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 Interior and Public Security has the authority to deploy the Republican Police 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 or establish a religious affiliation 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 ($88). If a group is not registered, the Ministry of Interior orders the closing of its religious facilities until the group registers.
By law, public schools may not provide religious instruction. Religious groups may establish private schools with authorization from the state and may benefit from state subsidies.
The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Observers stated that religious groups continued to hold political influence and their influence extended into other aspects of society. Local politicians regularly sought the support of religious leaders in addressing social issues. President Talon met with leaders of the Catholic Church on February 7, the Protestant Methodist Church of Benin (EPMB) on February 14, the Islamic Union of Benin (UIB) on February 22, and the Group of the Evangelical Church Association of Benin (CAEEB) on March 1. During these meetings, the leaders discussed government reforms and ways to defuse social discord triggered by a labor dispute involving the health, justice, and education sectors. Each religious group proposed solutions for defusing the social crisis.
Authorities released on bail four detained priests of the Baname Church charged with manslaughter. The priests were charged and jailed following a 2017 incident in which five followers of the Baname Church died from asphyxiation and several were hospitalized after church leaders told followers to shut themselves in their prayer rooms and burn incense and charcoal. Bail for the detainees ranged from 10 to 20 million CFA francs ($17,600 to $35,200) and the case remained pending at year’s end.
Government officials continued to attend inductions, funerals, and other religious ceremonies organized by various groups. State-owned television often broadcast these events. Police continued to provide security for any religious event upon request.