The constitution states, “Every person shall have the freedom to practice any religion and to manifest such practice,” subject to laws that may impose such “reasonable restrictions” as necessary for national security, public order, decency, or morality. The constitution also states that such freedom must “not impinge on the rights and freedoms of others or on the national interest, especially unity.” The constitution prohibits religious discrimination, the establishment of a state religion, and religiously based political parties. It provides for the establishment of qadi (Sharia law) courts, with judges trained in the Islamic legal tradition in each of the country’s seven regions; their jurisdiction applies only to marriage, divorce, child custody, and inheritance where all the involved parties are Muslims. Citizens may choose to use either the civil or qadi courts.
There are no formal guidelines for the registration of religious groups. Religious groups that do not provide social services are not legally required to register. The criminal code outlaws “insult to religion,” “disturbing religious assemblies,” and “uttering words with the intent to wound religious feelings.” Faith-based groups that provide the same social services as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) must meet the same eligibility criteria as other NGOs. By law, all NGOs are required to register with the NGO Affairs Agency and as charities at the attorney general’s chambers. They are required to have governing boards of directors composed of at least seven members responsible for policy and major administrative decisions, including internal control. The law also requires that all NGOs submit to the NGO Affairs Agency a detailed annual work program and budget, a detailed annual report highlighting progress on activities undertaken during the year, work plans for the following year, and financial statements audited by NGO Affairs Agency-approved auditors. The government has stated the submissions help the NGO Affairs Agency monitor NGO activities.
The law does not require public or private schools to include religious instruction in their curricula. The government, through the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education (MoBSE), provides religious education teachers to public schools to teach an academic course on major world religions. Most public schools offer this course, and most students take the class. Some private schools also offer classes in religious education and tolerance and provide an overview of major world religions.
The constitution bans political parties organized on the basis of religion.
The Ministry of Lands, Regional Government and Religious Affairs is responsible for issues related to religious affairs in the country.
The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
No efforts were made during the year to resurrect the constitutional reform process following the September 2020 rejection by the National Assembly of a draft new constitution. President Adama Barrow, however, pledged to make constitutional reform “the legacy” of his second term in office, which runs until January 2027.
The government has traditionally allowed female civil servants to reduce their daytime working hours by two hours during Ramadan to allow them to return home and prepare meals for their families to break their fast. There are no formal rules or bills, but the government sends internal memos about the practice.
In November 2022, MoBSE received reports that female Muslim students’ veils were being seized at St. Therese’s Upper Basic School, a private school in Kanifing. An investigation established that school prefects were unilaterally carrying out this act. MoBSE publicly condemned religious intolerance and said it would punish officials involved in acts that trigger religious tension.
In December, the government hosted an interreligious conference that was attended by religious leaders, government officials, and political actors from 54 African countries, to discuss peace and religious tolerance. The conference was organized by the government in partnership with the World Muslim League.
As in the previous year, President Barrow read televised statements during major Islamic and Christian religious holidays in which he stressed his administration’s commitment to promoting religious tolerance.