The Republic of Honduras, historical home to Mesoamerican cultures including the Maya, was conquered by Spain in the sixteenth century who imported Roman Catholicism which has been predominant culturally ever since. Honduras’ multi-party system has been turbulent and wracked with controversy.

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Constitution and government

The constitution and other laws and policies protect freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as well as freedom of expression, assembly and association. However, military coups and social strife, including the world’s highest murder rate, mean that in practice many of these rights cannot be safely exercised.

General elections held on November 24, 2013 brought to power a party that backed the 2009 coup. It remains to be seen whether it will uphold the rights guaranteed by the constitution.

Religious privilege

Although Honduras has been nominally a secular state since 1880, the legislature declares the Roman Catholic Church and the Evangelical Confederation of Honduras as legally recognized churches, and these churches only.

The constitution allows other religious bodies to register as non-profit associations with the benefits of non-profit status. And all citizens are free to practice the religion or belief of their choice. But the two official churches receive a range of additional privileges and benefits available to them alone, such as tax exemption for clergy salaries and state recognition of religious marriages.

Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values

Although the constitution guarantees freedom of expression and press freedom, these rights have been systematically violated since the most recent coup in 2009. Most large broadcasters and publishers are owned by powerful businessmen and politicians who supported the coup. Opposition and community media that dare to report human rights violations or land conflicts are exposed to serious reprisals, with the direct complicity of the police, armed forces and private militia controlled by businessmen and politicians. Harassment includes police surveillance, assaults, threats, blocked transmissions, and power outages. This has been seen in the persecution of opposition media such Radio Uno, Radio Globo and Canal 36, and community radio stations such as Radio Coco Dulce and La Voz de Zacate Grande.

Honduras is considered the second most dangerous country in the world for journalists, with at least 27 killed since the 2009 coup, according to Reporters Without Borders. The government has ignored the crimes. Many journalists practice self-censorship, particularly since the coup. Other journalists, such as Dina Meza and Fidelina Sandoval, have fled abroad.

Endemic violent crime, resulting in the world’s highest murder rate, suppresses freedom of expression and the work of human rights activists. Approximately 80 percent of crimes committed in Honduras are never reported, according to the government, and only 3.8 percent of reported crimes are investigated by police. Freedom House reported, at the end of 2012, that as many as 74 lawyers and more than 70 LGBT activists had been murdered since the 2009 coup.

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