Last Updated 4 December 2023

Romania is a semi-presidential republic with a multi-party system, a member of the EU and NATO.

The law forbids public authorities from asking individuals to specify their religion, except for the census. According to the 2021 census,1 16.3 million of the country’s 19 million population chose to answer questions on their religious beliefs.2The accuracy of the statistics have been brought into question owing to the large proportion of the population who declined to answer the question. 85.3% of respondents identified themselves as Eastern Orthodox Christians (compared to 86.5% at the 2011 Census).3 The remaining religious population reported affiliation with predominantly Christian organizations. The number of declared atheists, agnostics and non-religious citizens increased from 37,723 (Census 2011) to 154,107 (Census 2022). However, they still account for less than 1% of the population.

Severe Discrimination
Systemic Discrimination
Mostly Satisfactory
Free and Equal

Constitution and government

The Constitution4,whose%20domicile%20is%20in%20Romania. and other laws and policies protect freedom of religion or belief, and freedom of expression (Article 30) and assembly (Article 39). The Constitution also emphasizes that provisions pertaining to the rights of citizens shall be interpreted in line with the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and with Covenants and treaties to which Romania is a State Party (which include the ICCPR and ICESCR),5 giving them precedence should inconsistencies arise (Article 20). As such, laws pertaining to “religious freedom” should, in theory, be interpreted broadly to include the non-religious.

However, the government strongly favors the Romanian Orthodox Church and places some impediments on the freedom of minority religions and the non-religious to practice and promote their beliefs.

Article 29 enshrines the right to freedom of conscience, stating:

“(1) Freedom of thought, opinion, and religious beliefs shall not be restricted in any form whatsoever. No one shall be compelled to embrace an opinion or religion contrary to his own convictions.
(2) Freedom of conscience is guaranteed; it must be manifested in a spirit of tolerance and mutual respect.
(3) All religions shall be free and organized in accordance with their own statutes, under the terms laid down by law.
(4) Any forms, means, acts or actions of religious enmity shall be prohibited in the relationships among the cults.
(5) Religious cults shall be autonomous from the State and shall enjoy support from it, including the facilitation of religious assistance in the army, in hospitals, prisons, homes and orphanages.
(6) Parents or legal tutors have the right to ensure, in accordance with their own convictions, the education of the minor children whose responsibility devolves on them.”

The Constitution also enshrines the right to culture (Article 33) emphasizing the importance of the development of a person’s spirituality.

Under the Constitution, politicians are required to take an oath of office, which includes an invocation to God.

Law 489/2006 “Religious Freedom and the General Status of Religions,”6 (in Romanian); see pages 166-181 for English translation: enshrines the right to non-discrimination on the basis of religion or belief. According to Article 9 of the law,

“There is no State religion in Romania; the State is neutral towards any religious persuasion or atheistic ideology.”

Article 10 of the above law provides for tax exemptions for donations, as well as contributions to salaries of clerical and non-clerical staff of recognized religious organizations.

Religious privilege

The government formally recognizes exactly 18 religions.7The list may be found in an annex to the Law 489/2006 on “Religious Freedom and the General Status of Religions”: Fourteen of the 18 recognized groups are Christian, including the Romanian Orthodox Church. Other recognized religious groups include the Unitarian Church of Transylvania, the Federation of Jewish Communities in Romania, “the Muslim religion”, and “the Jehovah’s Witnesses religious organization”

Each of the 18 recognized religions is eligible for state funding, with no comparable or alternative funding available for secular, Humanist or other philosophical organizations.

Under the law, state funding is determined by the number of adherents of each recognized religious community reported in the most recent census and “the religion’s actual needs,” a vague provision leaving room for interpretation. Framework Law no. 153/2017 outlines pay scales of paid staff covered by public funds.9 The Romanian Orthodox Church receives the large majority of these funds owing to the large proportion of the population who are affiliated with the Church.

Since 2011, the Romanian Secular-Humanist Association, Asociația Secular-Umanistă din România (ASUR) (an Member Organization of Humanists International) has run a popular campaign raising awareness about – what it describes as – the opaque and politically biased funding of religion by the state, including the exaggerated state-spending on religious institutions. The campaign included billboards and social media content remarking on the numbers of institutions of different types run by religious groups across the country that receive public funds, compared with the number of schools and hospitals to receive public funds: “18,300 churches; 4,700 schools; 425 hospitals”

The Constitution states that the religious denominations are autonomous and enjoy state support, including the facilitation of religious assistance in the army, hospitals, penitentiaries, retirement homes, and orphanages. But only clergy members of recognized religious denominations may be hired by the government as military or prison chaplains. And while regulations state that clergy members of religious associations may be granted access to prisons on a case-by-case basis in certain conditions, there are no similar regulations for unrecognized religious or nonreligious groups.

Recognized religions also have a privileged right to establish schools, teach religion classes in public schools, receive government funds to build places of worship, partially pay clergy salaries with state funds, broadcast religious programming on radio and television, apply for broadcasting licenses for denominational frequencies, receive tax-exempt status, and own cemeteries.

Undermining the principle of secularism

Each year, the parliament hosts a meeting entitled “Breakfast with prayer” attended by representatives of religious groups, civil society, senators and deputies.

In October 2023, the President of the Senate and leader of the National Liberal Party, Nicolae Ciucă, reportedly promised that he would support the creation of the first chapel dedicated to prayer in the Romanian Parliament.11;

Challenging church-state relations

In 2015, Remus Cernea, the only openly humanist former member of Parliament – and Honorary President of the Romanian Humanist Association (Asociația Umanistă Română) – initiated three proposals meant to reform State-Church relations.12 The first concerned the public funding of the National Redemption Cathedral, under construction in Bucharest, for which tens of millions of Euros have been allocated by the government and local mayors from all over the country, despite the majority of Romanians opposing the public funding of this project. Between 2016 and 2020, approximately 520 million lei (approx. US$113.5 million) of public funds were designated to the works.

The second initiative asked for the verification of all religious leaders that have ties with Securitatea, the secret police agency of the Communist regime. Both of these first two initiatives were rejected by the Romanian Parliament.

The third initiative (also rejected), sought to reform the system through which religious denominations receive public funding. The bill proposed a system somewhat similar to the German model, where every taxpayer can decide to which belief group they want to redirect their taxes. This proposition also included the end of tax exemptions specific to

Education and children’s rights

The Constitution and the law allow the establishment of state-subsidized educational institutions administered by recognized religions.

Public schools conduct religious instruction. The 18 recognized religions are entitled to hold religion classes in public schools. The law entitles students to attend religion classes in their faith irrespective of their number. The religious instruction is based on the religious affiliation of the students’ parents.

Under the law, participation in religion classes is not required. In November 2014, a ruling of the Romanian Constitutional Court in relation to the Law on Education made the participation in religious education classes in school opt-in by default.14 The change was viewed as a positive step towards secularization. The Romanian Constitutional Court made this decision after a five-year-long judicial fight conducted by professor Emil Moise, who started this after he tried to withdraw his daughter from religion classes and he realized that he was forced by law to submit a written

This decision was also highly influenced by a long process of informative campaigns from representatives of the humanist movement in Romania – The Romanian Secular-Humanist Association and the Romanian Humanist Association – and critics from the civil society, as the right to withdraw from religious instruction was not otherwise widely publicized, some schools made it very difficult to apply in practice, and there still was social pressures not to opt out.

Parents of students younger than 18 must request their children’s enrollment in religion classes, while students 18 and older may make this request themselves. Religion teachers in public schools are government employees, but each religious denomination approves the appointment and retention of the teachers of its religion classes. The law forbids proselytizing in public and private schools. If teachers proselytize, the school management determines the appropriate discipline, based on the conclusions of an internal committee. The religion of a child who has turned 14 may not be changed without the child’s consent; after age 14, individuals have the right to choose their religion.

In 2017, the National Council for Combating Discrimination (CNCD) observed that the inclusion of a student’s grade obtained in religious studies towards their overall average is discriminatory as it disadvantages those who do not take the subject.16 As a result, the CNCD recommended that the Ministry of Education change the methodology so as to ”give the possibility of choosing one optional subject out of two, so that there is no longer a differentiation in the calculation of the overall average when a subject has not been attended by a student for good reasons”. The CNCD recommendation has not yet been taken up by the Ministry of Education.

During 2022, nearly 90% of schoolchildren continued to take religion classes taught by government employees appointed by the ROC and in accordance with the Romanian Orthodox faith. According to some investigative journalists, NGOs and parents’ associations, this enrollment continued to be the result of pressure by the ROC, as well as the failure of school directors to offer parents alternatives to religion classes.17 These accounts are supported by enquiries received by humanist organization, Romanian Secular Humanist Association – Asociația Secular-Umanistă din România (ASUR) – on the part of parents.

According to a declaration made by the Minister of Education in November 2023, a number of documents and methodologies of a normative nature are being drafted in reference to the teaching of Religion (with a deadline for approval of 1 February 2024), that will seek to redress these problems.18

Intolerance in schools

In September 2012, ASUR urged the Education Ministry to immediately withdraw from schools all religion textbooks that promote intolerance and to take all necessary steps to prevent religious indoctrination.19 The association expressed concern about the persistent inclusion of such themes as sin, hell, and the devil in religious textbooks for primary schools. As a result, one of the textbooks was withdrawn. Also, both the Education Minister and Orthodox Church officials promised to analyze all the textbooks, in order to remove the passages that promoted intolerance. Since then, the most problematic textbooks have been withdrawn from schools.

Family, community and society

There is often a presumption on the part of the Church to special privileges. In one instance, in Piatra Neamț, the church and residents of one neighborhood were involved in a legal battle over the construction of a new church on a green space between buildings, to which the residents objected. The priest allegedly tried to obtain a construction permit without public consultation and without obtaining signatures from all neighbors (as required by law). In this case the priest, having failed to obtain a permit, filed suit against the neighbors that refused to sign in agreement with the building of his new church. After a two-year judicial battle, concluding in September 2016, the local council decided to deny construction of the church. Similar evasive practices are not uncommon in church construction in the country.20

In other cities and villages, priests have sometimes refused to allow the burial of people that were not Orthodox in the public cemetery.21

LGBTI+ rights

Romania decriminalized homosexuality in 2001, however the country continues to bar same-sex marriage and civil partnerships. Several attempts have been made to restrict LGBTI+ rights in recent years, including several attempts to ban materials that would “spread gender identity theory or opinion” in educational institutions. Most recently, in June 2022, Human Rights Watch reported that the government was considering banning educational materials that discuss homosexuality and gender transition.22 The bill – an amendment to Law no. 272/2004 on the protection and promotion of the rights of the child – had reportedly been passed by the Senate and awaited the approval of the lower chamber.23 According to ILGA Europe, a memorandum to the bill stated that “in the societies of Western Europe we are witnessing today an assault on new ideologies, such as gender theory, which endanger traditional values, based on Christianity, and the very core of society – the Christian family.”24

Article 259(1) of the Civil Code25 defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Repeated attempts by humanist MP Remus Cernea to introduce a civil partnership bill have been rejected. On 23 May 2023, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Romania is violating the rights of same-sex couples by refusing to legally recognize their unions.26; In its ruling, the ECtHR stressed that “allowing the recognition of same-sex unions would not undermine the institution of marriage since heterosexual couples can still marry”.

The Romanian Orthodox Church has repeatedly spoken out against civil partnerships and in 2018 backed a “family referendum” seeking ban same-sex unions – the referendum failed to secure a high enough turn out to proceed.27

“Traditional family” as a challenge to individual liberties

In the lead-up to local, parliamentary and presidential elections due to take place in 2024, several politicians have sought to align themselves with “traditional values,” drawing on their support for the failed 2018 referendum on same-sex unions. In addition, in 2023, the Alliance for the Union of Romanians party – a right-wing populist and nationalist political party28 – has stated that it has started the necessary proceedings in order to seek a new referendum meant to define the family as only between “a man and a woman”.

 Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights

According to Human Rights Watch, the government has not provided funding for free contraceptives since 2013. Further the Health Education curriculum does not meet the need or standards for comprehensive sexuality education, often excluding subjects including abortion. Adolescent pregnancy rates are reported to be among the highest in the European Union.29

Although the law permits on-request abortion up to 14 weeks of pregnancy, accessing abortion services is reportedly increasingly difficult, with many public hospitals increasingly refusing access to it. Indeed, journalists found that no public hospital in 11 of 42 counties had performed an abortion in 2021. The study also found that in a further four counties, fewer than four abortions had been performed in public hospitals in the same year.30 Religious or ethical considerations are reportedly often cited as the reason that the provision of abortion services is denied.31

Doctors invoking their right to conscientious objection are under no requirement to provide a referral to a doctor who will perform an abortion.32

The decrease in public abortion care services combined with the fact that on-request abortions are not covered under the National Health Insurance Fund represent significant obstacles in accessing services, particularly for adolescents, rural communities, and those living in poverty or otherwise marginalized.33

So-called “pregnancy crisis centers,” – often US-funded centers that purport to provide counseling and support to women with unplanned pregnancies, but often conceal the underlying religious affiliations and anti-abortion stance – have become increasingly prevalent in Romania.34;

Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values

Freedom of expression and culture, including the arts, are guaranteed by the Constitution, which explicitly bans all censorship. These rights are generally respected in practice. However, in its 2023 Freedom in the World Report, Freedom House reported that key media outlets are controlled by business people with political interests, and their coverage is highly distorted by their owners’ priorities. In addition, an increasing number of threats made against journalists by State institutions have been reported.35

There is no “blasphemy” law in force. Freedom of expression specifically for religious groups is only restricted to the extent that it “must not infringe upon […] fundamental human rights and liberties” of others.

Article 13(2) of Law 489/2006 “Religious Freedom and the General Status of Religions” prohibits “ Any form, means, act or action of religious defamation and antagonism, as well as the public offense of religious symbols.” However, the law does not prescribe a penalty for such acts.

Operation of humanist organizations

Several humanist and non-religious organizations operate in the country.

Since 2020, ASUR has initiated and participated in a series of European projects for youth, on the topic of the interconnection between Science and Human Rights, as a means to raise awareness about the importance of ethical consideration and human rights priorities when dealing with science, especially new and emergent technologies.

In 2023, during the 54th session of the UN Human Rights Council, the Romanian Secular-Humanist Association and Humanists International called on Romania to protect rights of the vulnerable and to ensure its national strategy against hate speech includes more protected classes.36


2 The accuracy of the statistics have been brought into question owing to the large proportion of the population who declined to answer the question.
6 (in Romanian); see pages 166-181 for English translation:
7 The list may be found in an annex to the Law 489/2006 on “Religious Freedom and the General Status of Religions”:
17, 18
20, 21

Support our work

Donate Button with Credit Cards
whois: Andy White WordPress Theme Developer London