The Republic of Colombia is predominantly Christian and majority Catholic. It has suffered a low intensity conflict over decades, which has now significantly diminished. The relatively recent constitution of 1991 established a presidential representative democratic republic.

Systemic Discrimination
Mostly Satisfactory
No Rating

Constitution and government

The constitution and other laws and policies protect freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as well as the right to the freedoms of expression, association and assembly. The constitution specifically prohibits religious discrimination. However, the Roman Catholic Church retains a privileged position with the Colombian state.

Catholic privilege

A 1973 concordat between Colombia and the Vatican replaced the clause in the Constitution of 1886 that had established the Catholic Church as the official religion with one stating that “Roman Catholicism is the religion of the great majority of Colombians.” In its own explanation of this change, the Colombian government said that it was not establishing an official religion but merely declaring that it regards the Catholic religion as being of “fundamental importance to the public welfare and the full development of the community.”

Subsequently, the 1991 constitution mandated separation of church and state, stating that there is no official church or religion, and added that the state “is not atheist or agnostic, nor indifferent to Colombians’ religious sentiment.” Some observers interpret the constitutional assertion that the state “is not atheist or agnostic, nor indifferent to Colombians’ religious sentiment” to mean that the state unofficially endorses a privileged position for Catholicism—the predominant “religious sentiment” of Colombians, and in practice there remains Catholic privilege. A 1994 Constitutional Court decision declared unconstitutional any official government reference to a religious characterization of the country.

Education and children’s rights

The constitution establishes the right of parents to choose the type of education that their children receive, including religious instruction. However, it also states that no student shall be forced to receive religious education in public schools.

Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values

The constitution guarantees freedom of expression, and the media are free and diverse. The constitution also protects the rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of association. However all these rights are restricted in practice by violence. Dozens of journalists have been murdered since the mid-1990s, many for reporting on drug trafficking and corruption. Most of the cases remain unsolved, and threats of violence remain commonplace. The government does not restrict access to the internet or censor websites.