Under its broader protections of freedom of conscience, the constitution provides for freedom of thought and religion, the right to change religion or belief, and the right to manifest and propagate religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice, and observance. The constitution permits the government to restrict these rights in the interest of protecting the rights of other persons, national defense, public safety, public order, public morality, or public health when the restrictions are deemed “reasonably justifiable in a democratic society.” The government has never exercised this provision. The constitution’s provision of rights also prohibits discrimination based on creed.
The constitution permits every religious group to establish places for religious instruction at the group’s expense. The constitution prohibits requiring religious instruction, as well as requiring participation in religious ceremonies in a religion other than one’s own. The constitution also prohibits compelling an individual to take an oath that is contrary to that individual’s religious beliefs. The penal code criminalizes “hate speech” towards any person or group based on “race, tribe, place of origin, color or creed” with a maximum fine of 500 pula (BWP) ($47).
All organizations, including religious groups, must register with the government. To register, a group must submit its constitution to the registrar of societies section of the Ministry of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs. A group must register to conduct business, sign contracts, or open an account at a local bank. Any person who manages, assists in the management of, or holds an official position in an unregistered group is subject to a fine of up to BWP 1,000 ($94) and up to seven years in prison. Any member of an unregistered group is subject to penalties including fines up to BWP 500 ($47) and up to three years in prison.
Senior government officials indicated the country changed its policy to eliminate long-term residence permits for all religious workers; the policy change was not announced publicly until November.
The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.