Portugal Votes New Religious Freedom Law

May 3, 2001. Lisbon, Portugal. [IRLA News] The Portuguese parliament voted a new law on April 26 that guarantees religious freedom and seeks to set all churches on an equal level before the state. Other provisions include rights to conscientious objection (against military service) and the safeguarding of days of worship.

The new legislation was welcomed by Dr. Jonathan Gallagher, deputy secretary general of IRLA, who said that "it will help to confirm the progress made towards religious freedom in Portugal since the 1974 revolution and to clarify Portugal's adherence to the agreed standards of freedom of conscience as highlighted in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."

One of the more significant of the law's 69 articles is number 2, which states that "The State will not discriminate against any church or religious community with respect to another." However, the Portuguese state signed a Concordat with the Vatican in 1940 and it remains to be seen how this agreement will impact the new law. At the same time as the law was passed, the Portuguese foreign minister was at the Vatican to request revision of the Concordat, which governs the relationship of the Roman Catholic church with the government of Portugal.

Other articles include the recognition of marriages performed by non-Catholic clergy and tax-exemption status for religious organizations.