The constitution and other laws and policies protect religious freedom. The constitution states that individuals have a right to “freedom of thought, conscience, or religion.” The constitution protects the right to religious practice by providing for “[the] freedom [to] worship either alone or in community with others.” However, minority religious groups enjoy fewer protections under traditional laws and customs, which include traditional courts and the authority of approximately 360 chiefs. When a religious group’s practices conflict with tradition and culture as defined by chiefs, they may direct community pressure against the group. Before religious groups may erect religious buildings, they must consult with the chiefs and obtain their approval.
Portions of the capital are zoned especially for places of worship. Government permission is required for the construction of new religious buildings in urban areas, and permission is required from chiefs in rural areas. Religious groups that wish to construct new buildings may purchase a plot of land and apply for the required building permits.
The monarchy (and by extension the government) supports many Christian activities. It is common practice for the king, the queen mother, and other members of the royal family to attend evangelical programs, including Good Friday and Easter weekend services. At such services the host church organization will often extend the king an invitation to preach.
The Protection of Names and Badges Act requires new religious groups or churches to register with the government upon organizing. To be considered “organized,” the group generally must submit its application through one of the country’s three umbrella religious bodies: the League of Churches, Swaziland Conference of Churches, or Council of Swaziland Churches. After one of these bodies has recommended an organization, the Registrar General’s Office in the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs will register the organization. For indigenous religious groups, authorities consider proof of a religious leader, congregation, and a place of worship as sufficient grounds to grant organized status. Organized religious groups are exempt from taxation, although the government does not consider them tax-deductible charities.
Christian programming is available on both of the parastatal broadcast outlets, Swazi Broadcasting and Information Service (SBIS) and Swazi Television.
Religious instruction is mandatory in primary school and an elective subject in secondary schools. Although schools teach religion predominantly from a Christian perspective, the Ministry of Education includes a multireligion component in the religious curriculum. The only organized religious youth clubs reportedly permitted to operate in schools are Christian. Voluntary school clubs conduct daily prayer services in many public schools.
The government observes the following religious holidays as national holidays: Good Friday, Easter Monday, Ascension Day, and Christmas. Although Easter Sunday is not officially considered a national holiday, persons who work on that day receive holiday pay.