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Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal Framework

The constitution defines the state as secular and prohibits religious discrimination. The constitution requires the state to protect churches and religious groups as long as they comply with the law. The constitution provides for freedom of conscience, religious belief, and worship and recognizes the right of religious groups to organize and carry out their activities as long as they adhere to the law. The constitution permits conscientious objections, prohibits questioning individuals about their religious beliefs for reasons other than anonymous statistical purposes, and specifies that religious rights may not be suspended even if the state declares a state of war, siege, or emergency. It recognizes the right of prisoners to receive visits from, and correspond with, religious counselors.

The religious freedom law requires religious groups to register for legal recognition from the state. Legal recognition gives religious groups the ability to purchase property collectively, use their property to hold religious events, exempt them from paying certain property taxes, and authorize the group to be treated as an incorporated entity in the court system. To apply for government recognition, a religious group must collect 100,000 member signatures from 12 of the 18 provinces and submit them to the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights. The law also requires religious groups to submit documents defining their doctrine, organizational structure, methods of worship, and leadership, and the amount of time the group has operated in the country. While the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights is responsible for registration and recognition of religious groups, oversight of religious organizations is the responsibility of the Ministry of Culture through its National Institute for Religious Affairs.

Religious instruction is not a component of the public educational system. Private schools are allowed to teach religion.

The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Equatorial Guinea

Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal Framework

The constitution provides for freedom of religion and worship and prohibits political parties based on religious affiliation. The law also states the country has no national religion. The law states individuals are free to change religions. Christians converting to Islam are permitted to add Muslim names to their Christian names on their official documents.

Regulations establish an official preference for the Roman Catholic Church and the Reformed Church of Equatorial Guinea. Neither group is required to register. The state provides funding to the Roman Catholic Church for its schools, the only religious group to receive such funding for operating educational institutions.

Catholic and Reformed churches are not required to register with the MJRAPI. Some long-standing religious groups such as Muslims or Bahais hold permanent authorizations and are not required to renew their registrations with the MJRAPI. Newer groups and denominations may be required to renew their registration annually. To register, religious groups at the congregational level must submit a written application to the director general of religion in the MJRAPI. Those seeking to register must supply detailed information about the leadership (e.g., curriculum vitae) and members of the group; construction plans of the religious building; property ownership documents, accreditations, and religious mandate; and pay a fee of 100,000 Central African Francs (CFA) ($161). The director general of religion adjudicates these applications and may order an inspection by the MJRAPI before processing.

The adjudication of the registration application rests solely with the director general of religion – the commission of representatives of several government agencies that is supposed to adjudicate the applications has been inactive for several years. Those seeking to register must supply information about the group such as a list of members, and the MJRAPI may conduct an inspection before processing an application. The government may fine or shut down unregistered groups. The law requires a permit for door-to-door proselytism.

A MJRAPI decree specifies that any religious activities taking place outside the hours of 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., or outside of registered places of worship, require prior authorization from the MJRAPI. The decree prohibits religious acts or preaching within private residences if those acts involve people who do not live there. Foreign religious representatives or authorities must obtain advance permission from the MJRAPI to participate in religious activities. The decree exempts the Catholic Church.

The government recognizes official documents issued by authorized religious groups, such as birth certificates and marriage certificates.

The constitution states individuals are free to study religion in schools and may not be forced to study a faith other than their own. Catholic religious classes are part of the public school curriculum, but with a note from a leader of another religious group, such study may be replaced by non-Catholic religious study, or by a recess.

The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.


Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal Framework

The constitution states the state is secular, prohibits religious discrimination, and provides for the right of individuals to choose and profess their religious faith. It recognizes the right of religious institutions and groups to establish and manage themselves freely. It bars political parties that identify with a particular religious group. These rights are subject only to “those limits that are indispensable to maintain the public order and democracy.”

By law, the SRA must approve all religious groups. Groups must provide a written constitution and application to the SRA along with their address and a fee of 250,000 Guinean francs (GNF) ($27). The SRA then sends the documents to the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Decentralization for final approval and signature. Once approved, the group becomes an officially recognized religion. Each registered religious group must present to the government a report on its affairs every six months. Registration entitles religious groups to value-added tax (VAT) exemptions on incoming shipments and to select energy subsidies.

Unregistered religious groups are not entitled to VAT exemptions and other benefits. By law, the government may shut down unregistered groups and expel foreign group leaders. There is limited opportunity for legal appeal of these penalties.

Religious groups may not own radio or television stations.

The compulsory primary school curriculum does not include religious studies.

The imams and administrative staff of the principal mosque in Conakry and the principal mosques in the main cities of the four regions are government employees. These mosques are directly under the administration of the government. Other mosques and some Christian groups receive government subsidies for pilgrimages.

The SRA secretary general of religious affairs appoints six national directors to lead the Offices of Christian Affairs, Islamic Affairs, Pilgrimages, Places of Worship, Economic Affairs and the Endowment, and Inspector General. The SRA is charged with promoting good relations among religious groups and coordinates with other members of the informal Interreligious Council, which is composed of Muslims and members from Catholic, Anglican, and other Protestant churches as well as the SRA.

The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.


Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal Framework

The constitution provides for the separation of religion and state, and stipulates all persons are entitled to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. It states no one shall be hindered in the exercise of these rights except as required by law to protect public safety, order, health, or morals, or the rights of others. It also provides for equal protection under the law and prohibits political parties that exclude citizens from membership on the basis of religious affiliation.

The government encourages all religious groups, except for indigenous ones who generally operate under customary law, to register their articles of incorporation and their organizations’ statements of purpose. Local religious organizations register with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and pay a one-time fee of approximately 5,000 Liberian dollars ($55) to file their articles of incorporation, and an annual fee of 3,500 Liberian dollars ($38) for registration and to receive a registration certificate. Foreign religious organizations are charged $400 (36,400 Liberian dollars) for registration annually, and a one-time fee of $500 (45,500 Liberian dollars) to file their articles of incorporation. Religious organizations also pay 1,000 to 2,000 Liberian dollars ($11 to $22) to the Liberia Revenue Authority for notary services for articles of incorporation to be filed with the MFA and an additional 1,000 Liberian dollars ($11) to receive a registered copy of the articles. An accreditation of the articles of incorporation is awarded at the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning.

Registered religious organizations, including missionary programs, religious charities, and religious groups, receive tax exemption and duty-free privileges benefits not afforded unregistered groups. Registered groups may also appear in court as a single entity.

The law requires high-level government officials to take an oath ending with the phrase, “So help me God,” when assuming office. Christians kiss the Bible and Muslims the Quran on those occasions.

Public schools offer nonsectarian religious and moral education as an elective in all grades.

The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.


Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal Framework

The PFC provides for the right of individuals to practice their religion, but prohibits the propagation of any religion other than Islam. It states all citizens, regardless of religion, have equal rights and duties before the law, but establishes Islam as the state religion and requires laws to comply with sharia principles. No exemptions from application of sharia legal principles exist for non-Muslims. The PFC does not explicitly prohibit Muslims from converting to other religions.

The constitutions of the regional administrations of Somaliland in the northwest, and Puntland in the northeast make Islam the state religion, prohibit Muslims from converting, prohibit the propagation of any religion other than Islam, and stipulate all laws must comply with the general principles of sharia.

The Somaliland constitution states: “Every person shall have the right to freedom of belief and shall not be compelled to adopt another belief. Islamic Sharia does not accept that a Muslim can renounce his beliefs.” The Puntland constitution prohibits any law or culture that contravenes Islam and prohibits demonstrations contrary to Islam. The constitution and other laws of Puntland do not define contravention of Islam.

Other regional administrations, including the IJA, ISWA, and IGA, have constitutions identifying Islam as the official religion. These constitutions stipulate all laws must comply with the general principles of sharia. The IGA and ISWA have not enacted laws directly addressing religious freedom.

The Penal Code developed in 1962 generally remains valid in all regions of the country. It does not prohibit conversion from Islam to another religion, but criminalizes blasphemy and “defamation of Islam,” which carry penalties of up to two years in prison.

The PFC and the Puntland constitution require the president, but not other office holders, to be Muslim. The Somaliland constitution requires, in addition to Somaliland’s president, the candidates for vice president and the House of Representatives to be Muslim.

The judiciary in most areas relies on xeer (traditional and customary law), sharia, and the Penal Code. Each community individually regulates and enforces religious expression, often inconsistently.

The Somaliland constitution prohibits the formation of political parties based on a particular religious group, religious beliefs, or interpretation of religious doctrine, while the PFC and the approved constitutions of other regional administrations do not contain this prohibition.

The Ministry of Religious Affairs (MRA) has legal authority to register religious groups. Guidance on how to register or what is required is inconsistent. The ministry has no ability to enforce such requirements outside of Mogadishu.

Somaliland does not have a mechanism to register religious organizations or specific requirements to register Islamic groups. The Puntland government does not have any laws governing registration or a mechanism to register religious groups. Other regional administrations do not have a mechanism to register religious organizations.

In Puntland, religious schools and places of worship must obtain permission to operate from the Puntland Ministry of Justice and Religious Affairs. In Somaliland, religious schools and places of worship must obtain permission to operate from the Somaliland Ministry of Religion. Neither Puntland nor Somaliland law delineates consequences for operating without permission. All other regional administrations require places of worship and religious schools to obtain permission to operate from local authorities.

The federal Ministry of Education has the mandate to regulate religious instruction throughout the country. Federal and regional authorities require Islamic instruction in all schools, public or private, except those operated by non-Muslims. The federal government is reviewing and taking steps to standardize the national curriculum, in part to regulate Islamic instruction. Non-Muslim students attending public schools may request an exemption from Islamic instruction, but according to federal and regional authorities, there were no such requests.

The country is a party to the International Covenant on Political and Civil Rights.

South Africa

Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal Framework

The constitution provides for freedom of religion and belief including the right to form, join, and maintain religious associations. It prohibits religious discrimination and specifies freedom of expression does not extend to advocacy of hatred based on religion. The constitution permits legislation recognizing systems of personal and family law to which persons professing a particular religion adhere. It also allows religious observances in state or state-supported institutions, provided they are voluntary and conducted on an equitable basis. These rights may be limited if the limitation is “reasonable and justifiable in an open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom” and takes account of “all relevant factors.” Cases of discrimination against persons on the grounds of religion may be taken to Equality Courts, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), and the Constitutional Court. The constitution also provides for the promotion and respect of languages used for religious purposes, including, but not limited to, Arabic, Hebrew, and Sanskrit.

The constitution allows for the presence and operation of the CRL with the mission of fostering the rights of communities to freely observe and practice their cultures, religions, and language.

The law does not require religious groups to register; however, registered religious and other nonprofit groups can qualify as public benefit organizations (PBOs), allowing them to open bank accounts and exempting them from paying income tax. To register as a PBO, groups must submit a nonprofit organization application, including their constitution, contact information, and list of officers and documentation stating they meet a number of prescribed requirements that largely ensure accounting and tax compliance, to the provincial social development office. Once registered, the group must submit annual reports on any changes to this information, important achievements and meetings, and financial information, as well as an accountant’s report.

The government allows, but does not require religious education in public schools but prohibits advocating the tenets of a particular religion.

The law allows marriages to be conducted under customary law; however, it only applies to “those customs and usages traditionally observed among the indigenous African people.”

The constitution grants detained persons visitation rights with their chosen religious counselor.

The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

South Sudan

Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal Framework

The transitional constitution stipulates separation of religion and state. It prohibits religious discrimination, even if the president declares a state of emergency. It states that all religions are to be treated equally and that religion should not be used for divisive purposes.

The transitional constitution provides for the right of religious groups to worship or assemble freely in connection with any religion or belief, solicit and receive voluntary financial contributions, own property for religious purposes, and establish places of worship. The transitional constitution also provides religious groups the freedom to write, issue, and disseminate religious publications; communicate with individuals and communities in matters of religion at both the national and international levels; teach religion in places “suitable” for these purposes; train, appoint, elect, or designate by succession their religious leaders; and observe religious holidays.

The government requires religious groups to register with the state government and with the Ministry for Humanitarian Affairs through the Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (RRC). There were reports the ministry changed the requirements for registration during the year, but details were not available as of year’s end. Previously, faith-based organizations were required to provide their constitution, a statement of faith documenting their doctrines, beliefs, objectives and holy book, a list of executive members, and a registration fee of $100 for national or $200 for international faith-based organizations. International faith-based organizations were required also to provide a copy of a previous registration with another government and a letter from the international organization commissioning its activities in South Sudan.

The transitional constitution specifies the regulation of religious matters within each state is the executive and legislative responsibility of the state government. It establishes the responsibility of government at all levels to protect monuments and places of religious importance from destruction or desecration.

The transitional constitution allows religious groups to establish and maintain “appropriate” faith-based charitable or humanitarian institutions.

The transitional constitution guarantees every citizen access to education without discrimination based on religion.

The country is not a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.


Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal Framework

The INC provides for freedom of religious creed and worship, and grants individuals the right to declare their religious beliefs and manifest them by way of worship, education, practice, or performance, subject to requirements of laws and public order. It prohibits the coercion of individuals to adopt a faith they do not believe in or to engage in rites or services to which they do not voluntarily consent. These rights may be suspended during a state of emergency. The INC states that nationally enacted legislation shall be based on sharia. The INC has not been amended to reflect the 2011 independence of South Sudan.

The INC allows religious groups to establish and maintain humanitarian and charitable institutions, acquire property and materials related to their religious rites and customs, write and disseminate religious publications, teach religion, solicit public and private contributions, select their own leaders, observe days of rest, celebrate religious holidays, and communicate with constituents on matters of religion.

The INC states that where the majority of residents do not practice the religion or customs on which the national legislation is based, citizens may introduce new legislation consistent with their religion and customs or refer the existing legislation to the Council of States, the lower house of parliament.

The INC denies recognition to any political party that discriminates based on religion and specifically prohibits religious discrimination against candidates for the national civil service. Constitutional violations of freedom of religion may be pursued in the Constitutional Court; however, cases of discrimination often originate and are addressed in lower courts dealing with civil or criminal charges.

National laws are based on a sharia system of jurisprudence. The criminal code states the law, including state and local, shall be based on sharia sources and include hudood, qisas, and diyah principles (specific serious crimes and related restitution and punishment). The criminal code takes into consideration multiple sharia schools of jurisprudence (madhahib). The Islamic Panel of Scholars and Preachers (Fiqh Council) determines under which conditions a particular school of thought will apply. Other criminal and civil laws, including public order laws, are determined at the state and local level.

The law provides no bar to individuals who convert from another religion to Islam. The criminal code does not explicitly mention proselytizing, but criminalizes both conversion from Islam to any other faith (i.e. apostasy) and acts that encourage conversion from Islam. Those who convert from Islam to another religion as well as any Muslim who questions the teachings of the Quran, the Sahaba (the Companions of the Prophet), or the wives of the Prophet may also be considered guilty of apostasy and sentenced to death. Those charged with apostasy are allowed to repent within a period decided by the court, but may still face up to five years in prison.

The criminal code’s section on “religious offenses” includes articles on violations against any religion, such as insulting religion or blasphemy, disturbing places of worship, and trespassing upon places of burial. The criminal code states, “whoever insults any religion, their rights or beliefs or sanctifications or seeks to excite feelings of contempt and disrespect against the believers thereof” shall be punished with up to six months in prison, flogging of up to 40 lashes, and/or a fine. The article includes provisions that prescribe penalties for any non-Muslim who curses the Prophet Muhammad, his wives, or members of his respective households of up to five years’ imprisonment and 40 lashes.

The Ministry of Guidance and Endowments (MGE) regulates religious practice, including activities such as reviewing Friday sermons at mosques. The president appoints the Fiqh Council, an official body of 40 Muslim religious scholars responsible for explaining and interpreting Islamic jurisprudence, to four-year renewable terms. The council advises the government and issues fatwas on religious matters, including levying customs duties on the importation of religious materials, payment of interest on loans for public infrastructure, and determination of government-allotted annual leave for Islamic holidays. The panel’s opinions are not legally binding. Muslim religious scholars are free to present differing religious and political viewpoints in public.

To gain official recognition by the government, religious groups must register at the state level with the MGE, or a related ministry such as the Ministry of Culture or the Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC), depending on the nature of the group and its activities. The HAC oversees NGOs and nonprofit organizations. Religious groups that also engage in humanitarian or development activities must register with those bodies as nonprofit NGOs by filing a standard application required by the HAC for both local and international NGOs. The application must include the names and addresses of founding members, a copy of the organization’s constitution, and an organization chart and be accompanied by a fee. Such organizations must have at least 30 members, although the relevant minister may register an organization with fewer members with proof of its financial stability. In addition, international NGOs legally may not be from a country in a state of war with Sudan and are required to be registered in its country of origin, have an approved registration certificate from the Sudanese embassy or diplomatic mission, present evidence of its financial and technical capabilities, and meet other conditions the minister may apply. Groups registered with the HAC must then have their activities approved and financial statements reviewed by the government. Only religious groups that register are eligible to apply for other administrative procedures, including land ownership, tax exemptions, and work permits.

The state-mandated education curriculum requires all schools, including international schools and private schools operated by Christian groups, to provide Islamic education classes to Muslim students, from preschool through the second year of university. Public schools do not require non-Muslims to attend Islamic education classes, but must provide them with other religious instruction. A minimum of 15 Christian students per class is required for Christian instruction in public schools. According to the Ministry of Education, following the separation of South Sudan, this ratio has not been met in most schools. Non-Muslim students therefore attend religious study classes of their own religion outside of regular school hours in order to fulfill the requirement for all students to receive religious instruction.

The curriculum for religious education is determined by the Ministry of Education. According to the ministry, the Islamic curriculum is intended to reflect one form of Islam, which, according to government representatives, requires following the Sunni tradition.

The MGE determines, along with the state-level entities responsible for land grants and planning, whether to provide authorizations or permits to build new houses of worship, taking into account zoning concerns such as the distance between religious institutions and population density (the allocation of land to religious entities is determined at the state level). The MGE is mandated to assist both mosques and churches in obtaining tax exemptions and duty-free permits to import items such as furniture and religious items for houses of worship; it also assists visitors attending meetings sponsored by religious groups and activities to obtain tourist visas through the Ministry of Interior. The MGE also coordinates travel for the Hajj and Umra for government representatives.

Public order laws, based largely on the government’s interpretation of sharia, vary by state. These laws prohibit indecent dress and other “offenses of honor, reputation, and public morality.” Authorities primarily enforce such laws in large cities and enforce laws governing indecent dress against both Muslims and non-Muslims. The criminal code states acts are contrary to public morality if they are deemed so by the religion of the person performing the act or the custom of the country where the act occurs. In practice, the special Public Order police and courts have wide latitude in interpreting what dress or behaviors are indecent and in arresting and passing sentence on accused offenders.

Some aspects of the criminal code specify punishments for Muslims based on government interpretation of sharia punishment principles. For example, the criminal code stipulates 40 lashes for a Muslim who drinks, possesses, or sells alcohol; no punishment is prescribed for a non-Muslim who drinks or possesses alcohol in private. The criminal code stipulates if a non-Muslim is arrested for public drinking, possessing, or selling of alcohol, he or she is subject to trial, but the punishment will not be based on hudood principles. The INC was amended in August to change the penalty for adultery with a married person from stoning to hanging (a punishment more commonly executed than stoning, according to legal experts). The penalty for adultery by an unmarried person is 100 lashes. An unmarried man could additionally be banished up to one year. These penalties apply to both Muslims and non-Muslims. Adultery includes marriages not recognized by the government. The code was not changed after the 2011 secession of South Sudan and most articles of the code specify punishments according to region, the North (majority Muslim) and the then-South (majority Christian), rather than the religion of the accused.

Under the law, the justice minister may release any prisoner who memorizes the Quran during his or her prison term. The release requires a recommendation for parole from the prison’s director-general and a religious committee composed of the Sudan Scholars Organization and members of the Fiqh Council, which consults with the MGE to ensure decisions comply with Islamic legal regulations.

Under the law, a Muslim man may marry a non-Muslim woman (though most Sudanese sharia schools of thought advise that the non-Muslim women must be “people of the book,” i.e. either Christian or Jewish). A Muslim woman, however, legally may only marry a Muslim man. A Muslim woman marrying a non-Muslim man may be charged with adultery.

Separate family courts exist for Muslims and non-Muslims to address personal status issues such as marriage, divorce, and child custody, according to their religion. By law, in custody dispute cases where one parent is Muslim and the other is Christian, courts grant custody to the Muslim parent if there is any concern that the non-Muslim parent will raise the child in a religion other than Islam.

According to Islamic personal status laws, Christians (including children) may not inherit assets from a Muslim.

Government offices and businesses are closed on Friday for prayers and follow an Islamic workweek of Sunday to Thursday. The law requires employers to give Christian employees two hours off on Sundays for religious activity. Leave from work is also granted to celebrate Orthodox Christmas, an official state holiday, along with several key Islamic holidays.

An interministerial committee, which includes the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), the NISS, and in some cases Military Intelligence, must approve foreign clergy and other foreigners seeking a residency permit.

The INC’s bill of rights says all rights and freedoms enshrined in international human rights treaties, covenants, and instruments ratified by the country are integral parts of the INC’s bill of rights.

The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.


Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal Framework

The constitution prohibits religious discrimination and establishes there shall be no state religion. It provides for freedom of thought, conscience, and belief and the right to practice and promote any religion as well as to belong to and participate in the practices of any religious body or organization in a manner consistent with the constitution. The constitution also stipulates the government may limit these rights by measures that are “reasonably justifiable for dealing with a state of emergency.” The constitution prohibits the creation of political parties based on religion.

The government requires religious groups to register to obtain legal entity status. The more established religious groups, such as the Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican Churches, and the UMSC, obtain legal status by registering under the on a one-time basis under new legislation enacted during the year. Upon the release of the new legislation, however, responsibility for the registration process shifted from the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ board for NGOs to the Department of Religious Affairs, under the Ministry of Ethics and Integrity. The Department of Religious Affairs has not yet provided public information about its registration process.

In accordance with the constitution, religious instruction in public schools is optional, and the curriculum surveys world religious beliefs. Private schools are free to offer religious instruction.

The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

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U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future