minority religions

minority religions
   Since 1492, when most of the Muslim and Jewish population in Spain was forced to leave, the predominant religion in Spain has been Roman Catholicism. Furthermore, the vigilance of the Inquisition during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries prevented the Reformation from taking root to any significant extent. After the revolution of 1868, a degree of relative tolerance was introduced, which permitted the growth of small evangelical groups. Total numbers were, however, tiny, and these groups suffered further serious decline as a result of the religious conformity imposed under the Franco regime after the Civil War and reinforced by the Concordat between Spain and the Vatican in 1953. The Concordat nevertheless followed the 1945 Fuero de los Españoles (Charter of the Spaniards) in guaranteeing that no-one would suffer discrimination for their beliefs, or for the private practice of non-Roman Catholic religions. As an expression of religious tolerance, this was of somewhat limited scope, for Protestant denominations could not, for example, advertise services or publish literature. Moreover, the legislation was often applied rather unevenly across the country. Whereas in provincial towns and cities Protestant centres of worship could, as late as 1958, be arbitrarily closed by the police, in Madrid, where official action was carried out under the eyes of foreign embassies, the authorities were more circumspect. The Cathedral church of the Spanish Reformed Episcopal Church (Iglesia Española Reformada Episcopal), has functioned continuously in the capital since 1894. A significant thawing of the climate occurred in the late 1960s, partly as a result of the liberalizing declarations on religious freedom adopted by the Second Vatican Council (1962–5), partly through the efforts of the Foreign Minister, Fernando María Castiella, who was sympathetic to the plight of religious minorities in Spain. The 1967 Law of Religious Freedom, however, still contained provisions which the leaders of the Protestant minorities found vexatious, such as the requirement to register as "legal associations", and to keep a record of their members, demands with which many of them refused to comply.
   The constitution of 1978 finally abolished religious discrimination, including the requirement to declare one's religious affiliation. This has not led to a great surge in membership of non-Catholic religions, largely because of the worldwide drift towards secularization. Nevertheless, in 1985, the annual digest published by El País listed 373 addresses of religious organizations of various kinds. Statistics on membership are difficult to obtain, but the various denominations count their numbers in thousands rather than hundreds of thousands. The most important are the Evangelical Church (Iglesia Evangélica Española), largely Methodist in character, the Reformed Episcopal Church, which is a member of the Anglican Communion, the Federation of Evangelical Free Churches (Federation de Iglesias Evangélicas Independientes de España), the Evangelical Baptist Union (Union Evangélica Bautista Española), the Seventh-Day Adventists, the Jehovah's Witnesses, and the Jewish community. It is unlikely that the total number of active adherents of non-Catholic religions (as distinct from agnostics and atheists) exceeds 0.1 percent of the population.
   Further reading
   - Hughey, J.D. (1970) Religious Freedom in Spain: Its Ebb and Flow, Freeport, NY (a highly-regarded historic source).
   - Vilar, J.B. (1994) Intolerancia y libertad en la España contemporánea: los orígenes del protestantismo español actual, Madrid: Istmo.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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