Religious Activity Under Requirement of Government Permit Limits Small Christian Communities

Country: Spain

Date of incident: November 18, 2007

The Parliament of Catalonia has passed a new law that increases the power of the government over religious organizations. Catholic and Evangelical churches, among others, have raised some concerns about the role of the state regulating activities that belong, originally, to religious organization. Under the new law, and from now on, a permit issued by the local City Hall is needed to carry out any religious activity, and the permit could be denied for security and health issues.

A representative from the Evangelical Alliance, Jaume Llenas, highlighted the dangerous points of the law that could bring difficulties to the normal development of religious activities in a near future. Article 4 of the law establishes that the local authority should provide a parcel for prayer proposes, although there is not reference where the parcel would be. Llenas says that churches might face a practical problem if the authority decides to put the prayers centers outside the urban ring, or in neighborhoods with difficult access, or in areas poorly served by public transportation. For Llenas, the real threat would be for small religious communities without enough funds to fulfill the government requirements of „security and health“ because the Act gives the authority the power to deny the permit or close religious centers which do not comply with the new regulations.

Guillem Correa, representative of the Protestant Churches in Catalonia, issued a press release mentioning his concerns about the new regulation where the government takes over an activity that originally belongs to private organizations.