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, including religiously affiliated political parties.
A decree 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.
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 confiscation of goods, invalidation of contracts, and deportation of foreign group members.
The law prohibits religious instruction in public schools. Private schools may provide religious instruction. The law requires that all public and private schools respect all philosophical and religious doctrines. The constitution protects the right to establish private schools.
The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
On June 24, the government relaxed its COVID-19 restrictions under a nationwide state of health emergency and allowed religious organizations to host services for no more than 50 persons, as long as they provided hand-washing stations and observed social distancing. The Ministry of Interior warned that it would fine and potentially close violators. At year’s end, the government had not fined any religious organizations for violations.
Despite the easing of restrictions, the Islamic High Commission publicly announced the closure of mosques for prayer due to the inability to practice social distancing and limit the numbers of patrons during prayer at the mosques. At year’s end, mosques remained closed voluntarily.
As in previous years, the government granted Christians and Muslims access to public facilities for special religious events before COVID-19 restrictions began in March.
According to the head of the largest mosque in Brazzaville, members of the mosque housed visitors in their homes rather than in the mosque in compliance with a government decree banning Muslims from foreign countries from spending the night in mosques.
In June, all 18 churches closed in 2019 due to lack of adherence to building, safety, and noise codes reopened and remained operational after completion of building upgrades.