The constitution and other laws and policies protect religious freedom. The constitution also prohibits religious intolerance, as defined by the government.
The 2009 penal code maintains witchcraft as a criminal offense punishable by five to 10 years in prison and a fine ranging from 100,000 CFA to 1,000,000 CFA ($200 to $2,000). While the new penal code abolishes the death penalty for witchcraft, a new clause states that when the practice of witchcraft results in serious injury or permanent disability, the prison sentence is five to 10 years of hard labor. In case of the death of the victim, the sentence is a lifetime of hard labor. The law does not define the elements of witchcraft, and the determination lies solely with the magistrate.
The law requires religious groups, except for indigenous religious groups, to register with the Ministry of Interior (MOI). To register, the MOI requires religious groups to prove they have a minimum of 1,000 members and leaders who graduated from what the government considers to be high-caliber religious schools.
The MOI may decline to register any religious group it deems offensive to public morale or likely to disturb social peace. Registered religious groups later characterized as subversive may face suspension of their operations. Registration is free and confers official recognition and certain limited benefits, such as customs duty exemption for the importation of vehicles or equipment.
The government grants religious groups one day of their choosing each week to make free broadcasts on the official radio station. Outside this regular time, religious groups must pay fees for broadcast time, just as nonreligious organizations are required to do.
Students were not compelled to participate in religious education and were free to attend any religious program of their choosing. Although the government does not explicitly prohibit religious instruction in public schools, such instruction was not part of the public school curriculum, nor was it common.
The government observes the following religious holidays as national holidays: Easter Monday, Ascension Day, Monday after Pentecost Day, All Saints’ Day, and Christmas. The government does not observe Islamic holy days; however, the government allows Muslims to take off these days from work, and government officials participated in Muslim religious occasions.