Freedom of religion in Austria

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respected this right in practice for all but a minority of religious groups. Government policy continued to contribute to the free practice of religion for all but those religions termed "sects." There was a report of an anti-Semitic physical attack against a person and a violent anti-Semitic attack against property. Other anti-Semitic incidents occurred during the year. There was some societal mistrust and discrimination against members of some non-recognized religious groups, particularly those referred to as "sects." During 2006 there were 32 cases of discrimination based on religion brought before the Equal Rights Commissioner. Muslims also reported prejudice, particularly with regard to headscarves and Muslim cemeteries.

Religious demography

The country has an area of 32,369 square miles (83,840 km2) and a population of 8.2 million. The largest minority groups are Croatian, Slovene, Hungarian, Czech, Slovak, and Roma. In past years the country experienced some immigration from countries such as Turkey and Bosnia-Herzegovina, which increased the number of Muslims in the country. The Muslim community has more than doubled since 1991 to an estimated 339,000, or 4.2 percent of the population. In recent years immigration has slowed down due to the introduction of a quota system in the late 1990s. By far the largest ethnic group is Turkish, of which 123,000 have Turkish citizenship. Many more ethnic Turks are Austrian citizens. The next largest groups are Bosnians with 64,600, Yugoslavians with 21,600, Macedonians with 11,000, and Iranians with 3,800. The largest groups of Arab Muslims are Egyptians with 3,500 and Tunisians with 1,000.

According to the most recent census in 2001, membership in major religions is as follows: Roman Catholic Church, 74 percent; Lutheran and Presbyterian Churches (Evangelical Church-Augsburger and Helvetic confessions), 4.7 percent; Islamic community, 4.2 percent; Jewish community, 0.1 percent; Eastern Orthodox (Russian, Greek, Serbian, Romanian, and Bulgarian), 2.2 percent; other Christian churches, 0.9 percent; and other non-Christian religious groups, 0.2 percent. Atheists account for 12 percent, and 2 percent do not indicate a religious affiliation.

The vast majority of groups termed "sects" by the Government are small organizations with fewer than 100 members. There was a report of a physical attack against a person and a violent attack against property. Among the larger groups is the Church of Scientology, with between 5,000 and 6,000 members, and the Unification Church, with approximately 700 adherents. Other groups termed "sects" include Divine Light Mission, Eckankar, Hare Krishna, the Holosophic Community, the Osho Movement, Sahaja Yoga, Sai Baba, Sri Chinmoy, Transcendental Meditation, Center for Experimental Society Formation, Fiat Lux, Universal Life, and The Family.

The provinces of Carinthia and Burgenland have somewhat higher percentages of Protestants than the national average. The number of Muslims is higher than the national average in Vienna (7.8 percent) and the province of Vorarlberg (8.4 percent), where industry draws a disproportionately higher number of guest workers from Turkey and the former Yugoslavia.

According to a poll by FESSEL-GfK, 78 percent of respondents state that they belong to a church or religious group. Of that number, 2 percent attend services more than once a week, 15 percent attend weekly, 17 percent attend a minimum of once a month, 34 percent attend several times a year (on special occasions), and 32 percent never attend.