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Liberia

Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Government Practices

The government, through city ordinances, required businesses and markets, including those owned or operated by Muslims, to close on Sundays and Christmas Day for municipal street cleaning. Some Muslim business owners said they viewed the regular street cleaning as an excuse for the government to close all businesses in honor of the Christian Sabbath, and some Muslim organizations expressed worry that the practice could engender antigovernment resentment among Muslim citizens.

In March President George Weah appointed Usmane T. Jalloh as the country’s first official Muslim religious advisor, to serve alongside two Christian advisors and to advise the president on issues relating to the Muslim community. The government in June for the first time granted leave to Muslim civil servants to observe Eid al-Fitr. Muslim organizations said they welcomed the president’s appointment of a Muslim religious advisor and the granting of paid leave. The organizations, however, continued to call for official recognition or observance of major Islamic religious holidays and cited Christmas and Fast and Prayer Day, which falls near Good Friday, as examples of officially recognized Christian holidays. Muslim organizations have requested to make Eid al-Fitr a national holiday since 1995. Members of the Muslim and Baha’i communities working in government or public positions said government agencies continued to be reluctant to grant time off to observe other religious holidays.

Christian and Muslim religious leaders participated in the annual July 26 Independence Day celebrations, including the opening benediction. President Weah visited a mosque and a church as part of the Independence Day celebrations.

Muslim community leaders issued a press release during Ramadan praising Inspector General of the Liberia National Police Patrick Sudue for “exceptional leadership in protecting lives and properties.”

Religious leaders recommended the government engage religious communities in proactive dialogue on social issues, rather than calling upon religious organizations as mediators only after problems develop. On a few occasions, the Inter-Religious Council of Liberia (IRCL) called for and facilitated dialogue between the government and the organizers of high-profile protests.

According to Muslim religious leaders, the government employed a disproportionate number of Christian chaplains relative to Muslim chaplains to serve in government institutions when compared with the religious demographics of the country. The government reportedly employed only two Muslim chaplains – one in the armed forces and one in the Supreme Court. By comparison, each ministry reportedly had a Christian chaplain, while the Senate had five and the House of Representatives had two. Christian chaplains frequently read Christian prayers before starting official business.

The government continued to subsidize private schools, most of which were affiliated with Christian and Muslim organizations. The government provided subsidies based on need, through an application process. Muslim leaders continued to say the subsidies disproportionately favored Christian schools.

In July the legislature passed a new law on domestic violence that did not contain a prohibition on female genital mutilation and cutting (FGM/C), although earlier versions of the law had contained such language. Some observers said the exclusion of FGM/C from the law was a capitulation to traditional secret societies, which combined religious and cultural practices and engaged in the practice as part of their indoctrination ceremonies. In June the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the National Traditional Council agreed to suspend Sande Society activities for one year to undertake a national inventory of locations where initiation rites, including FGM/C, are practiced. Human rights organizations said Sande activities continued across the country despite the announcement.

Human rights organizations called upon the government to intervene in and investigate cases of persons injured or killed due to accusations of witchcraft, exorcisms, and trials by ordeal.

International Religious Freedom Reports
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U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future