The majority of Venezuelans are Catholic, who coexist with Protestant, Muslim, Jewish, and indigenous populations. There has been much tension between the government and Catholic officials and the Jewish community. Freedom of expression, assembly and association have been restricted.

 
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Constitution and government

Article 59 of the Constitution grants protection of religious freedom under the condition that it is not contrary to morality, good customs and public order. However, it also explicitly states that the independence of religious groups are defined by the constitution and law, giving legislature the power to limit their independence. The constitution also limits the political influence of religious organizations by forbidding clergy from running for public office.

Venezuela’s funding system exhibits strong favoritism toward Catholicism,  discriminating against other religious groups. There has also been great tensions between the government and Catholic Church officials as well as the Jewish community. Venezuela has been on USCIRF (U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom)’s Watch List since 2009.
<uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/resources/2012ARChapters/venezuela%202012.pdf>

Education and children’s rights

A 1964 agreement between the Venezuelan government and the Catholic Church established special government subsidies for Catholic schools.

Family, community and society

Catholic privilege

The government provides much funding to religious organizations, but most of it goes to Catholic institutions including social programs. Other religious groups are free to establish and fund their own. Military chaplains are almost exclusively Catholic.
<berkleycenter.georgetown.edu/essays/religious-freedom-in-venezuela>
<justice.gov/eoir/vll/country/Religion_Public_policy/Venezuela%20Immigration%20Report.pdf>

Tension between the State and Catholic Church

Despite preferential treatment toward Catholics, there has been much tension between church and state. Chávez openly criticized high-profile Catholic clergy for interfering in politics. Though Archbishop Porras of Merida and Bishop Azuaje of El Vigia had helped secure the safety of Chávez during two coups, he accused them of being agents of the opposition. Chávez and other government officials publicly stated that Catholic bishops should refrain from criticizing the government.

Clergy have faced hostility, including threats of prosecutions, confiscation of church properties, harassment and surveillance, most notably phone wiretapping. Even high ranking Church officials can be held for long periods of interrogation by governmental investigators if they publicly criticized official government policy towards the Church.
<usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/fortnight-for-freedom/upload/Fighting-to-Feed-and-Educate-the-People-in-Venezuela.pdf>

Within the past few years, national laws passed that would allow ruling-party-dominated “communal councils” to oversee the curriculum, teachers, and school administrators of all public and private schools, including religious schools, as well as the confiscation of Catholic Church property, including churches, schools, and other ecclesiastical buildings.
<uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/resources/2012ARChapters/venezuela%202012.pdf>

Tensions between the State and the Jewish community

Media programs sponsored by the government have often made anti-Semitic comments. Venezuela’s Jewish community believed that they would be held accountable for the Israeli government’s actions. Chávez has even explicitly referred members of Venezuela’s Jewish community as enemies. He has been responsible for the revival of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and claimed that Jews are conspiring to destabilize the government. There has been a report of at least one government raid of a Jewish synagogue. Several other groups, including a pro-Chavez one, have attacked or vandalized Jewish synagogues with little repercussion. Anti-Semitism and the rising diplomatic tensions between Israel and Venezuela had led the Jewish community to petition the government to take a more aggressive approach towards anti-Semitism. Chávez responded by suspending relations with Israel in 2009, and met with prominent Jewish leaders and publicly denounced the proliferation of anti-Semitism.
<berkleycenter.georgetown.edu/essays/religious-freedom-in-venezuela>
<justice.gov/eoir/vll/country/Religion_Public_policy/Venezuela%20Immigration%20Report.pdf>

Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values

The constitution provides protection for free speech but explicitly exempts this protection for messages that promote religious intolerance. Venezuela has co-sponsored OIC resolutions in the United Nations proposing prohibition of ‘defamation of religion’.
<justice.gov/eoir/vll/country/Religion_Public_policy/Venezuela%20Immigration%20Report.pdf>

Freedom of Assembly and Association

The Constitution guarantees freedom of peaceful assembly. However, legal amendments have been made that would make it easier to charge protesters with serious crimes. According to the local rights group Provea, at least 10 protesters were subjected to unconstitutional trials within the military justice system in 2012. The government has sought to undermine nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and other human civil society organizations and questioned their ties to international groups. In December 2010, the parliament passed the Law on Political Sovereignty and National Self-Determination that would threaten to give sanctions against any “political organization” that receives foreign funding or hosts foreign visitors who criticize the government. Dozens of civil society activists have been attacked, harassed and faced bureaucratic obstacles to registration. A draft law in the National Assembly would require all NGOs, including religious groups that receive at least 10 percent of foreign funding to obtain approval from the government in advance and give government information on their sources of funding, organizational leadership, and activities.
<freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2013/venezuela#.VIJUhDHF9qJ>