For example in Indonesia religion is listed on everyone's ID card (many religious conservatives demand that) but I don't see why it should be.

I've heard some claim that it's important so that when people die or get married, they don't marry to the wrong religion, but don't understand why this should be? You can just ask people's religion?

What is the purpose of listing the religion on an ID card?

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    – Philipp
    Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 16:07

3 Answers 3


One country that used to have the religion on its national ID card until quite recently (the law changed in 2000, new ID cards without religion were issued from 2005 on) is Greece. So, does this happen in other countries? Yes, it does.

Having religion mentioned on one's ID card enables a government (or a religious organisation) to discriminate between people when allowing them access to services, positions or benefits.

If I only want members of religion X in my government (or, on the contrary, I specifically do not want them), selecting them based on their ID is a lot easier than having to find out their religion in other ways.

One example of such identification in the extreme was of course the visual identification of Jews in Nazi-Germany, where that visible identification greatly simplified the implementation of laws banning Jews from jobs, benefits, et cetera.

It is highly unlikely that official organisations or governments will readily admit to such motives, of course, but it seems they are sometimes trying very hard to hang on to at least the possibility to control people this way. The Orthodox church in Greece protested loudly against the removal of religion from the ID-card, and yet I cannot find any rational argument supporting their actions other than trying to hang on to the privileged position of that church and its followers in the Greek state - effectively hanging on to the ability to treat non Christian Orthodox citizens as lesser citizens.

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    Israel effecitivly encodes Jewish on it's cards. I could only speculate on the motive. (Of course, Jewish does not imply religious belief, although it is rabbinical authorities who classify all humans into Jews and non-Jews.) Commented Mar 18, 2018 at 20:19
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    @KeithMcClary - in Israel, you have different religious laws for marriage. Jews must be married in Rabbinical court, Muslims by their religious authorities. I'm unsure what rules for Christians are but presumably by priest. There's no civil marriage process although marriages made outside Israel are recognized without any rules.
    – user4012
    Commented Mar 18, 2018 at 20:48
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    @KeithMcClary - additionally, Jews must serve in IDF (without digression into Hareidim and the current hot button issues that might get me flagged if described accurately), whereas Muslims and Druze are allowed to serve but won't get prosecuted if they don't wish to (unlike Jews).
    – user4012
    Commented Mar 18, 2018 at 20:50
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    @KeithMcClary - additionally, Israeli cards have not used this since like 2007 as per the link.
    – user4012
    Commented Mar 18, 2018 at 20:53
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    In the US military, ID cards have religion so that you can receive the proper burial and sacraments as required if you die. Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 19:19

For a less sinister motive, some states explicitly have different obligations of/from members of different religions in civil life:

  • Church Taxes are collected by some governments in Europe,
  • Certain groups may be excluded from national/military service e.g. in Israel
  • Amish groups in the US are exempt from paying Social Security taxes. see here

showing religion on an identity card allows for an easy verification of eligibility for these considerations.

Some individuals also may wish to have their religion listed, in the case of being unable to express religious considerations (e.g. being unconscious after a car accident).

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    For the blood transfusions, this would be better served by a card saying "no blood transfusions, please". Commented Sep 8, 2018 at 10:35
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    The Amish aren't the only group in the United States either. Typically when a law conflicts with a religious practice, the law will have rules that exempt religious organizations from violating the law, so long as it is part of the faith. During the height of the Prohibition era, the Catholic Church was still aloud to purchase wine for Communion rights.
    – hszmv
    Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 17:12
  • I'm in Germany, where the tax office collects church tax on behalf of certain religious communities (if they ask for this and pay for the service). Religious affiliation is not noted in ID card, passport etc. You just declare it where wage/income tax is calculated (tell your employer so they calculate the proper withholdings, and declare on the income tax declaration). Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 1:32
  • Not just unconscious - some religions where they believe they will physically be resurrected at some day of reckoning have requirements about what should or should not be done to someone after they die. funeralwise.com/customs/jewish/orthodox Commented Feb 7, 2019 at 16:45

As another example of this occurring: Canadian Forces identity discs ("dog tags") discloses religion among other data -- including blood type, as the original question suggests. The Americans have a similar system.

One reason for this is suggested by the aforementioned article: American dog tags currently include the recipient's religion as a way of ensuring that religious needs will be met...

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