The constitution provides for freedom of religion and belief. A concordat with the Holy See designates Roman Catholicism as the official state religion and extends to the Catholic Church special privileges not granted to other religious groups. Privileges include funding for expenses such as administration and construction, visa exceptions, and exemptions for customs duties. Some participants in an interfaith event in November said they did not approve of the government’s preference for the Catholic Church, the lack of explicit legal protection for churches beyond what the constitution provided, and the treatment of non-Catholic churches as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). In June the Ministry of Education signed agreements to incorporate 15 Christian schools, including non-Catholic Christian schools, into the national education system and provide them with teaching, administrative, and other support staff. Some non-Catholic groups said they still paid customs duties and had to apply for refunds even though the law allows for exemptions. Representatives of some non-Catholic groups stated that while the special privileges given to the Catholic Church through the concordat were unfair, these privileges did not hinder their ability to practice their religion in public and in private.
In February the School of Law at Santo Domingo’s Pontifical University and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Church of Jesus Christ) cohosted an international conference called Religious Liberty as a Fundamental Right. Participants emphasized the importance of laws and the need for the objective administration of justice by judges as a means to guarantee religious liberty.
In November an official from the Ministry of the Presidency participated in an interfaith gathering hosted by the Ambassador. Representatives from 25 religious groups and faith-based organizations also attended the event, where issues discussed included religious freedom, the concordat, government financial support of churches, and legal protections for churches. In October an embassy official met with the Interfaith Dialogue Table to discuss religious freedom and the organization’s plans for interfaith initiatives in the country.