The constitution and other laws and policies protect religious freedom.
To receive tax-exempt donations or gifts of land, or to perform marriages, religious groups must register with the government, which requires them to demonstrate that they are nonprofit organizations. Religious groups have the same rights and obligations as most legal entities, regardless of whether they are registered. They may own land, but they must pay property taxes; they may hire employees, but they must pay government-mandated employee benefits. Some religious groups register their organizations for increased visibility and to attract wider membership.
The government subsidizes both nondenominational public schools and religiously affiliated public schools (for example, Catholic, Hindu, and Islamic). The government permits religious instruction in nondenominational public schools, allocating time each week when any religious organization with an adherent in the school may provide an instructor. Attendance at these classes is voluntary, and the religious groups represented are diverse. Parents may enroll their children in private schools for religious reasons. Homeschooling is not allowed, since the Education Act mandates formal schooling for all children either in public or private schools.
The Ministry of the People and Social Development is responsible for ecclesiastical affairs and administers annual financial grants to religious organizations. It also issues recommendations on land use by such organizations.
The law prohibits acts that would offend or insult another person or group on the basis of race, origin, or religion, or which would incite racial or religious hatred. The law also provides for prosecution for the desecration of any place of worship. Government officials routinely speak publicly against religious intolerance and do not publicly favor any religion. Judicial review is available to those who claim to be victims of religious discrimination.
Missionaries must meet standard requirements for an entry visa and must represent a religious organization registered according to the law. They may not remain more than three years per visit, but may reenter after a year’s absence. The government limited the number of foreign missionaries to 35 per registered religious organization at any given time. Nonetheless, some international religious groups or denominations maintain more than 35 total missionaries in the country if they are affiliated with more than one registered organization, including registered nonprofits and charities.
The government observes the following religious holidays as national holidays: Good Friday, Easter Monday, Corpus Christi, and Christmas; Diwali; and Eid al-Fitr. There is also a public holiday recognizing the repeal of colonial-era laws that prohibited the practice of the Shouter/ Spiritual Baptist faith. The government grants financial and technical assistance to various organizations to support religious celebrations.