The constitution defines the state as secular and establishes separation of religion and state. It prohibits religious discrimination and holds all citizens equal before the law, regardless of religion. The constitution provides for freedom of conscience, the free practice of religion, and the right to form religious communities that may govern and manage their affairs independently, consistent with public order. The constitution stipulates religious communities whose activities are contrary to laws of the country or promote conflict among ethnic groups may be banned.
The law requires all associations, including religious groups, to register with the MOI. Registered groups are eligible for exemptions from fees for land use and fees for construction permits. To register, a group must present to the MOI copies of its founding statutes and internal rules, a letter attesting to publication of these documents in the applicable local administrative bulletin, a formal letter of request for registration addressed to the MOI, a property lease, the police records of the group’s leaders, and the group’s bank statements. The registration fee is 10,000 CFA francs ($16). Registered religious groups must also provide the MOI with proof of nonprofit status to receive exemptions from local taxes and customs duties on imports. The MOI maintains an official registry of religious groups.
The constitution states parents have the right to choose their children’s religious education. The state provides for public education based on “religious neutrality.” Public schools are secular and do not provide religious instruction. Catholic, Protestant, and Muslim groups operate primary and secondary schools, in which representatives of religious groups provide religious instruction. These schools must register with the Ministry of Education, which ensures they meet the same standards as public schools. The government does not fund private schools, religious or secular, although in some schools it may subsidize a portion of the teachers’ salaries.
The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The MOI reported it continued to face trouble with “one-man operations”, individuals who attempted to register themselves as representing religious groups without justification. The MOI stated that such individuals, who tended to practice a mixture of Christianity and animism, lacked “authenticity.” Religious groups said these individuals appeared to be trying to manipulate the system to get benefits they did not deserve, such as tax exoneration to import items and fee exemptions for residence permits. MOI officials stated the government’s regulatory framework governing associations and religious groups was a neutral set of laws, though some new groups experienced difficulty registering because they did not provide the appropriate documents for verification. The MOI reported charging several groups, primarily one-man operations, with fraud or sanctioned for other illegal activities, with the government using the regulatory framework to attempt to prevent further abuses.