The constitution establishes a secular state, prohibits religious discrimination, and provides for freedom of religious thought, expression, and practice, consistent with public order as established by law and regulations.
The Ministry of Defense through its gendarmes, generally in rural areas, and the Ministry of Interior through the police, generally in cities, have the authority to intervene in conflicts between religious groups to ensure public order and social peace, provided the intervention complies with the principle of state neutrality in religious affairs.
Persons who wish to form a religious group must register with the Ministry of Interior. Registration requirements include submission of administrative materials (including the applicant’s birth certificate, police record, request letter, copy of identification, and the group’s internal rules) and payment of a registration fee of 50, 000 CFA francs ($80). If a group is not registered, the Ministry of Interior will order the closing of the religious facilities until the group is registered.
By law, public schools may not provide religious instruction. Religious groups may establish private schools given the authorization of the state and may benefit from state subsidies.
The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Following a dispute between two relatives competing to become the imam of a mosque in Semere in the commune of Ouake, local authorities in October closed the mosque to allow for the two sides to come to an understanding. Supporters of the disputing parties, however, forced the mosque doors open for Friday prayers, according to the local police chief. Security forces intervened, resulting in five dead and many others injured.
On July 3, two factions of the Protestant Methodist Church of Benin signed an agreement that ended a 19-year-old feud between the two groups. Political leaders and media commentators attributed the agreement largely to President Patrice Talon’s mediation efforts. The two factions disagreed over the ownership of specific properties, despite a court ruling in favor of one faction. President Talon coordinated and attended a church service on July 3 at the Palais des Congres in Cotonou where leaders of the two factions signed a memorandum of understanding on reaching reconciliation.
On the occasion of Eid al-Fitr, the government, supporting an initiative of the former ombudsman, officially launched a petition requesting that the UN Secretary General create an appropriate structure for interreligious and intercultural dialogue for peace. The initiative was a follow-up to the May 2015 international symposium held in Cotonou on the theme “African Initiative on Education for Peace and Development through Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue.” Many local religious and political leaders committed themselves to this initiative and to implementing projects to increase religious tolerance.
Government officials attended inductions, funerals, and other religious ceremonies organized by various groups. State-owned television often broadcast these events. Police provided security for any religious event upon request.