The constitution prohibits discrimination based on creed and provides for freedom of thought and religion, including the right of individuals to change, manifest, and propagate their religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice, and observance, alone or in community, in private or in public. These rights may be subject to limitations to protect public order, safety, morality, health, or the rights of others. The constitution also bars requiring oaths contrary to an individual’s religious belief and bars compulsory religious education or attendance at religious ceremonies in schools. It gives religious groups the right to establish schools and provide religious instruction to members of that group. These schools are open to the general population as well. Citizens may file religious discrimination complaints with the Equal Opportunities Commission, which may open investigations if it determines a citizen’s rights may have been infringed.
The constitution states that legislative candidates must identify themselves as belonging to one of the four national communities cited in the constitution: Hindu, Muslim, Sino-Mauritian, or general population.
A parliamentary decree recognizes the six main religious groups present prior to independence in 1968: Hindus, Catholics, Muslims, Anglicans, Presbyterians, and Seventh-day Adventists. These groups receive annual lump-sum payments from the finance ministry based on the number of members who identified as such during the last census. The registrar of associations registers other religious groups, which must have a minimum of seven members with designated leadership responsibilities. The finance ministry may grant these other groups tax-exempt privileges. Although registration of religious groups is required, the law does not prescribe penalties for unregistered groups.
Religious groups must obtain both residence and work permits for each foreign missionary. The Prime Minister’s Office is the final authority on the issuance of these documents. The government grants residence permits to missionaries for a maximum of three years with no extensions.
Religious education is allowed in public and private schools, at both the primary and secondary levels. Students may opt out, however. For example, Catholic schools offer civic education classes for non-Catholic students.
The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The Assemblies of God has petitioned the government for years to be recognized as a religion, but as of year’s end the government had not addressed the issue and the group was still considered an association. As a consequence, according to a pastor from the Assemblies of God, newborns could not be registered as members and its pastors had limited access to hospitals and prisons.
Before the November elections, a political party and several independent candidates refused to identify themselves as belonging to one of the four national communities cited in the constitution, arguing that the practice was undemocratic. The Supreme Court ruled against them and they were run in the elections. These politicians said they would take the case to the UN Human Rights Committee. At year’s end, there was no further update on the case.
Some Christians and Muslims continued to state the predominance of Hindus in the civil service favored Hindus in government recruitment and promotion, preventing Christians and Muslims from reaching higher level positions in the civil service. In general and dating back years, non-Hindus have stated they were underrepresented in government. There were no reliable statistics available on the numbers of members of different religious groups represented in the civil service. According to the Truth and Justice Commission’s 2011 report, however, civil service employment did not represent national ethnoreligious diversity.