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Madrid, Spain
Spanish government criticised in report on religious liberty
Attacks by politicians, the waning of religious influence, and the probable amendment of the agreement with the Catholic Church are some of the situations over which the annual Catholic report on Religious Liberty is critical of the Spanish government.

The report, presented in several European capitals, including Madrid, takes the tension between the Catholic Church and the Spanish government up another notch. Other areas to be criticised included the new Catalan law on places of worship, and the new school subject, Citizenship. It says relations between the State and the Roman institution were particularly bad in the run-up to the election in March, which included “harsh attacks on the (Catholic) Church by Socialist leaders. ”

“The government thinks that religion should be kept inside churches and in people´s private lives, while the Catholic Church emphasises the human right of religious liberty...which inevitably affects every area of (a person´s) life. ”

The report recognised that religious liberty is enshrined in Spanish legislation, but expressed concern at the apparent desire of Zapatero´s government “to abolish all payments and subsidies to priests and other religious workers contracted by the State. ” It added that new legislation on places of worship currently under consideration in Catalonia would mean that churches had to ask permission to hold religious acts, and gave each local Council the right to grant, or not, licences to churches.

The report also considers Citizenship classes to be a State intrusion into personal morals, and “is clearly discriminatory with regard to Religious Education classes. ” The report claims that the Catholic Church has faced up to challenges relating to symbols such as crucifixes, though what that means in practice was not spelled out.

The report also considers that the government´s attitude to Moslems is more favourable than that towards Christians, and highlights the State´s publication of the first Primary School textbook about Islam. At the Press conference following the presentation of the report, representatives said Poland came out top of the religious liberty list, but avoided the question of where Spain came on the list.