CESNUR - center for studies on new religions
Department Seal 2000 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom:

Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
U.S. Department of State, September 5, 2000


The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the authorities respect this right in practice.

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

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

The American Institute in Taiwan discusses religious freedom issues with the Taiwan authorities in the context of its overall dialog and policy of promoting human rights.

Section I. Government Policies on Freedom of Religion

Legal/Policy Framework

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the authorities respect this right in practice. The authorities at all levels generally protect this right in full, and do not tolerate its abuse, either by governmental or private actors.

Religious organizations may register with the central authorities through their island-wide associations under either the Temple Management Law, the Civic Organizations Law, or the chapter of the Civil Code that governs foundations and associations. While individual places of worship may register with local authorities, many choose not to register and operate as the personal property of their leaders. Registered organizations operate on a tax-free basis and are required to make annual reports of their financial operations. In the past, concern over abuse of tax-free privileges or other financial misdeeds occasionally prompted the authorities to deny registration to new religions whose doctrines were not clear, but there were no reports that the authorities sought to suppress new religions during the period covered by this report.

Religious Demography

Approximately 50 percent of the population regularly participate in some form of organized religious practice. Sixteen religious organizations have registered with the Ministry of the Interior. While reliable statistics are not available, it can be estimated from registration figures provided to the Ministry of the Interior that of the total population approximately 22 percent are Buddhist; 22 percent are Taoist; 4 percent follow I Kuan Tao; 2 percent are Protestants; 1.5 percent are Roman Catholics; 1 percent follow Tien Li Chao (Heaven Reason Religion); 1 percent follow Tien Ti Chiao (Heaven Emperor Religion); 1 percent follow Tien Te Chiao (Heaven Virtue Religion); 0.7 percent follow Li-ism; 0.6 percent follow Hsuan Yuan Chiao (Yellow Emperor Religion); and .02 percent are Sunni Muslim. There are no statistics available for the three religions newly registered in 1999: Confucianism, Ta I Chao (Great Changes Religion), and Hai Tzu Chiao (Innocent Child Religion). It has also been estimated by knowledgeable observers that almost 14 percent of the population are atheists. Among the Protestants, the following denominations are represented among the population: Presbyterians, True Jesus, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons), Baptists, Lutherans, Seventh-Day Adventists, Episcopalians, and Jehovah's Witnesses. There are also small numbers of adherents of Judaism, the Baha'i Faith, Falun Gong, and the Mahikari religion. More than 70 percent of the indigenous population is Christian. The majority of religious adherents are either Buddhist or Taoist, but a large percentage consider themselves both Buddhist and Taoist.

Whatever their religion, many persons also follow a collection of beliefs that might be called "traditional Chinese folk religion," which is deeply ingrained in Chinese culture. These beliefs include, but are not limited to, shamanism, ancestor worship, magic, ghosts and other spirits, and aspects of animism. This folk religion may overlap with an individual's belief in Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, or other traditional Chinese religions. Knowledgeable observers have estimated that perhaps as many as 80 percent of the population believe in some form of traditional folk religion.

Religious beliefs cross political and geographical lines. Individual members of Taiwan's political leadership practice various faiths, including minority religions.

Foreign missionary groups operate freely. For example, missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and the Watch Tower Society (Jehovah's Witnesses) operate without restriction.

Religious instruction is not permitted in public or private schools at the elementary, middle, or high school levels. However, universities and research institutions have religious studies departments, and religious organizations operate theological seminaries.

The Ministry of the Interior promotes interfaith understanding among religious groups by sponsoring symposiums (or helping to defray the expenses of privately sponsored symposiums) on religious issues.

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. However, there are 10 members of the Watch Tower Society (Jehovah's Witnesses) who remain in prison for failing to follow orders while in military service. Nonetheless, there is no indication that members of the Watch Tower Society have been singled out for their beliefs. In late 1999, the Legislative Yuan passed legislation allowing for a civilian alternative to military service for conscientious objectors. The legislation would benefit members of the Watch Tower Society and others who previously had been imprisoned for failing to follow orders while in military service. The law is in the process of being implemented, and the program is expected to begin on July 1, 2000.

Forced Religious Conversion of Minor U.S. Citizens

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

Section II. Societal Attitudes Relations among the various religious communities are generally amicable. The Taiwan Council for Religion and Peace, the China Religious Believers Association, and the Taiwan Religious Association are private organizations that promote greater understanding and tolerance among adherents of the different religions. Those associations and various religious groups occasionally sponsor symposiums to promote mutual understanding.

Section III. U.S. Government Policy

The American Institute in Taiwan is in frequent contact with representatives of human rights organizations and occasionally meets with leaders of various religious communities. [end of document]

East Asia, South Asia, and the Pacific Index | Table of Contents |

[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]