The few religious references of the four main parties standing for election on 23 July show distinct differences in their approach to religion.
Statistics show Spain as a country where the population identifies less and less with religion.
The majority of its citizens continue to define themselves as Roman Catholics, but their religious practice has fallen to historic lows, and religious minorities (such as Protestants), despite their notable growth, continue to be left rather out of the social and political debate.
That might be why religion is barely mentioned in the electoral programs of the main political parties standing in the elections to be held on July 23rd.
We examine the programs of Social Democrat government party, PSOE; conservative party, PP; far-right party Vox; and the new left-wing coalition party, Sumar, which expect to take the majority of seats, according to polls and surveys published in the last few days.
The Popular Party's program, in a block that is called “Regenerate and respect", aims to “effectively promote the coexistence of all".
“We will work to guarantee the fundamental right to religious freedom”, states the PP, "promoting dialogue and cooperation with the faiths through the existing legal instruments”.
It goes on to propose a specific measure, also shared by the PSOE: extending “tax benefits to religious denominations with notorious roots”, although without clarifying how this will be done.
The PP promises to strengthen “the role and autonomy of the Advisory Commission on Religious Freedom” and to review “the role of the Pluralism and Coexistence Foundation for a more efficient management with the religious groups”.
The Foundation, which currently depends on the Ministry of the Presidency, allocated less than 2 million euros in its last financial year to religious confessions with notorious roots.
Pedro Sánchez promised to abolish the Concordat with the Vatican, but after five years in government, his discourse towards the Roman Catholic Church has changed and, although his program proposes the promotion of a secular agenda, the relationship with them is now one of “collaboration”.
The PSOE proposes “to continue working with the Catholic Church in the framework of the Economic Affairs Agreement, in order to advance in the commitment undertaken by the Church to obtain enough resources by itself to meet its needs”.
They recall that they promoted “the Integral Law for Equal Treatment and Non-discrimination”. “The inclusion of minorities must be tackled in a specific way”, says the PSOE, which claims that any kind of inequality must be addressed and dealt with by the government.
This is included “within the goals of the 2030 Agenda”, which the PSOE will continue to promote.
The program states that they have worked “intensively” on the “normalisation of religious diversity and the recognition of minorities, as well as on the neutrality and equality of the relationship system between public authorities and the religious fact”.
In the next term the PSOE proposes to “reinforce policies of religious neutrality in public acts and state representation, respecting all religious beliefs and convictions and complying with the constitutional principle of laicism”.
They also promise, without specifying too much, to promote “policies on religious diversity and conscience that promote the conditions for the effective exercise of religious freedom in equality, in order to contribute to the coexistence of a plural and inclusive society”.
Like the PP, the PSOE suggests equalising the tax regime for religious faiths, which “will be the same as that of non-profit organisations”, without specifying how.
In this section, the PSOE expresses its concern about “hate speech and intolerance” and promises to work “so that society does not see religious pluralism as a problem, but as an opportunity to go further in achieving the principles that the Constitution wanted to govern our model of coexistence”.
The word 'religion' appears up to four times in Vox's program.
However, it does not refer to any of the official religions or those with roots in Spain, but denounces as a threat to the country's progress the imposition of the “climate religion”.
The other religious reference that can be found in the program also has to do with what this party considers a threat: multiculturalism..
“Multiculturalism - they state in point 50 - weakens social cohesion and, therefore, we will have zero tolerance for mosques and centres of worship that promote jihad, contempt for women and our customs, or radicalism”.
Furthermore, Vox proposes that parents should have “freedom to raise their children according to their moral convictions” , as well as not allow the presence of “activists and associations that seek the ideological indoctrination” of children.
It also promises to repeal the law on euthanasia and free abortion.
The new left-wing coalition party led by Yolanda Díaz includes some references to religion in its program.
The first, referring to article 48 of the Constitution, is that Sumar wants to develop a “youth participation law that specifically regulates the youth associative movement, including young areas of trade unions, political parties, religious and business organisations”.
Regarding education, Sumar proposes an “education that is critical, reflective, tolerant, secular, respectful of equality and different diversities, and committed to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals”.
According to this political party, education should “reject the dogmatic affirmation of doctrinal and moral, religious or any other kind of content, encouraging the development of autonomous thinking and critical judgement”.
Sumar believes that “public education should be secular and respect children's freedom of conscience. No religion or religious symbolism will be part of the compulsory curriculum or teaching timetable”.
Instead of teaching confessional religious education subjects as is currently the case, Sumar proposes to address the religious fact in class “in its multiple dimensions as a cultural and social element of relevance, without integrating it either in the curriculum or in the school timetable”.
Nowadays, evangelical religious education (ERE) is taught in almost all the Spanish geography, with over 20,000 students and 300 teachers in primary and secondary education.