Back to Index

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

Released by the Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
Washington, DC, September 9, 1999


Section I. Freedom of Religion

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

The Constitution also acknowledges a special relationship with the Roman Catholic Church "in accordance with Andorran tradition" and recognizes the "full legal capacity" of the bodies of the Roman Catholic Church, granting them legal status "in accordance with their own rules." One of the two constitutionally-designated princes of the country (who serves equally as joint head of state with the President of France) is Bishop Joan Marti Alanis of the Spanish town of La Seu D'urgell.

The Roman Catholic Church receives no direct subsidies from the Government. However, the Government continues to pay monthly stipends to each of the seven Catholic parishes for the continuance of their historic work in maintaining vital records, such as birth and marriage, despite having a fully legal civil registry system in the country.

There is currently no law that clearly requires legal registration and approval of religions and religious worship. However, the Government is considering completing a draft law on associations that may ultimately govern some aspects of religious activity. Although the terms of the draft law are not publicly known, the authorities reportedly are considering how to treat the activity of so-called "sects" or other groups whose activities may be considered injurious to public health, safety, morals, or order. Under a 1993 law, associations must be registered. This register has documented civic associations, but to date no religious organization, including the Roman Catholic Church, has requested registration or been asked by the Government to register.

Very few official statistics are available relative to religion; however, traditionally approximately 90 percent of the population are Roman Catholic. The population consists largely of immigrants, with full citizens representing less than 20 percent of the total. Immigrants, primarily from Spain, Portugal, and France, compose the bulk of the population and are also largely Roman Catholic. It is estimated that, of the Catholic population, about half are active church attendees. Other religions include Islam (predominately represented among the roughly 2,000 North African immigrants); the New Apostolic Church; the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints; several Protestant denominations, including the Anglican Church; the Reunification Church; and Jehovah's Witnesses.

Instruction in the tenets of the Roman Catholic faith is available in public schools; however, it is not compulsory. Students must elect to attend religion classes or take another course such as civics or ethics. The Catholic Church provides teachers for religion classes, and the Government pays their salaries. No religious instruction other than Roman Catholicism is available in the public schools. There are also religiously based private schools. The Government's 1998 attempt to end all religious instruction in public schools met with objections from parental groups and, more importantly, from Bishop Marti. These objections compelled the Government to continue to make instruction available.

Foreign missionaries are active in Andorra and operate without restriction. For example, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and Jehovah's Witnesses proselytize door to door.

The Government has not taken any official steps to promote interfaith understanding, nor has it sponsored any programs or forums to coordinate interfaith dialog. On occasion the Government has made public facilities available to various religious organizations for religious activities.

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

There were no reports of religious detainees or prisoners.

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

Section II. Societal Attitudes

Societal attitudes between and among differing religious groups in general appear to be amicable and tolerant. The Catholic Church of la Massana, for example, lends its sanctuary twice per month to the Anglican community, so that visiting Anglican clergy can conduct services for the English speaking community. Although those who practice religions other than Roman Catholicism tend to be immigrants and otherwise not integrated fully into the local community, there appears to be little or no obstacle to their practicing their own religions.

There are no significant ecumenical movements or activities to promote greater mutual understanding among adherents of different religions.

Section III. U.S. Government Policy

U.S. officials discuss religious freedom issues with the Government in the overall context of the promotion of human rights. Both the U.S. Ambassador, resident in Madrid, and the Consul General, resident in Barcelona, have met with Bishop Marti, the leader of the Catholic community, most recently in October 1998.

[End of Document]

[Home Page] [Cos'è il CESNUR] [Biblioteca del CESNUR] [Testi e documenti] [Libri] [Convegni]

[Home Page] [About CESNUR] [CESNUR Library] [Texts & Documents] [Book Reviews] [Conferences]

Revised last: 10-09-1999