Freedom of religion in Armenia

The Constitution as amended in December 2005 provides for freedom of religion; however, the law places some restrictions on the religious freedom of adherents of minority religious groups, and there were some restrictions in practice. The Armenian (Apostolic) Church, which has formal legal status as the national church, enjoys some privileges not available to other religious groups. Some denominations reported occasional discrimination by mid- or low-level government officials but found high-level officials to be tolerant. Jehovah's Witnesses reported that judges sentenced them to longer prison terms for evasion of alternative military service than in the past, although the sentences were still within the range allowed by law. Societal attitudes toward some minority religious groups were ambivalent, and there were reports of societal discrimination directed against members of these groups.

Religious demography

The country has an area of 11,500 square miles (30,000 km2) and a population of 3 million.

Approximately 98 percent of the population is ethnic Armenian. As a result of Soviet-era policies, most people are religious practitioners who are not active in church, but the link between Armenian ethnicity and the Armenian Church is very strong. An estimated 90 percent of citizens belong to the Armenian Church, an independent Eastern Christian denomination with its spiritual center at the Etchmiadzin cathedral and monastery. The head of the church is Catholicos Garegin (Karekin) II.

There are small communities of other religious groups. There was no reliable census data on religious minorities, and estimates from congregants varied significantly. The Catholic Church, both Roman and Mekhitarist (Armenian Uniate), estimated 120,000 followers. The Jehovah's Witnesses estimated their membership at 9,000. Groups that constitute less than 5 percent of the population include Yezidis, an ethnic Kurd cultural group whose religion includes elements derived from Zoroastrianism, Islam, and animism; unspecified "charismatic" Christians; the Armenian Evangelical Church; Molokans, an ethnic Russian pacifist Christian group that split from the Russian Orthodox Church in the 17th-century; Baptists; the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons); Orthodox Christians; Seventh-day Adventists; Pentecostals; Jews; and Baha'is. Levels of membership in minority religious groups remained relatively unchanged. There was no estimate of the number of atheists.

Yezidis are concentrated primarily in agricultural areas around Mount Aragats, northwest of the capital Yerevan. Armenian Catholics live mainly in the northern region, while most Jews, Mormons, Baha'is, and Orthodox Christians reside in Yerevan. In Yerevan there is also a small community of Muslims, including Kurds, Iranians, and temporary residents from the Middle East.

Foreign missionary groups are active in the country, however most Armenians think that it is incompatible with their values.