Last Updated 27 October 2020

Peru is a country in South America, which obtained its independence from Spain in 1821. Peru is a unitary state and a presidential representative democratic republic. It has an elected two-chamber Congress and an elected president acting as head of state. According to the 2017 census, Peru has a population of 31,237.385 inhabitants.

Systemic Discrimination
Mostly Satisfactory

Constitution and government

Peru is a secular, non-denominational State insofar as it declares its independence and autonomy from any religious organizations and authorities. The 1993 Constitution1 does not proclaim an official religion even though the preamble includes an invocation to the almighty God.

The Constitution, and other laws and policies generally protect freedom of belief. Ch.1, Article 2.3 states that every person has the right: “to freedom of conscience and religion, in an individual or collective manner. No person shall be persecuted on the basis of his ideas or beliefs. There is no crime of opinion. Public exercise of any faith is free, insofar as it does not constitute an offense against morals or a disturbance of the public order.”

Article 45 recognizes that the power of the State emanates from the people while Article 55 recognizes as national laws the convention and the treaties ratified by the government. However, while the Constitution establishes separation of church and state, it recognizes the Catholic Church’s role as “an important element in the historical, cultural, and moral development of the nation.” (Article 50)

This article is the result of a long relationship between the Peruvian State and the Catholic Church, which was formally recognized in the Concordat signed in 1980.2

The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights is the state organ in charge of guaranteeing inclusiveness and transparency while promoting respect and protection of human rights.3 Within the ministry, the General Directorate of Justice and Religious Freedom is in charge of publishing compendiums of regulations and jurisprudence on the Right to Religious Freedom in Peru, which aims to promote human rights among public officials, law operators, and the general public.4

According to Article 37, “Extradition shall not be granted when it is determined that the request was motivated by persecution or punishment on grounds of religion, nationality, opinion, or race.”

Belief Demographics

According to the 2017 National Census of the National Institute of Statistics and Informatics (INEI),5 Catholicism dropped from 81.3% in 2007 to 76.0% (approximately 17,635,000 people) in 2017. Nonetheless, Catholicism remains the majority group in the country. On the contrary, the number of Evangelicals has increased from 12.5% to 14.1% (approximately 3,264,000 people).

The percentage of non-religious affiliates almost doubled, from 2.91% (2007) to 5.1% (approximately 1,180,000 people) in 2017. 48.97% of “nones” corresponds to young people between 15 and 29 years old. Other denominations, such as Christians, Adventists, Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, Israelites, Buddhis, Jews, Muslims, among others) also increased from 3.3% to 4.8% (approximately 1,115,000 people).

Education and children’s rights

Article 14 of the constitution establishes that “…religious education must respect the freedom of conscience. Education is provided at all levels, in conformity with constitutional principles and the purposes of the relevant educational institution.” Meanwhile, article 17 states that “the law sets forth the method of subsidizing private education in any of its forms, for those who cannot afford it.” Other laws mandate that all schools, public and private, provide religious education through the primary and secondary levels, “without violating the freedom of conscience of the student, parents, or teachers.”

With the 1980 Concordat, the Peruvian State assumes the commitment to teach the Catholic religion course in public schools as an ordinary subject. The law only permits the teaching of Catholicism in public schools, and the Ministry of Education mandates the presiding Catholic bishop of an area approves religious education teachers in all public schools. However, Parents may make a request to the principal to exempt their children from mandatory religion classes. Many secular private schools are granted exemptions from the religious education requirement. The law protects students who seek exemptions from Catholic education classes from being disadvantaged academically in both private and public schools.

According to Ricardo Cuenca, general director of the Institute of Peruvian Studies (IEP), the concordat represents a great obstacle on the face of any educational reform in the country. He stated, “no matter how much a Minister of Education wants to modify the content of the religious course, reduce the hours or remove it from the Curriculum, they will not be able to do so until a detailed revision of the Concordat as the only way for Peru to have independence regarding the education that is imparted to children.”6

Family, community and society

Sexual reproductive health

Groups, such as Catholic NGO, ALA Sin Componenda, have fought to prohibit the distribution of the so-called “morning-after pill” since 2004. Although in 2009, the Constitutional Court ordered the Ministry of Health to stop delivering the pill, in July 2019, the First Constitutional Court of Lima annulled the ruling, closing the discussion around the contraception debate.7

Catholic privilege

The Peruvian government’s Office of Catholic Affairs, pays stipends to the Catholic cardinal, archbishops, and other Catholic Church officials amounting to a total of at least $1 million annually. Some Catholic clergy and laypersons employed by the church receive remuneration from the government in addition to the stipends they receive from the Church. According to Catholics for the Right to Decide, there are a total of 1,030 people in 54 positions. Bishops and archbishops also received life retirement pensions payable with taxpayer money.8

In addition, the Catholic Church is exempt from paying income tax, the general sales tax (IGV), taxes on exports of goods, Selective Consumption Tax, Property Tax, Vehicle Wealth Tax, Operating License, among others.9

The Ministry of Defense financially supports the Military Bishopric to “evangelize” the members of the armed forces and police. The subsidy allows “the operation of the headquarters of the military bishopric to carry out pastoral and religious tasks through visits to the military and police regions to bring the word of God, the administration of the sacraments, and to guide the work of the chaplains.10

As was agreed under the 1980 Peru-Vatican Concordat, the military and the armed forces may employ only Catholic clergy as chaplains. However, a proposal has been made by the political group Peruanos Por el Kambio in February 2019 to allow Evangelical chaplains to also offer religious services.

Registration of other religious organizations

Other religious denominations must register within the government to gain recognition. The 2016 Religious Freedom and Registry of Religious Entities booklet defines religious freedoms as “the decision of each human being to freely and voluntarily choose the religion that best satisfies her spirituality, as well as not to choose religion or not to embrace any belief. Likewise, it implies the freedom to exercise their belief publicly, individually and collectively, if they so decide, without being a victim of discrimination or an attempt to change against their will.”11

The Directorate of Interfaith Affairs of the Directorate General of Justice and Religious Liberty of the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights oversees the Registry of Religious Entities (RER) to facilitate their relations with the State. Registration is voluntary, but the organizations must fulfill several requirements, included but not limited to the proper identification of their religious practices; have an active presence in the country for at least seven years; and have a minimum number of followers of at least 500 members, except in the case of historical religious confession.12

At the time of writing (September 2020), 139 non-Catholic organizations and 17 missionary organizations have been registered. This change presents 12 non-Catholic organizations and one missionary organization more since last year’s report.13

Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values

The lively press is for the most part privately owned. Officials and private actors sometimes intimidate or even attack journalists in response to negative coverage. According to the National Association of Journalists of Peru (ANP), in 2016, 114 attacks were committed against journalists in the country. On average, a journalist was attacked almost every three days that year. The ANP reports that “Most of the attacks were committed by public officials (45), followed by civilians (39); unidentified elements (21) and police, military, or security forces (9). Physical and verbal aggression lead the attacks with 38 cases followed by legal pressure (27), as well as threats and harassment (21), (8) obstacles to access to information, (3) attacks against property, and (3) robberies.”14

Reporters without Borders place Peru 90/180 in their press freedom index.

Highlighted Cases

In 2019, a student, who identified as an atheist, sued the Catholic University of Chimbote when the university refused to excuse him for taking a class with religious content. The student argued a violation of his constitutional rights of freedom of conscience and religion. However, judge Carlos Morales Hidalgo from the Ayacucho Transitory Constitutional Court ruled in favor of the university.  According to the judge, “seeking the exemption of academic subjects with religious content, constitutes an irregular exercise of the student right to religious freedom. Not only because the university had previously established its Catholic affiliation by imparting and respecting the principles and values ​​contained in the Catholic religion but also because the student was free to choose a university according to his ideals and beliefs, and yet he chose this particular university.”15


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