The constitution establishes a secular state and protects freedom of religion, conscience, and belief. The government may limit these rights by law to protect the freedoms of others or for reasons of public safety, order, morality, health, and/or nuisance. The constitution mandates separation of religion and state. Citizens have the right, either individually or collectively, in public and private, to manifest their religion or beliefs in worship, observance, practice, or teaching. The constitution prohibits discrimination based on religious affiliation, and laws make inciting hatred or “disaffection” against religious groups a criminal offense. The constitution provides that individuals may not assert religious belief as a reason for disobeying the law. The constitution places limits on proselytizing on government premises and at government functions. Sacrilege is outlawed and is defined as committing any crime within a place of worship after breaking and entering or before exiting with force, or intentionally committing any act of disrespect in a place of worship. Penalties may include up to 14 years in prison.
By law, religious groups must register with the government through trustees, who may then hold land or property for the groups. To register, religious bodies must submit applications to the registrar of titles office. Applications must include the names and identification of the trustees signed by the head of the religious body seeking registration, a copy of the constitution of the proposed religious body, title documents for the land used by the religious body, and a registration fee of 2.30 Fiji dollars ($1). Registered religious bodies receive exemption from taxes after approval from the Fiji Revenue and Customs Service, on the condition they operate in a nonprofit and noncompetitive capacity. By law, religious bodies that hold title to land or property must register their houses of worship, including their land, and show proof of title. The law does not address conditions for religious organizations that do not hold title to land.
Permits are required for any public meeting on public property organized by religious groups, except for regular religious services in houses of worship.
There is no required religious instruction for children or youth. Private or religious groups sometimes own or manage school properties, but the Ministry of Education administers and regulates the curriculum. Religious groups have the right to establish, maintain, and manage places of education, whether or not they receive financial assistance from the state, provided the institution maintains educational standards. The law permits noncompulsory religious instruction in all schools, enabling schools owned and operated by various religious denominations but receiving government support to offer religious instruction. Schools may incorporate religious elements, such as class prayer, as long as they do not require teachers to participate, and students may be excused if their parents request it. The government provides funding and education assistance to public schools, as well as schools owned and operated by religious organizations, on a per-pupil basis. The law states that schools must remain open to all students, regardless of religious and/or ethnic origin. According to the law, the government ensures free tuition for primary and secondary schools.
The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka, who took office on December 24, former prime minister Voreqe Bainimarama, other cabinet ministers, and members of parliament publicly emphasized religious tolerance in the context of an election campaign in which religious intolerance was a subject of discussion. On December 25, as a part of his first Christmas address, Prime Minister Rabuka encouraged Fijians to be kind and to accept those with different religious beliefs. On November 15, during the lead-up to the December 14 general election, Bainimarama spoke out against religious intolerance, stating he would not tolerate antagonism against any faith. This followed an article in the online publication Hindu Post alleging that then attorney general Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum was “engaging in Jihad against Hindus through the patronage of the Fijian government and with the help of Pakistan.” The article further stated that in recent years, attacks against Hindus had reached “monstrous proportions.” Bainimarama condemned the article as “fake,” declared it was circulated by “those in Fiji who have an agenda against the government,” and stressed that “Christians, Hindus and Muslims are all accepted and protected in Fiji.”
A decision on an appeal against the 2018 acquittal of three staff members of the Fiji Times on sedition charges remained pending at year’s end. The three, who included the editor in chief, were charged based on the 2016 publication of a letter to the Fiji Times’ indigenous-language newspaper Nai Lalakai that the government characterized as antagonistic toward the country’s Muslim community.
The Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, and Seventh-day Adventist Churches, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Hindu and Muslim groups operated numerous schools, including secondary schools, that were eligible for government subsidies based on the size of their student population.