The constitution protects religious freedom; however the Religious Organizations Restriction Act places limits on those freedoms.
The Church of Tuvalu is by law the state church, but this status affords it primarily “the privilege of performing special services on major national events.” The constitution provides for separation of church and state. The preamble of the constitution states the country is “an independent State based on Christian principles, the Rule of Law, and Tuvaluan custom and tradition.” Government ceremonies at the national level, such as the opening of parliament, and at the island-council level, often include Christian prayers and clergy.
By law any new religious group with more than 50 members must register with the government; failure to register could result in prosecution. Under the terms of the Religious Organizations Restrictions Act, all religious groups in the country must also register with and obtain approval from the traditional elder councils, known as Falekaupule, of any island on which they conduct services. The act prohibits joint or public worship by religious groups not approved by these councils. The act also allows the Falekaupule to withhold permission to certain religious groups to meet publicly should they be locally judged to “directly threaten the values and culture of the island community.” At the same time, the act guarantees an individual’s right to worship freely within one’s residence, a right previously questioned by traditional leaders. Several observers have noted that the Religious Organizations Restriction Act appears incompatible with the constitution, though there has not yet been a legal challenge to the act.
The government observes the following religious holidays as national holidays: Good Friday, Easter Monday, Gospel Day, and Christmas.