Timor-Leste (East Timor)

Last Updated 10 November 2016

East Timor is a democratic sovereign state in southeast Asia with a population of approximately 1.1 million, of which it is estimated that 96% are Catholic.

Systemic Discrimination

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. By law, the country is secular. Although there is therefore no official state religion, the Roman Catholic Church remains prominent in the political life of the country.

The law at all levels protects religious freedom against abuse, either by governmental or private actors. The preamble to the constitution affirms the determination to “fight all forms of…religious domination and segregation”. Section 12(1) claims that “the state shall recognise and respect the different religious denominations, which are free in their organization and in the exercise of their own activities”.

Catholic privilege and religious discrimination

There are reports of state bias towards the Catholic church in regards to discriminatory state funding of Catholic churches but rejections to funding requests from other faiths, and police inaction following occasional reports of harassment and physical threats to members of Protestant churches by local Catholic groups.

Education and children’s rights

Religious education is compulsory in state schools and is dominated by the Catholic Church.

The government provides some funding to religious organizations to support activities and help in the construction or rehabilitation of places of worship.

Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values

Freedom of expression is guaranteed. However the media is weak and easily bullied by the government.

Freedoms of association and assembly are constitutionally guaranteed. However, a 2004 law regulates political gatherings and prohibits demonstrations aimed at “questioning constitutional order” or disparaging the reputations of the head of state and other government officials. The law requires that demonstrations and public protests be authorized in advance.

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