Topic 5 Portugal

The Portuguese state is an open society with religious pluralism. Nevertheless, the Catholic Church represents 81% of all believers in Portugal. Other religious groups, like Non-evangelical Protestants, Muslims, Eastern Orthodox Church, Church of Jesus Christ, Christian groups and Jewish, are very small.

  • Roman Catholic: 81%
  • Other Christian: 3.3%
  • Other (includes Jewish, Muslim): 0.6%
  • None: 6.8%
  • Unspecified: 8.3%

On June 22, 2001, Portugal established the publication of Law No. 16/2001, Religious Freedom Law. This happened ninety years after the Law on Separation of State and Church and thirty years after Law No. 4/71 came into force, which made it possible for minority religious confessions to obtain recognition by the State.

In recent years, the Religious Freedom Law would come, at the beginning of the new century, to materialize, broaden and deepen the fundamental principles of a free, democratic and plural rule of law.

These principles are expressed in the concrete rights that make up religious freedom, such as the inviolability of freedom of conscience, worship and religion, equal treatment before the law and non-discrimination based on religion, the separation between the State and community organisations, the organisational autonomy of religious communities, among others.

The situation experienced in Portugal is very special when compared to the European context, either in terms of the number of attacks or threats against religious spaces, or in its violence.

The climate of significant freedom and respect for difference, even if the individual perception varies, corresponds to a place of almost absence in the main international reports that list and analyze attacks on Religious Freedom.

Portugal has registered, since 2003, a very positive evolution, both in the scope of policies and in the practices towards protection of places of worship and prevention of violent events.

Nevertheless, violent cases of radicalization increased in Portugal, in particular, radical right-wing movements that spread propaganda and digital disinformation contents.

The protection of legal framework for Religious Freedom in Portugal, as well as places of worship, is a topic for quite different institutions and organisations. The most important are listed below. For more information, click on the name of the institution.

Portuguese Association for Victim Support

  • Founded on June 25, 1990
  • Supports victims of crime (discrimination, hate crimes, terrorism and all types of violence because o color, ethnic or national origin, race, religion, sex or sexual orientation)

Religious Freedom Observatory

  • Founded in 2015
  • Academic civic initiative operating at the Lusófona University of Humanities and Technologies
  • Mission: to observe the Religious Phenomenon, monitor and facilitate the processes of cultural dialogue between communities' religions, academia, and society as a whole

Observatory of Security, Organized Crime and Terrorism

  • Founded in 2004
  • Independent non-profit organisation, dedicated to the development of research and training of security experts