The constitution states the country is secular, provides for freedom of belief, prohibits religious discrimination, and makes forced impositions on conscience based on “religious fanaticism,” such as forced conversion, punishable by law. The constitution bans the use of religion for political ends and political parties affiliated with a particular religious group.
A decree with the force of law bans individuals from wearing the full-face Islamic veil – including the niqab and the burqa – in public places. The decree also bans Muslims from foreign countries from spending the night in mosques. According to the government and the CSIC, both measures are designed to provide greater security against the threat of terrorist acts. The CSIC notifies the government when it knows of Muslims traveling out of country to participate in religious education or for activities sponsored by the CSIC.
All organizations, including religious groups, must register with and be approved by the Ministry of Interior. Religious group applicants must present a certification of qualifications to operate a religious establishment; a title or lease to the property where the establishment is located; the exact address where the organization will be located; bylaws; and a document that clarifies the mission and objectives of the organization. Penalties for failure to register include fines and potential confiscation of goods, invalidation of contracts, and deportation of foreign group members.
Public schools do not teach religion, but private religious schools may do so. The constitution protects the right to establish private schools.
The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
According to local and international human rights organizations including Amnesty International and a joint UN-Congolese government report, a government-led security operation launched on April 5 damaged or destroyed several structures in the southern Pool region, including a Protestant Pentecostal church located on property of Frederic Bintsamou, also known as Pastor Ntumi, in the village of Soumouna. Followers of Ntumi, a Protestant clergyman, reportedly believed he possessed mystical powers. He was the alleged commander of the “Ninja/Nsiloulou” rebel group that fought against the government during the 1997-2003 civil war. Many observers stated they believed Ntumi may actually have worked with or for the government. The government blamed Pastor Ntumi and former militiamen for raids on military, police, and local government offices in Brazzaville on April 4. On May 19, the Minister of Interior and Decentralization issued a decree banning the activities of Pastor Ntumi’s church due to what the government stated was the church’s alleged harboring of armed militias and a serious threat to public order.
The law banning foreign Muslims from spending the night in mosques rendered some refugees from the CAR and internally displaced persons without shelter.
The government granted Christians and Muslims access to public facilities for special religious events. For example, in August an evangelical church held a conference on the outdoor grounds of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and inside the parliament building in Brazzaville.