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Religious Freedom in the Dominican Republic
The constitution of the Dominican Republic protects religious freedom, but the government grants special privileges to the Catholic Church based on a 1954 Concordat with the Vatican. These special privileges prompted the drafting of a new constitution to address the concerns of the Dominican Republics growing Protestant population. The new draft of the constitution, ratified in 2010, extended what had previously been exclusive Catholic rights to other Christian denominations without fully eliminated Catholic privileges. The right to conduct non-civil religious marriages, for example, had previously been denied to non-Catholic religious institution and is currently afforded to all denominations. The Catholic Church remains the only religious institutions exempt from tax duties. The Dominican Republics numerous Protestant and Evangelical civil society organizations played a central role in the drafting of the new constitution following a failed bid in 2009 to convince the legislature to extend further rights through legislation. According to federal law, all religious organizations must register with the government and the process is usually transparent and nondiscriminatory. International observers note that members of the national police force are encouraged to attend Catholic Mass, but there are no reports of disciplinary action taken against non-Catholic officers. A 2000 law requires that the Bible be read in public schools, though the law is rarely enforced. The government subsidizes Catholic institutions, often paying salaries of clergy and constructing churches.