill, which they said restricted their activities, suppressed freedom of religion, and legalized criminal prosecution of individuals for their religious beliefs. Authorities also continued to deny registration to several Protestant religious communities, including a community within the Union of Full Gospel Christian Churches in Maladzechna.

In both cases, officials stated that locations provided by the community did not comply with regulations, but did not explain their refusals in detail. The community filed an appeal on October 18, which was denied in December. Independent religious experts continued to report minority religious groups remained reluctant to apply for registration because members continued to be unwilling to provide their names as part of the application process due to fear of harassment and punishment by the authorities.

In November the UN Human Rights Committee recommended the state repeal the requirement of mandatory state registration of religious communities, but the state had taken no action as of the end of the year. Many unregistered religious groups stated they continued to maintain a low profile because of what they believed to be government hostility and due to fear of criminal prosecution.

According to independent religious experts, many registered religious communities also remained reluctant to report abuses and restrictions because of fear of punishment. Nontraditional religious groups continued to state the procedure for registering and using residential premises for religious gatherings remained cumbersome and arbitrary.

At the same time, they said, authorities continued to grant BOC, and in some cases Catholic clergy, permission to visit believers in prison on a regular basis, and many prisons had designated Orthodox religious facilities. Approximately 9, members attended the convention without hindrance, compared with approximately 7, the previous year.

In each case, authorities did not give a reason for the denial. In contrast, Orthodox literature remained available countrywide. The BOC remained able to proselytize freely and, unlike other religious groups, continued to participate in government-sponsored public events such as rallies without the need to seek prior approval from authorities. Religious groups continued to report problems purchasing properties as places of worship. They continued to say that converting residential property to religious use also remained difficult.

Renting a public facility to hold religious services remained difficult as well. For example, some Protestant communities continued to report they were able to conclude only short-term lease agreements with the owners of the facilities the communities rented, which allowed authorities to pressure owners to terminate or not renew lease agreements as a means of preventing religious activities.

Protestant groups stated they continued to be more severely affected than other groups in this regard because they were less likely to own religious facilities and they could not apply for permission to conduct religious activities in private homes because these residences were too small to accommodate their numbers.

School administrators continued to invite BOC priests to lecture to students, organize tours of BOC facilities, and participate in BOC festivities, programs, and humanitarian projects. The college became the fifth Roman Catholic institute of higher education in the country. Religious groups said the government continued to apply visa regulations in ways restricting the ability of foreign missionaries to live and work in the country.

Local human rights portals stated that on April 30, the government expelled Polish Catholic priest Krzysztof Poswiata, who ministered in the town of Hatava near Minsk, after authorities refused to extend his permission to serve. Poswiata reportedly received three speeding tickets in , which authorities told Forum 18 was the reason for his expulsion. Father Uladzimir Razanovich, secretary of the Vitsyebsk Diocesan administration, told Forum 18 that unofficially, the government wanted local religious communities to train local citizens as clergy rather than having foreigners.

A representative of the Polish community in Hrodna told the press on July 26 that local authorities denied Polish priest Ryszard Umanski entrance into the country, saying he did not have a religious visa. The ATP reported it rejected 17 claims during the year, which claimants may challenge in court.

The law grants 10 years to execute a compensation order from the ATP — awarding the property in dispute, monetary compensation, or different property — from the date the order is finalized. In response to a Constitutional Court declaration that some provisions of the Law on Property were unconstitutional, the Council of Ministers issued two decisions during the year designed to break an impasse in reviewing claims. The Orthodox Church reported the ATP had reviewed only 10 percent of the properties for which the Church had submitted claims.

The Church expressed its concern about delayed court proceedings and said the State Advocate, an institution in the Ministry of Justice that provides government institutions with legal counsel and representation, appealed the few court rulings that favored the Church.

Bektashi leaders reported construction continued on two places of worship in Gjirokaster, three in Permet, and one in Elbasan. The government reportedly legalized 31 tekkes during the year. The Bektashi community said it continued to have problems with the local registration offices in Gjirokaster regarding one property, noting the registration process was slow, bureaucratic, and vulnerable to corruption.

The Bektashi stated the State Advocate unfairly challenged title over the course of several years for numerous properties that the Bektashi said they obtained through a court ruling. The Bektashi community said it brought a complaint to the Ministry of Justice and Office of the Prime Minister, but had not received a response.

The AIC reported the unlawful expropriation of some of its land, citing corruption in the judiciary as the cause. For example, the AIC claims it owned land near the Trade Chamber building in Tirana but said it was transferred in a corrupt judicial holding to another entity.

The other entity exchanged the land claimed by the AIC for two parking garages, further alienating title from the AIC. VUSH members continued to report difficulties in acquiring land on which to construct places of worship due to local government tax assessments and regulations. They said they continued to rent existing buildings instead. VUSH leaders stated the central government continued to exempt the organization from property taxes on its churches, but local authorities imposed fees they said were not taxes.

The AIC paid the locally imposed fees for its entities located in Tirana. Leaders of the five main religious groups expressed concern with a new, cross-thematic curriculum for teaching religion as part of the humanities curriculum for sixth and 10th grade students. They stated they were concerned because they did not participate in the drafting, and the teachers slated to provide the instruction did not have training in theology.

A State Committee on Cults census of religious organizations conducted during the year counted groups, including foundations, religiously related NGOs, and 40 centers. He criticized European politicians for stirring anti-Muslim sentiment. On October 11, the Interreligious Council, established as a forum for leaders of the Catholic, Sunni Muslim, Orthodox, and Bektashi communities to discuss shared concerns, held its first meeting of the year.

In May an international conference on interfaith dialogue in Tirana discussed topics that included interreligious harmony as a factor of social stability and policies for managing religious diversity. On October 25, the Polish government presented an award to the Interreligious Council for its efforts to encourage and preserve interfaith harmony. Several religious authorities expressed concern about foreign influence and interference in religious organizations.

In meetings with the State Committee on Cults and the ATP, embassy officers continued to urge the government to accelerate its handling of religious property claims and to restore to religious groups their property confiscated during the communist era.

The embassy sponsored the participation of the commissioner on cults in an exchange program in the United States on interfaith dialogue and religious freedom. The embassy also hosted a U. Embassy officials promoted religious tolerance in meetings with the Sunni Muslim, Bektashi, Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant communities, and in visits to churches, mosques, and other religious sites. The embassy continued its youth education programs and work with religious communities to decrease the potential appeal of violent religious extremism.

As part of these programs, students at Islamic, Catholic, and Orthodox religious schools and students from public schools planned and carried out projects highlighting religious diversity and tolerance, focusing on youth activism and common civic values. The Ambassador met with students from Catholic, Orthodox, and Muslim higher education institutions at Beder University and discussed advancing interfaith dialogue among youth. The embassy continued to sponsor seminars with key religious figures and leaders in government and academia focused on the compatibility of religious faith and democracy.

The constitution provides for freedom of individuals to manifest their religion or belief and prohibits religious discrimination. It names two co-princes — the president of France and the Roman Catholic Bishop of Urgell in Catalonia, Spain — as joint heads of state. In accordance with the constitution, the government offers the Catholic Church privileges not available to other religious groups. In July the government submitted a draft equality and nondiscrimination law, including a prohibition of religious discrimination, to parliament.

A vote on the law was expected in early The government again did not respond to requests by Muslim and Jewish groups to build a cemetery. The government only issued religious work permits to Catholics, but it typically allowed non-Catholics to reside and perform religious work in the country under a different status.

The Muslim community used two prayer rooms, but there was no mosque in the country. During periodic visits, the U. Ambassador, resident in Spain, and the Consul General and other officials from the U. Consulate General in Barcelona continued to meet with senior government officials from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Interior, and Justice, and with Jewish and Muslim leaders.

They discussed such issues as the lack of official status for faiths other than Catholicism and the lack of cemeteries for the Jewish and Muslim communities. The local government does not provide statistics on the size of religious groups, and there is no census data on religious group membership.

The population is predominantly Roman Catholic. Muslim leaders estimate their community has 1, members. The Muslim community, of which the large majority is composed of recent immigrants, has grown in recent years. The Jewish community reports it has approximately members. The constitution states such freedoms may be limited only to protect public safety, order, health, or morals as prescribed by law or to protect the rights of others.

Faiths other than Catholicism do not have legal status as religious groups. The government registers religious communities as cultural organizations under the law of associations, which does not specifically mention religious groups. To build a place of worship or seek government financial support for community activities, a religious group must register as a nonprofit cultural organization and acquire legal status. To register, a group must provide its statutes and foundational agreement, a statement certifying the names of persons appointed to the board or other official positions in the organization, and a patrimony declaration that identifies the inheritance or endowment of the organization.

A consolidated register of associations records all types of associations, including religious groups. The national ombudsman is responsible for investigating complaints of racism, discrimination, and intolerance, including those involving a religious motivation, in the public and private sectors. The ombudsman makes recommendations to the public administration to correct problems and reports annually to parliament. According to the law, municipalities are responsible for the construction, preservation, and administration of cemeteries and funerary services.

Instruction in the Catholic faith is optional in public schools. The Catholic Church provides teachers for religion classes, and the government pays their salaries. The Ministry of Education also provides space in public schools for Catholic religious instruction. The Catholic Church continued to receive special privileges not available to other religious groups. The government paid the salaries of the eight Catholic priests serving in local churches and granted all foreign Catholic priests citizenship for as long as they exercised their functions in the country.

On July 26, the government submitted to parliament a draft law, the first of its kind in the country, providing for equality and nondiscrimination, including religious equality. The law would also establish an Equality Observatory to monitor and assess the state of equality and nondiscrimination in the country. Parliament was reviewing the draft legislation and expected to vote on it before the end of the legislative term in March There were no reports that government officials, at the national or local level, responded to requests by Muslim and Jewish officials to allow the construction of a cemetery where these groups could bury their dead according to their rituals and traditions.

Jews and Muslims could use existing cemeteries, but these did not allocate separate burial areas for these communities to use. As a result, most Jews and Muslims continued to bury their dead outside the country. Government officials said they were discussing the issue with municipalities. In March the Supreme Court upheld a December finding by the Criminal Court Tribunal de Corts that a assault by two individuals on a Jewish man outside of a discotheque in the city of La Massana did not constitute an anti-Semitic hate crime.

The government continued to fund three public Catholic schools at the primary and secondary level open to students of all faiths. Catholic instruction was mandatory for all students attending these schools. The government continued to maintain a policy of issuing religious work permits for foreigners performing religious functions only to members of the Catholic Church. Foreign religious workers belonging to other groups reported they could enter the country with permits for other positions such as schoolteachers or business workers and carry out religious work without hindrance.

There still was no mosque in the country; the Muslim community relied on two Muslim prayer rooms that it rented in Andorra la Vella and in Escaldes Engordany. The Catholic Church of Santa Maria del Fener in Andorra la Vella continued to lend its sanctuary twice a month to the Anglican community so that visiting Anglican clergy could conduct services for the English-speaking members of that community.

Officials from the U. Consulate General in Barcelona reiterated the importance of religious tolerance in meetings with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Consulate general staff discussed continued concerns about the lack of cemeteries for the Jewish and Muslim communities with senior Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Interior and Justice officials. Consulate general officials discussed with representatives of the Jewish and Muslim communities issues including the lack of legal status for religious groups other than the Catholic Church, the implications of regulations requiring individuals to remove head coverings for official identity documents, and the lack of cemeteries for the Jewish and Muslim communities.

Since , the southern part of Cyprus has been under the control of the Government of the Republic of Cyprus. A substantial number of Turkish troops remain on the island. For areas in the north that have different Greek and Turkish names, both are listed e. The TCCH reported it completed restoration of 10 religious sites.

In March the U. In November the Ambassador attended a Maronite celebration at St. Embassy officials continued to meet with leaders from Sunni and Alevi Muslim, Armenian and Greek Orthodox, Maronite, Roman Catholic, and Protestant communities to discuss freedom of worship, access to religious sites, and instances of religious-based discrimination. According to census information from the Turkish Cypriot authorities, which was the most recent data available, the population of the area administered by Turkish Cypriots is , The census contains no data on religious affiliation.

Sociologists estimate as much as 97 percent of the population is Sunni Muslim, of whom are members of the Naqshbandi Sufi order. According to the Alevi Culture Association, an estimated 10, immigrants of Turkish, Kurdish, and Arab origin and their descendants are Alevi Muslims.

The government of the Republic of Cyprus estimated members of the Church of Cyprus and 73 Maronite Catholics resided in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots. Of these, 61 percent were Muslim Turks, and the rest were predominantly Christians and Muslims from more than different countries. It prohibits forced prayer, forced attendance at religious services, condemnation based on religious beliefs, and compelling individuals to disclose their religious beliefs.

The Vakf has the exclusive right to regulate and administer its internal affairs and property in accordance with Vakf laws and principles. No other religious organization is tax exempt or receives subsidies from Turkish Cypriot authorities. A Maronite representative, however, said Turkish Cypriot authorities allowed services at Panagia Church without prior permission only on August Greek Orthodox, Maronite Catholic, and Armenian Orthodox worshippers must submit applications to the authorities for permission to hold religious services at churches or monasteries other than these six designated churches.

For the authorities to consider an application the date should be of significance to that religious group; the church or monastery must be structurally sound; it must not be located in a military zone; and it must not have a dual use, for example, as a museum. Permission is also necessary for priests other than those officially predesignated to conduct services. Specific permission is required for Cypriots who do not reside in the Turkish Cypriot-administered area, such as members of the Greek Orthodox, Maronite Catholic, and Armenian Orthodox Churches, to participate.

UNFICYP coordinates these applications, which religious groups must submit 10 days before the date of the requested service. Religious groups are not permitted to register as associations if the stated purpose of the association is to provide religious education to their members.

There is mandatory religious instruction in grades four through eight in all schools, public and private. These classes focus primarily on Sunni Islam but also include sessions on comparative religion. Authorities granted improved access to Greek Orthodox places of worship compared to the previous year. Contrary to reports in earlier years, Apostolos Andreas, St.

Barnabas, and St. Mamas Churches required advanced notification to conduct religious services. The three churches, however, were open for prayers throughout the year, as they had been in previous years. A Greek Orthodox Church representative said Turkish Cypriot authorities typically denied access requests without explanation. A Greek Orthodox representative stated 63 religious sites remained inaccessible due to being located within Turkish military zones or the buffer zone.

Heavy police escorts continued to accompany visiting Greek Orthodox and Maronite worshippers. Turkish Cypriot authorities said the escorts were to provide security; Greek Orthodox and Maronite officials expressed concern they also surveilled worshippers. George Church in Famagusta. In June Greek Cypriots received permission to hold a two-day religious ceremony at St.

Barnabas Monastery. Local press reported large crowds at the Mass and extensive security measures around the monastery, which a Greek Orthodox official said ensured the service took place without incident. According to a representative of the Maronite community, the Turkish military increased restrictions on access to Maronite churches located within Turkish military zones. Maronite representatives reported that, since January, they had been required to submit a list of persons planning to attend Sunday services by the preceding Tuesday, and the Turkish military had refused access to some members.

Armenian Orthodox representatives said limitations on access imposed by Turkish Cypriot authorities prevented them from fully renovating and maintaining the Sourp Magar Monastery. The TSPA again reported police visited the association on a monthly basis and that some of its members were afraid to attend religious services due to police monitoring; TSPA representatives visited homes where members held services instead. The TSPA reported it successfully opened an office in Famagusta after authorities prevented it from doing so the previous two years.

Construction began in August, and the association expected it to be completed by July A representative of the Church of Cyprus again stated some religious sites, to which Church officials had little or no access, were deteriorating. Greek Orthodox religious groups continued to complain authorities placed religious items, including icons, in storage rooms or displayed them in museums, against the wishes of the communities to whom they were sacred. In October local press reported that Greek Orthodox icons stored in the Kyrenia Castle were deteriorating due to improper preservation.

The TCCH reported it had completed restoration of 10 religious sites and was restoring another two sites. After an initial delay in the technical designs, the tender for the second phase of the project, including the restoration of the small chapel, surrounding buildings, and environmental landscaping, closed in October and restoration was expected to begin in early In October the TCCH visited the Kyrenia Castle and assessed the icons there were generally in good condition, but it announced it would seek funding to install a climate control system to better preserve them.

The TSPA continued to report societal discrimination toward Protestants, including denial of access to venues to hold religious events and verbal harassment. Barnabas in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots. Ambassador met with Mufti of Cyprus Atalay to encourage interfaith dialogue and discuss access to religious sites on both sides of the island.

In November the Ambassador attended a celebration with the Maronite community at St. Embassy officials also discussed issues pertaining to religious freedom, including access to sites of worship and instances of societal discrimination within the Turkish Cypriot community, with representatives of the Armenian Orthodox, Alevi Muslim, Latin Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Maronite, Protestant, and Sunni Muslim communities.

For example, embassy officials frequently discussed with Greek Orthodox leaders concerns about the restrictions Turkish Cypriot authorities placed on church ceremonies conducted in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots. All references to place names within this report are for reference purposes only and are meant to convey meaning.

They should not be interpreted as implying or indicating any political recognition or change in long-standing U. The constitution states that everyone has freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. According to media, in March police attempted to pressure a self-identified atheist youth to return to the AAC. On several occasions, Nikol Pashinyan, elected prime minister in May following nationwide protests, declared that state and church were separate and the government would not interfere in church matters.

According to local observers, the new government suspended the process of adopting a new draft law on religious freedom of major concern to religious minorities. Some civil society and minority religious groups continued to state their concerns that the content of the History of the Armenian Church HAC courses taught in public schools discriminated against religious minorities and that the courses did not provide an opt-out mechanism. According to the Center for Religion and Law, an evangelical Protestant teacher in a public school in the village of Yelpin became a target of religious discrimination.

According to local observers, these remarks led to a dramatic decrease in objective reporting on religious issues. Ambassador and other embassy officials continued to promote religious tolerance and interfaith dialogue during meetings with government officials. Embassy officials met with AAC leaders to engage the AAC in supporting the rights of religious minorities to practice their faiths without restrictions. In July the Ambassador hosted an event to foster interreligious dialogue, mutual respect, and cooperation, bringing together representatives of the AAC, religious and ethnic minorities, and civil society and sharing the previous Department of State report on international religious freedom.

The embassy used Facebook and Twitter to send messages in support of religious tolerance. According to the census, approximately 92 percent of the population identifies with the AAC. According to members of the Jewish community, there are approximately Jews in the country. Yezidis are concentrated primarily in agricultural areas northwest of Yerevan around Mount Aragats, and Armenian Uniate Catholics live primarily in the north.

The constitution states everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. The constitution allows restrictions on this right to protect state security, public order, health, and morals, or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others. It allows conscientious objectors to military service to perform alternative civilian service. By law, a registered religious group may minister to the religious and spiritual needs of its faithful; perform religious liturgies, rites, and ceremonies; establish groups for religious instruction; engage in theological, religious, historical, and cultural studies; train members for the clergy or for scientific and pedagogical purposes; obtain and utilize objects and materials of religious significance; use media; establish ties with religious organizations in other countries; and engage in charity.

The law does not require religious groups to register, but they must do so to conduct business in their own name e. The law does not stipulate rights accorded to unregistered groups. A religious community may appeal a decision by the Office of the State Registrar through the courts. The Office of the Human Rights Defender ombudsman has a mandate to address violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of religion, committed by officials of the state and local governments.

The law also prohibits police, prosecutors, and other state and civil servants from conducting other religious activities while performing official duties. If a member of the military is a member of a religious association, the member does not have the right to preach to other service personnel during the military service. The penitentiary code allows penal institutions to invite clergy members to conduct religious ceremonies and use religious objects and literature.

Prisoners may request spiritual assistance from the religious group of their choice. The law allows the AAC free access to, and the right to station representatives in, hospitals, orphanages, boarding schools, military units, and places of detention, while other religious groups may have representatives in these locations only with permission from the head of the institution. While adding an HAC course in a public or private school is optional, once a school chooses to do so, the course is mandatory for all students in grades five to 11; there is no opt-out provision for students or their parents.

The AAC has the right to participate in the development of the syllabi and textbooks for the HAC course and to define the qualifications of their teachers. The Church may nominate candidates to teach the courses, although the teachers are state employees.

The law grants the AAC the right to organize voluntary extracurricular religious instruction classes in state educational institutions. Other religious groups may provide religious instruction to their members in their own facilities, but not within the premises of state educational institutions. The labor code prohibits employers from collecting and analyzing data on religious views of employees.

Evasion of alternative service is a criminal offense. On March 30, Epress. Protesters insulted him in the presence of police. On July 15, on Facebook Livestream, Prime Minister Pashinyan described these developments as an internal church matter into which the government should not interfere and urged the clergy to discuss and find a solution to those internal disagreements. After three days, however, police removed them.

On several occasions, Pashinyan reiterated that state and church were separate and the government would not interfere in church affairs. According to religious freedom experts and many members of the religious community, the most recent version of the draft package, published in November , sought to control religious organizations, including by banning religious expression under certain circumstances and banning foreign funding of religious organizations.

The draft also included mandatory public reporting, with the possibility of suspending an organization for failure to report. In July the trial court judge released him on bail. Once it became clear that three of the four teachers were AAC followers and that the other teacher was a member of an evangelical Protestant church, the latter became the sole target of the protests, even though the activists admitted they had no proof she was preaching or proselytizing during school activities.

According to the Center for Religion and Law, which represented the teacher, the latter was subject to reprisal and discrimination because of her religion. The vast majority of public and private schools continued to teach HAC courses throughout the country in grades five through According to official information, the HAC was taught in all public schools with no exceptions, although during the year there were anecdotal reports that at least one public school and two schools in Yezidi villages did not teach the course.

During a parliamentary briefing on November 14, the new minister of education stated the HAC course needed serious revisions. In the interim, beginning with the academic year, national minorities could choose an alternative course to the HAC. Several non-AAC religious groups said they did not object to the inclusion of the HAC course in public schools, although some objected to the prayers and crossing that reportedly occurred during those classes and said they would like to see a more accurate portrayal of religious groups other than the AAC.

The Ministry of Education stated that during the year it did not receive any complaints about the HAC course and that it had instructed HAC teachers to maintain the secular nature of the class and refrain from religious propaganda. NGOs, other religious organizations, atheists, and nonpracticing members of the AAC publicly voiced concerns about what they stated were elements of religious indoctrination contained in the HAC course, as well as material equating AAC affiliation with national identity.

There were reports of AAC clergy teaching the course in some schools and requiring visits to AAC churches as part of the course, without providing opportunities for discussion of other faiths or for students to visit non-AAC religious sites. According to the government, during the academic year, six AAC clergy members taught the HAC course in four public and two private schools.

Human rights activists expressed their concern that religious elements were a consistent part of the public education process and were present even outside the AAC course. During the new school year, 74 schools followed this option. According to the government, no religious groups other than the AAC requested to visit a military unit. According to the government, during the year, the AAC conducted visits, up to three times per week, to each of the 12 penitentiaries to engage in spiritual discussions with incarcerated followers and to hold services, baptisms and other religious events.

Seventh-day Adventists reported their dissatisfaction over some schools operating on Saturdays or school- or state-level examinations scheduled for Saturdays, a day of worship for the community. The group stated, however, that on an individual level their members were able to resolve the issue.

The new government stopped the practice of designating AAC holidays as nonworking days, making the following or preceding Saturday a working day. These individuals alleged those religious minority groups continued to influence the new government. According to World of Life Church representatives, among other posts, the Facebook page posted a photograph of the senior pastor of the Word of Life Church and included an article with anti-Armenian and anti-AAC statements, causing a public uproar against the Church.

Word of Life Church representatives said they believed an organized group, mostly likely a political adversary of the new government, was behind the fake Facebook page. Social media criticized several government officials because of their affiliation with minority religious groups.

On one occasion, a member of the Word of Life Church, appointed to a position in the new government, said he resigned following public pressure. The Ambassador and other embassy officials continued to promote religious tolerance and interfaith dialogue during meetings with government officials.

Embassy officials and a visiting official from the Department of State Office of International Religious Freedom met with representatives of the Ministry of Justice in April to discuss concerns raised by religious minorities and human rights groups about restrictive provisions in the proposed package of legislation on religious freedom.

Embassy officials met with representatives of the Ministry of Education to discuss concerns about the HAC course and steps undertaken by the government to address those concerns. The Ambassador regularly met with representatives of the government, political parties, social groups, and religious minorities to discuss problems of discrimination faced by religious minorities, foster a dialogue between the government and the religious groups, and explore cooperative solutions to those problems.

In July the Ambassador hosted an event to foster interreligious dialogue, mutual respect, and cooperation, bringing together representatives of the AAC, religious and ethnic minorities, and civil society to discuss issues of concern and foster a dialogue between the groups and share the Department of State report on international religious freedom.

In the meeting, the Ambassador emphasized the fundamental universal right for every person to have freedom of worship and the freedom to choose to believe or not believe. The Ambassador met with leaders of the AAC and engaged them on the importance of supporting the right of religious minorities to practice their faiths without restrictions.

Embassy officials attended conferences and discussions on nondiscrimination and religious tolerance regularly hosted by the Eurasian Partnership Foundation in its religious tolerance projects. They visited a Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian village, attending the celebration of the th anniversary of the establishment of the Assyrian community in the country.

In these meetings, embassy officials and religious group representatives discussed the state of religious freedom in the country, including minority religious group concerns. They also met with civil society groups to discuss concerns about the HAC courses taught in public schools. Embassy officials met with a joint delegation of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and European Union Venice Commission to discuss the concerns raised by some religious groups over the draft package of legislation on religious freedom.

The embassy used social media, including Twitter and Facebook, to send messages supporting religious diversity and tolerance and to highlight the January 11 annual International Religious Freedom Day and the release of the Department of State report on international religious freedom.

Historical and modern constitutional and legal documents provide for freedom of religious belief and affiliation and prohibit religious discrimination. The law bans public incitement to hostile acts against religious groups. The law divides recognized religious groups into three categories; 16 groups recognized as religious societies receive the most benefits.

Scientologists and the Unification Church said government-funded organizations advised the public against associating with them. The government tightened controls on ritual slaughter. Muslim and Jewish groups and nongovernmental organizations NGOs expressed concerns over anti-Semitic and anti-Islamic sentiment in the Freedom Party FPOe , the junior partner in the coalition government. Authorities dropped an investigation of an FPOe politician on anti-Semitism charges because the statute of limitations had run; he resumed his position as party chair in Lower Austria.

The government collaborated with the Muslim community to combat extremism and with a Jewish NGO on Holocaust awareness training for teachers. More than half of the incidents occurred online; others included verbal abuse and vandalism. Courts convicted individuals of anti-Islamic rhetoric and anti-Semitic or neo-Nazi activity, generally handing down fines or sentences, some of which they suspended.

Embassy representatives regularly engaged with officials from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Interior on religious freedom, concerns of religious groups, integration of religious minorities, and measures to combat anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim sentiment and encourage interreligious dialogue.

Embassy officials served on the advisory board of the Mauthausen Memorial Agency, which promoted Holocaust remembrance, spoke on religious freedom at public ceremonies, and supported programs to combat anti-Semitism and promote religious dialogue and tolerance. According to religious groups and December figures from the government Austrian Integration Fund, Roman Catholics constitute 58 percent of the population and Muslims — predominantly Sunni — 8 percent, while approximately 25 percent is unaffiliated with any religion.

Several constitutional provisions protect religious freedom. The main pillars are historical laws on fundamental rights and freedoms, including religious freedom, and treaties and conventions such as the European Convention on Human Rights, which form part of the constitution.

Antidiscrimination legislation prohibits discrimination on religious grounds. Citizens have the right to sue the government for constitutional violations of religious freedom. The prohibition also applies specifically in the case of incitement in print, electronic, or other media available to a broad public. The law also prohibits incitement, insult, or contempt against religious groups, if such action violates human dignity. Each category possesses specific rights, privileges, and legal responsibilities.

The law grants registered religious societies the right to public practice and independent administration of their internal affairs, to participate in the program requiring mandatory church contributions by church members, and to bring religious workers into the country to act as ministers, missionaries, or teachers. Additionally, religious societies are exempt from the surveillance charge, payable when state security is required, and the administrative fee levied at the municipal level.

Responsibilities of religious societies include a commitment to sponsor social and cultural activities that serve the common good and to ensure their teachings do not violate the law or ethical standards. Religious groups seeking to achieve religious society status for the first time must apply for recognition with the Office for Religious Affairs in the Federal Chancellery.

Religious groups recognized as societies prior to retained their status. The government grandfathered in 14 of the 16 recognized religious societies under this provision of the law. To gain recognition as a religious society, religious groups not recognized prior to must have membership equaling 0. Groups that do not meet these criteria may still apply for religious society status under an exception for groups that have been active internationally for at least years and active as an association in the country for 10 years.

Groups sharing a broad faith with an existing society or confessional community, for example Christianity, may register separately as long as they can demonstrate that they have a different theology. The law allows religious groups not recognized as societies to seek official status as confessional communities with the Office for Religious Affairs in the Federal Chancellery.

The government recognized the latter as a confessional community on April A recognized confessional community has the juridical standing needed to engage in such activities as purchasing real estate in its own name and contracting for goods and services, but it is not eligible for the financial and educational benefits available to recognized religious societies.

To gain government recognition as a confessional community, a group must have at least members and submit to the Office for Religious Affairs its statutes describing the goals, rights, and obligations of members, as well as membership regulations, a list of officials, and financing information. A group must also submit a written description of its religious doctrine, which must differ from that of any previously recognized religious society or religious confessional community.

A religious group seeking to obtain confessional community status is subject to a six-month waiting period from the time of application to the chancellery. After this period, groups that have applied automatically receive the status unless the government issues a decree rejecting the application. Religious groups not qualifying for either religious society or confessional community status may apply to become legal associations, a status applicable to a broad range of civil groups.

Some groups organize as associations while waiting for the government to recognize them as confessional communities. The Church of Scientology and a number of smaller religious groups, such as Sahaja Yoga and the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, have association status. Religious groups registered as associations have the right to function in public, but they may not provide religious instruction in schools or pastoral care in hospitals or prisons.

According to the law, any group of more than two persons pursuing a nonprofit goal qualifies to organize as an association. Groups may apply to the Ministry of Interior to gain such status. To become an association, a group must submit a written statement citing its common, nonprofit goal and commitment to function as a nonprofit organization. Associations have juridical standing and many of the same rights as confessional communities, including the right to own real estate and to contract for goods and services.

Unlike confessional communities, associations may not offer pastoral care in hospitals or prisons or receive tax-deductible contributions. The law provides an explicit legal definition of, and legal protection for, Islamic practices, such as circumcision and preparation of food in conformity with religious rules, and states Muslims may raise children and youth in accordance with Islamic traditions.

Muslim groups with at least members and a theology not distinct from a pre-existing Islamic religious society or confessional community are considered cultural communities and fall under the umbrella of the pre-existing, legally recognized Islamic religious society or confessional community. The law allows for Islamic theological university studies, which the University of Vienna offers.

Separate laws govern relations between the government and each of the other 14 state-recognized religious societies. The laws have similar intent but vary in some details, given they were enacted at different times over a span of approximately years. Failure to comply with the law is an administrative violation.

The government funds, on a proportional basis, religious instruction for any of the 16 officially recognized religious societies by clergy or instructors provided by those groups for children in public schools and government-accredited private schools. The government does not offer such funding to other religious groups.

A minimum of three children is required to form a class. Attendance in religion classes is mandatory for all students unless they formally withdraw at the beginning of the school year; students under the age of 14 require parental permission to withdraw from religion classes. The government funds the instruction, and religious groups provide the instructors. Religious instruction takes place either in the school or at sites organized by religious groups.

Some schools offer ethics classes for students not attending religious instruction. Religious education and ethics classes include the tenets of different religious groups as comparative religious education. The curriculum for both public and private schools includes compulsory antibias and tolerance education, including religious tolerance, as part of civics education across various subjects, including history and German-language instruction.

Holocaust education is part of history instruction and appears in other subjects such as civics. The agency provides legal counseling and mediation services, and it assists with bringing cases before the Equal Treatment Commission, another independent government agency.

In cases where it finds discrimination, the commission makes a recommendation for corrective action. In a case of noncompliance with the recommendation, the case goes to court. The commission may issue expert reports for plaintiffs to present before the court. Only a court may order corrective action and compensation. Foreign religious workers of groups recognized as confessional communities or associations must apply for a general immigrant visa that is not employment or family based, and is subject to a quota.

The government requires a visa for visitors from non-visa waiver countries or individuals who would stay beyond 90 days, including religious workers of confessional communities or associations. Foreign religious workers belonging to religious societies do not require visas for either shorter visits or stays beyond 90 days. Religious workers from Schengen or European Union-member countries are exempt from all visa requirements. On November 20, parliament enacted a law providing for financial support for the costs of preschools to the provinces, which included an obligation for provincial governments to ban headscarves for children in preschools.

The government continued to implement the ban on the wearing of full-face coverings in public that went into effect in October Because authorities did not file charges when persons paid fines immediately, there were an unspecified number of additional cases in which police enforced the law.

Citing the ban on face coverings as well as the prohibition on foreign funding of mosques, the Freedom House report lowered its rating of the country from four to three on a scale of four in the category of freedom to practice and express religious faith or nonbelief. Only the Roman Catholic Church received government funding for pastoral care in prisons pursuant to the law covering relations between the government and the Catholic Church.

On November 22, the government coalition parties introduced a bill stipulating a ban of headscarves for children, 10 and under, in elementary schools. Some Scientologists and representatives of the Unification Church continued to state the Federal Office of Sect Issues and other government-associated entities fostered societal discrimination against religious groups not registered as religious societies or confessional communities.

The office was nominally independent but government-funded, and the minister for women, family and youth both appointed and oversaw its head. The society reportedly also received support from the city of Vienna. In June the government completed an investigation of several mosques of the Arab Cultural Community over allegations the mosques preached extremist teachings and concluded the allegations were unfounded.

The councilor had sought a list of the Jews and Muslims in the province to determine the amount of halal and kosher meat required to meet demand. The Jewish and Islamic communities had previously voiced concerns about the proposal and said they would not provide any lists of their members.

The governor stressed that the government would not require any registrations of persons intending to buy kosher or halal meat. Also in August, a decree by the Ministry of Social Affairs provided for stricter controls against illegal ritual slaughtering. The decree included stricter monitoring of farmers who sold sheep to private persons, a practice which primarily affected Muslims. Muslim groups stated the existing provisions to prevent illegal slaughter were sufficient, and criticized the decree as a populist measure.

The government continued to apply a policy of banning headwear in official identification documents, with an exception for religious purposes as long as the face was sufficiently visible to allow for identification of the wearer. On December 11, parliament adopted an amendment to existing law banning certain symbols, including the symbols of ISIS and al-Qaida-affiliated groups. The amendment, scheduled to enter into force in March , expanded the ban to include symbols of other groups the government considered extremist, including the Muslim Brotherhood.

The international NGO Anti-Defamation League conducted teacher-training seminars on Holocaust awareness with Austrian schools, reaching approximately teachers. In addition, provincial school councils and the education ministry invited Holocaust survivors to talk to school classes about National Socialism and the Holocaust.

The counseling office for extremism prevention of the Ministry of Women, Family and Youth cooperated with the IGGIO to conduct training courses for imams on community work and prevention of extremism, including promoting religious tolerance. In November Landbauer returned to the Lower Austrian FPOe as its acting chairman and acting floor leader in the provincial legislature. The party said the commission would include experts from Israel and the United States.

At the annual ceremony commemorating the liberation of the concentration camp Mauthausen in May, Deutsch referred to charges of 23 anti-Semitic or neo-Nazi incidents among FPOe rank and file since the party became a junior partner in the coalition government in December The program included a suggestion to include new provisions in the criminal statute to combat violence motivated by religious fundamentalism.

Specific proposals to prevent radicalization include limiting foreign financing of religious organizations, monitoring and potentially closing private Islamic schools not complying with legal requirements, and entrusting law enforcement with the authority to close places of worship that supported terrorism. The report stated extremist activities of FPOe politicians had increased, citing 68 incidents occurring in the four and a half years before the parliamentary elections, compared with 38 incidents in the six months after those elections.

According to the report, of the 38 cases, 14 were connected with anti-Semitism and eight involved FPOe leaders or members of the federal government. Germany needs you! Sickl, according to the Mauthausen report, was co-editor of Aula , a publication that disseminated anti-Semitic content. According to the report, Robert Kiesinger, a consultant at the FPOe educational institute, posted a cover page of a Nazi calendar from as his Easter greeting on social media. Law enforcement authorities stated the government provided the protection due to general concerns over the potential for anti-Semitic acts against Jewish institutions.

The event brought together leaders from Europe and the Jewish community on both sides of the Atlantic and focused on concrete measures to combat anti-Semitism, including providing better physical security for Jewish communities, and reinforcing legislation and improving education to combat anti-Semitism.

I can assure you that Austria will fight all forms of anti-Semitism in Europe with determination, be it the still-existing one or also new imported anti-Semitism. For example, he issued a statement on November 9, commemorating the 80th anniversary of the Kristallnacht Nazi pogroms against Jews. In March President Alexander Van der Bellen gave a speech during the commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the Nazi German annexation of the country.

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