The constitution provides for freedom of conscience, which includes freedom of thought and religion, subject to the interests of defense, public safety, order, morality, and health, and to the protection of other persons’ rights and freedoms. The law prohibits religious discrimination and allows all persons to observe their own religious practices and to change religions without interference from the government or members of other religious groups. Government registration is not mandatory for religious groups but necessary to obtain tax and other benefits. In July police interrogated and released an imam for removing the president’s photograph from a mosque. The government continued to enforce a law prohibiting the production, sale, and consumption of marijuana, which Rastafarians said infringed on their freedom to access cannabis for religious practices. Religious organizations and leaders stated that dialogue with the government was limited and that collaboration from government organizations responsible for religious affairs was lacking. In January Muslim and Christian leaders publicly announced their support to the government’s fight against corruption, as well as a 2018 government ban on public masquerades (traditional ceremonies) and initiation ceremonies.
Religious leaders reported continued disagreements between Muslims and Christians concerning noise produced during Christian ceremonies held during Islamic prayer times. A representative of a religious organization reported growing tensions between local Muslims and evangelical Christians from Nigeria and said police intervened at least twice to prevent residents from throwing rocks at a church. In January members of a secret society attacked an Ahmadiyya Muslim community in the eastern part of the country, according to government officials. The attackers reportedly kidnapped several men, severely beat at least one, and allegedly initiated four others by force; approximately 90 members of the community became displaced when the attackers burned their houses and confiscated their livestock. Police made no arrests in the case, although sources stated that the leader of the attacks was known to authorities. Ahmadi Muslim leaders said the Ahmadiyya community became part of the Inter-Religious Council (IRC) leadership and enjoyed good relations with other members.
During Ramadan, the Ambassador, in cooperation with the chief imam of Freetown Municipality, hosted an interfaith iftar. The U.S. embassy promoted religious freedom through dialogue with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) such as the IRC and the United Council of Imams (UCI).