The constitution and other laws and policies generally protect religious freedom. The preamble of the constitution refers to a commitment to “traditional Melanesian values, faith in God, and Christian principles.” There is no state religion.
Religious groups are required to register with the government, but this law is not enforced. The religion law requires that every religious body apply for a certificate of registration, pay 1,000 vatu ($10), and obtain the final approval of the minister for internal affairs to operate in the country. The penalty for not registering is a fine not exceeding 50,000 vatu ($524).
The government interacts with religious groups through the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Vanuatu Christian Council. Aside from the ministry’s activities, government resources are not typically used to support religious activities, although no law prohibits such support.
Government oaths of office customarily are taken on the Bible.
The government provides grants to church-operated schools and pays the salaries for teachers at church-operated schools in existence since independence in 1980. These benefits are not available to the few non-Christian religious schools.
Government schools schedule time each week for religious education conducted by representatives of council churches, using materials those churches produce. There is no uniform standard amount of time for religious instruction across all schools; however, the standard curriculum requires that students in years seven through 12 receive one hour of religious instruction per week. By law parents may have their children excused from religion classes.