The constitution guarantees freedom of religion and stipulates the separation of religious organizations and the state, but also recognizes the Armenian Apostolic Church (AAC) as the national church and preserver of national identity, says the International Religious Report for 2015 published by State Department.
“Major amendments to the constitution were approved by referendum on December 6; those relevant to religious freedom came into effect on December 22. The amendments incorporate into the constitution an existing alternative service option for conscientious objectors to military service and expand the circumstances in which the state may apply restrictions on the expression of freedom of religion to include the protection of state security,” the report says.
According to the paper, minority religious groups faced obstacles in obtaining building permits for places of worship; discrimination in education, the military, law enforcement, and public sector employment; government preferences for the AAC; and negative commentary from government officials. Representatives of minority religious groups associated with ethnic minorities, unlike those associated with ethnic Armenians, reported better relations with the government. The government sponsored an increased presence for the AAC in public life and required courses on the history of the AAC and on Christianity in public schools.
Jehovah’s Witnesses reported some incidents of physical and verbal harassment while proselytizing, although they said police generally responded promptly to stop such incidents. A report from the European Commission covering events in 2014 stated that, despite some progress, societal acceptance of religious minorities was low and discrimination against minority religious groups in the workplace and the media continued. During the year, media continued to report negatively on minority religious groups, often referring to them in a derogatory manner as “sects” or “enemies of the state.” According to several minority religious groups and civil society organizations, media were less critical of minority religious groups than in previous years.
The U.S. Ambassador and embassy representatives advocated, publicly and during meetings with government officials, greater religious tolerance, emphasizing all individuals should be allowed to practice their faith without hindrance, and the state should not consider members of religious minorities as threats. Embassy officials engaged with religious and civil society leaders throughout the year to promote religious tolerance and interfaith dialogue. The Ambassador and embassy staff also met with AAC leadership to discuss specific concerns.