The constitution recognizes Buddhism as the state’s “spiritual heritage,” provides for freedom of religion, and bans discrimination based on religious belief. The constitution states religious institutions and personalities shall remain “above politics.” The law restricts religious speech and written communication promoting enmity among religious groups and requires religious groups to obtain licenses to hold public religious gatherings. International nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) continued to report that the lack of clarity in the law addressing “inducements” to conversion placed the activities of minority religious groups at risk of legal sanction, although the country’s religious minority groups reported no such sanction or pressure during the year. The government’s Commission for Religious Organizations (CRO) did not approve any new religious groups during the year. Unregistered religious groups, including Christians, reported being able to worship in private, although unregistered groups were not permitted to organize publicly, own property, raise funds, conduct outreach activities, or import literature. In its report for 2022 (which covered events in 2021) the international Christian NGO Open Doors alleged discrimination against Christians, stating that Christians often faced difficulty obtaining “nonobjection certificates” from local authorities; these were required for loan and employment applications, property registration and renewing identification cards. One local organization said this was not the case, except when the applicant had a criminal record. Members of the Hindu Dharmic Samudaya, one of eight religious organizations on the CRO’s board, continued to cite strong official support for Hindu religious practice.
Some converts reported continued societal pressure on individuals to participate in Buddhist traditions and practices. Open Doors said converts to Christianity faced intense pressure to return to their former religion, especially from their relatives, who viewed their conversions as bringing shame to their entire family.
The United States does not have formal diplomatic relations with Bhutan; the U.S. embassy in New Delhi oversees unofficial bilateral relations. During the year, the U.S. embassy engaged government officials on religious freedom issues and met virtually with community and religious leaders.