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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 finances of the Roman Catholic Church are integrated directly into the budgets of the national and local governments; approximately $196,000 (CHF 300,000) was budgeted for 1999, plus additional sums from the 11 communes. Normally, church funding comes from the general budget, as decided by Parliament, and is not a direct "tithe" paid by the citizen. However, the relationship between the State and the Roman Catholic Church currently is being redefined. As an interim solution, the State's financial contributions for 1999, 2000, and 2001 are paid into a special account. When a new agreement is reached (no later than 2002), the agreed amount will be released to the Catholic Church. The Government gives money not only to the Catholic Church but also to other denominations. The budget is allocated proportionately according to membership numbers. All religious groups enjoy tax-exempt status.

Of a total population of 31,320 (as of December 31, 1997, according to the Office of the National Economy) there are 24,962 Roman Catholics (79.7 percent); 2,279 Protestants (7.27 percent); 1,074 Muslims (3.43 percent); 223 Eastern Orthodox (0.07 percent); 40 Buddhists (0.12 percent); 31 Jehovah's Witnesses (0.10 percent); 18 Anglicans (0.06 percent); 13 Jews (0.04 percent); 12 Baha'is (0.04 percent); 12 New Apostolics (0.04 percent); 2 members of other religions (0.01 percent); 2,452 persons undecided (7.8 percent); and 202 atheists (0.64 percent).

There are no significant foreign missionary groups. In order to receive a religious worker visa, an applicant must demonstrate that the host organization is important for the entire country. An applicant must have completed theological studies and be accredited to an acknowledged order. Visa requests normally are not denied and are processed in the same manner as requests from other individuals or workers.

Roman Catholic or Protestant religious education is compulsory in all schools, but the authorities routinely grant exemptions for children whose parents so request. Both religions typically are taught separately but simultaneously in primary and secondary schools, normally 2 hours per week.

The Government collaborates with religious institutions by supporting interfaith dialogs and providing adult education courses in religion as well as other subjects.

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 prisoners or detainees.

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

Section II. Societal Attitudes

There are amicable relations between the religious communities. Catholics, Protestants, and members of other faiths work well together on an ecumenical basis. Differences among religious faiths are not a significant source of tension in society.

Section III. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. Embassy discusses religious freedom issues with the Government in the overall context of the promotion of human rights.

[End of Document]

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Revised last: 10-09-1999