Religion & Church Communities

Though the population of Costa Rica tends toward secularism, a 2007 nationwide survey found that 70.5% of the population identify themselves as Roman Catholic Christians (44.9% practicing, 25.6% nonpracticing), 13.8% state they are Evangelical Protestants, 11.3% report that they are nonreligious, and 4.3% indicate adherence to other religious traditions.

Costa Rica Churches

Inside a Roman Catholic Church in San Jose

The Costa Rican Constitution states that the “Catholic, Apostolic, and Roman Religion is the official religion of the Republic,” and the Roman Catholic marriage ceremony is the only church marriage with state recognition. The same Constitutional article provides for freedom of religion and the Costa Rican Government generally respects this right in practice. In addition, these freedoms are upheld by the tolerant nature of the Ticos. The US government has found no indication of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious belief or practice.

Just about every Costa Rican town and village has a Roman Catholic sanctuary facing east, on the west side of the central plaza, and its own Saint’s day, which is usually celebrated with great fervor. Older people tend to be more pious than younger ones, but it is undeniable that, though many do not attend church with any regularity, a vast majority of the population considers itself Roman Catholic and have an inherited respect for the Church. Holy Week (the week preceding Easter) is a national holiday, with the Chuch’s intent for it to be an extended time of prayer and thanksgiving for the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Apart from the dominant Roman Catholic religion – Methodist, Lutheran, Episcopal, Baptist, and other Protestant groups have significant membership. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) claim more than 35,000 members with a temple in San Jose. Jehovah’s Witnesses have a strong presence on the Caribbean coast. Seventh-day Adventists operate a university. The Unification Church has its continental headquarters for Latin America in San Jose. Non-Christian religious groups, including followers of Judaism, Islam, Taoism, Hare Krishna, Scientology, Tenrikyo, and the Bahá’í Faith, claim membership throughout the country, with the majority of their worshipers living in the Central Valley in or near San Jose. While there is no general correlation between religion and ethnicity, indigenous peoples are more likely to practice animism than other religions.