Last Updated 3 May 2023

Slovenia is a parliamentary democracy located on the Adriatic Sea, a member of the European Union and Nato. Prior to 1991, Slovenia was part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia – which included Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia – and was under communist rule for the bulk of the post-World War II period.

The US Department of State estimates that 71% of the 2.1 million population are Catholic, while 5% are Muslim. Other religious groups in the country include the Serbian Orthodox Church, Buddhists, Jews, Protestants, as well as adherents of Slavic pagan religions. It is estimated that some 13% of the population is atheist or agnostic.1

Constitution and government

The Constitution2 and accompanying laws and policies protect freedom of religion or belief, freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly and association. These rights are generally respected in practice.

Article 7 of the Constitution declares the state secular. Article 41 declares that, “[r]eligious and other beliefs may be freely professed in private and public life. No one shall be obliged to declare his religious or other beliefs.” It also affords parents the right to provide their children with a religious and moral upbringing in accordance with their beliefs.

In 2021, the Slovenian Constitution was amended to introduce Article 63, which reads:

“Any incitement to national, racial, religious, or other discrimination, and the inflaming of national, religious, or other hatred and intolerance are unconstitutional. Any incitement to violence and war is unconstitutional.”

There is no evidence to suggest that the amendment is being misused as a de facto blasphemy law.

Religious groups and churches are required to register with the state in order to access certain legal benefits, although groups that are unregistered are not formally restricted.3 Non-religious groups may apply for similar benefits under the 2018 Act on Non-Governmental Organizations. Registered religious groups are not required to pay tax on property they own that is used for religious purposes, and are eligible for tax rebates on value-added taxes. Registered religious groups may provide religious services to military, police, prisons, hospitals, and social care institutions. The government co-funds social security for clergy members.

According to the US State Department’s 2021 Report on International Religious Freedom:

“On May 20 [2021], the government established the Council of the Republic of Slovenia for Open Questions with the Catholic Church, composed of government and Catholic Church representatives. The council was charged with addressing unresolved issues between the state and the Church, including the Church’s desire for greater autonomy on internal matters in relation to the state, financing for religious staff, financing for religious education for children, and regulations regarding government maintenance of the Church’s cultural heritage.”

Humanists International was unable to find any further update on the outcomes of the council’s work.

Education and children’s rights

General education may include the history of religious figures and ideas, but is largely secular. Faith-based education as a public service is strictly prohibited in government-funded primary and secondary schools under the 2017 Organisation and Financing of Upbringing and Education Act,4 though confessional services may be conducted on school grounds outside of that role but must be strictly voluntary. In terms of the curriculum in public (state-funded) schools there is a single exception, an obligation to offer a Religion and Ethics class to upper-level students. However, there is no compulsion for students to take this course, and its content is largely analytical and not controlled by any one religious denomination.

Private schools in Slovenia have no barriers to faith-based education, though there are only two private primary schools and four private secondary schools that teach in this manner as of 2021.5 Per the Organisation and Financing of Upbringing and Education Act, if a private school implements state educational programs, they will be provided funding for those specific programs at 85% the rate at which public schools receive them.

Family, community and society

Humanists International has found no reports of direct persecution of the non-religious.

LGBTI+ rights

In 2022, despite years of opposition from the Catholic Church and other religious bodies the Slovenian Constitutional Court ruled that a ban on same-sex marriage and on joint adoption was unconstitutional, a decision that entered into effect on 9 July of that year and which was welcomed by the ruling government. A set of amendments to the Family Code enshrining the ruling into law were passed on 5 October 2022,6 making Slovenia the first ex-Yugoslav country to legalize same-sex marriage.

The staunch opposition of the Catholic Church to the rights of the LGBTI+ community has had some residual social effects. A set of laws known as the Family Code, passed by the Slovenian parliament in 2011, allowed for same-sex partnerships on the same legal standing as heterosexual marriage and provided grounds for same-sex adoption. However, a referendum introduced by the ‘Civil Initiative for the Family and the Rights of Children,’ led by politician and conservative activist Aleš Primc with the backing of the Catholic Church, overturned the Family Code in 2012 with 54% against the new laws.7; More recently, a 2019 Eurobarometer survey revealed that only 64% of Slovenians would be “totally comfortable” working with a gay, lesbian or bisexual person. This number went down if the example was an intersex person (54%) or a transgender person (56%), although these are only slightly less than European Union averages.8 In January 2023 harsher sentences were set out by the National Assembly for hate crimes, where a discriminatory motive would be considered an aggravating circumstance in court.9

Expression, advocacy of humanist values

No organized restrictions on the expression of a humanist, secular or atheistic outlook are apparent.

Media freedom

While Freedom House rates Slovenia as “Free” with a Global Freedom Score of 95 in 2023, it rates freedom of the press in the country as a two out of four, noting that media outlets face some level of state intervention – particularly during the recent prime ministership of Janez Janša [2020-2022] – as well as use as propaganda tools at a local level, and that individual journalists are occasionally subject to harassment.10


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