The constitution prohibits religious discrimination and provides for freedom of conscience, religion, and worship and its public manifestation even when the government declares a state of emergency. Exercising these rights may be subject to limitations in order to ensure respect of others’ rights and good morals, public order, and social welfare. The constitution bars political parties based on religious affiliation. The penal code stipulates religious discrimination is punishable by five to seven years in prison and fines of 100,000 to one million Rwandan francs ($120 to $1,200).
Under the law governing religious groups, all groups “whose members share the same beliefs, cult, and practice” must register with the Rwanda Governance Board (RGB) to acquire legal status. According to the law, a faith-based organization (FBO) must submit the following in order to register: an application letter addressed to the RGB chief executive; authenticated statutes governing its organization, including provisions stipulating its activities; general information including the location of its head office and the names of its legal representative and his/her deputy, their duties, full address, curricula vitae, and criminal records; a document certifying the legal representative and his/her deputy were appointed in accordance with its statutes; a brief statement describing its major doctrines; the minutes of the group’s general assembly that approved the statutes of the organization; and an action plan for the fiscal year. The law allows FBOs to operate with an endorsement letter from district authorities pending final registration by the RGB.
The law covering religious groups does not address nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) associated with religious groups. Domestic NGOs associated with religious groups are required to register with the RGB, but under a different law governing NGOs. The law details a multistep NGO registration process and requires annual financial and activity reports and action plans.
The government grants legal recognition only to civil marriages.
New public servants are required by law to take an oath of loyalty “in the name of God almighty” and touch the flag while reciting the oath. Those who do not fulfill the requirement forfeit their position. The law does not make accommodations for religious minorities whose faith does not permit them to comply with this requirement.
The law establishes fines of 20,000 to one million Rwandan francs ($24 to $1,200) and imprisonment from eight days to five years for anyone who hinders the free practice of religion; publicly humiliates rites, symbols, or objects of religion; or insults, threatens, or physically assaults a religious leader.
The law regulates public meetings, including assemblies for religious reasons, that may disturb public order or are deemed politically sensitive, and establishes fines of 100,000 to five million Rwandan francs ($120 to $5,800) and imprisonment of eight days to three years for unauthorized public meetings. District mayors are required to respond within 15 days to FBO requests to hold special meetings in public. FBOs are not required to seek authorization for routine meetings.
For nighttime meetings, including religious meetings, local authorities often require advance notification, particularly for ceremonies involving amplified music and boisterous celebrations. Laws prohibit excessive noise that disrupts neighborhoods and undermines property values, and impose fines for violations ranging from 10,000 to 100,000 Rwandan francs ($12 to $120). Nighttime noise disturbances may be punished by imprisonment of eight days to two months and/or a fine of 50,000 to one million Rwandan francs ($58 to $1,200). Religious organizations are required to conform to laws protecting public security, public health, good morals, and human rights.
Unregistered religious groups may congregate after informing local authorities and may be granted a temporary registration certificate while the legal application process, which might last well over a year, is pending.
All students in public primary school and the first three years of secondary education must take a religion class that discusses various religions. The Ministry of Education establishes the curriculum. The law does not specify either opt-out provisions or penalties for not taking part in the class. The law allows parents to enroll their children in private religious schools.
The government subsidizes some schools affiliated with different religious groups. A presidential order guarantees students attending any government-subsidized school the right to worship according to their beliefs during the school day, as long as their religious groups are registered in the country and the students’ worship practices do not interfere with learning and teaching activities. The order does not stipulate any procedure for arranging special accommodations.
The law prohibits religious groups from engaging in activities designed to achieve political power, defined as supporting political organizations or candidates for public office.
Every foreign missionary must have a temporary resident permit and a foreign identity card. Specific requirements to obtain the permit (valid for two years and renewable) include a signed curriculum vitae, an original police clearance from the country of residence, an authorization letter from the parent organization, and a fee of 100,000 Rwandan francs ($117).
The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.