The constitution guarantees religious freedom. Historically, Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion (between 50 and 60%), with an archbishopric at Guatemala City and bishoprics at Quezaltenango, Verapaz, and Huehuetenango. Many inhabitants combine Catholic beliefs with traditional Maya rites. The constitution recognizes the separate legal personality of the Catholic Church.
Protestant churches were estimated to have fewer than 500,000 adherents in 1980, but rapidly growing fundamentalist groups increased the number of Protestants to some 40% of the population since 1998. The largest Protestant denominations are the Assembly of God, the Church of God of the Complete Gospel, and the Prince of Peace Church. Other denominations represented are Presbyterians, Baptists, Lutherans, Episcopalians, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and Jehovah's Witnesses. Minority groups and religions with small communities include Jews, Muslims, and followers of the Indian spiritual leader Sri Sathya Sai Baba.
During the civil war in the 1980s, the government allied itself with conservative Protestant groups and accused the Catholic Church of helping leftist guerillas. The regime's relationship with the Church worsened when Gen. José Efraín Ríos Montt refused to listen to the Vatican's plea for clemency for six alleged subversives condemned to death by secret tribunals in March 1983 and let them be executed a few days before the visit of Pope John Paul II to Guatemala. Evangelical Protestants continued to represent a greater portion of the governments through the Guatemalan Republican Front (FRG) when it became the governing party in 1999 under the leadership of retired Gen. Montt.
A 1995 Agreement on the Identity and Rights of Indigenous Peoples was approved to provide freedom of practice and promote respect for the forms of spirituality practiced by the Maya, Garifuna, and Xinca groups. As of 2002, however, very little had been done to implement to Agreement.