The constitution prohibits discrimination on any grounds and forbids any laws establishing any religion or imposing any religious observance. The constitution permits limitations on freedom of religion only “as prescribed by a law and necessary in a democratic society” in the interest of defense, public safety, public order, public morality, or public health as well as to protect the rights and freedoms of other persons. It provides for freedom of conscience, thought, and religion, including the right of individuals to change religion or belief and to manifest and propagate their religion in worship, teaching, practice, and observance, alone or in community with others, in public or private. These rights may be subject to limitations stated in the constitution. The constitution stipulates individuals shall not be required to take a religious oath counter to their religious beliefs or profess any religion as a prerequisite for public office.
The law requires registration for all religious groups as either corporations or associations. Since March, religious groups must also comply with the 2020 Beneficial Ownership Act by providing up-to-date lists of their membership to a centralized government database and financial information to the government’s Financial Intelligence Unit. To register, a group must submit to the Registrar of Associations its name, location, rules, and list of assets; the name, occupation, and addresses of officers and at least seven members; and the resolution appointing its officers. A minimum of seven members is required to register an association. To receive tax benefits, including tax exemptions on the importation of goods and for projects that are considered to advance the country’s socioeconomic goals and meet certain other criteria, religious groups must also register with the Finance Ministry. The government recognizes the Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Seventh-day Adventist Churches, Islamic groups (Quran and Sunnah Society of Seychelles, Islamic Society of Seychelles, and Islamic Foundation of Seychelles), and the Baha’i local spiritual assembly through individual acts of incorporation.
According to the penal code, any act or words that deliberately incite hatred, contempt, or disaffection against individuals or groups are misdemeanors and carry a penalty of imprisonment for one year.
Although no penalties are prescribed for unregistered groups, only those registered as corporate bodies or associations have legal status and certain rights, such as to airtime for religious programming on the national broadcast media, Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation (SBC), or permission to provide spiritual counsel in prison.
The constitution prohibits compulsory religious education or participation in religious ceremonies in state schools but permits religious groups to provide religious instruction in those schools during school hours. The Catholic and Anglican Churches provide that instruction. No faith-based schools are present in the country.
The law prohibits religious groups from obtaining commercial radio or television licenses. The SBC provides airtime to registered religious groups on national radio and on national television for a daily early morning program and to broadcast religious services upon request. Since June, the SBC’s policy grants equal access to radio and television programming for all registered faith-based groups. Religious groups may publish newspapers.
The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
In March, the government amended the Registration Act to introduce new criteria for registering heads of religious groups and to establish mechanisms to detect financial fraud, terrorist financing, and money laundering through religious groups, which the government said were potentially at risk for such violations. The amendment required all associations, including religious associations, to submit new documentation and financial returns by July 31, maintain up-to-date registries of their membership, and retain their financial records for seven years. It also required the Registrar of Associations to maintain a publicly available list of all registered associations, including religious ones. The government stated the amendment modernized the Registration Act, improved its transparency, and put it in compliance with the 2020 Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Act. SIFCO members said they supported the amendment out of concern that without tighter regulations, fraudulent religious groups could too easily register as associations. SIFCO members continued to express concern that the relatively large number of registered religious groups (currently more than 100) in a country with a small population was a sign of division. SIFCO also continued to express concern about the registration process itself, by which some religions are registered as corporate bodies and others as associations, with differing requirements for registration.
The SBC continued to broadcast religious programming for holidays such as Christmas, the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, and the feast of the Immaculate Conception. The SBC also continued to broadcast 90-minute Catholic and Anglican services weekly on the radio, and it opened its television channels to all other groups for prayer services, including regular Friday prayers for Muslims. The SBC continued to review and approve all religious programing to ensure hate speech was not broadcast. Other religious programming consisted of 15-minute prerecorded prayers by Muslim, Hindu, Baha’i, Seventh-day Adventist, Catholic, and Anglican groups every two weeks. All faith-based groups seeking to broadcast on the SBC were required to produce their own content, but not all did so during the year due to lack of capacity and/or resources. Private radio and television stations did not feature religious programs.
President Ramkalawan, who is also an Anglican priest, met with representatives of several religious groups throughout the year, including Catholic leaders, members of the Seychelles Bible Society, leaders of the Hindu Kovil Sangam group as well as the new Chairman of SIFCO, Reverend Danny Elizabeth. The President also participated in the Vinayagar Charthurti festival with the Hindu community in September.
On February 27, the President hosted the second annual interfaith prayer service. The event was titled, “Let us remember and give thanks,” and aimed at remembering the country’s journey through the COVID-19 pandemic and giving thanks for the “blessings and protection showered” over the country during that time. The prayer service was held at State House, the President’s executive office. All members of the Cabinet, the First Lady, and representatives of all the SIFCO member faith groups attended, and the event was broadcast live on television and radio. All remaining COVID-19 pandemic restrictions were lifted in July.
On October 21, Minister for Youth, Sports, and Family Marie-Celine Zialor hosted an interfaith discussion with representatives from the Roman Catholic Church, Anglican Church, Pentecostal Church, Everlasting Love Ministry, Redeem Christian Church, Nazarite Christian Church, the Hindu community, and the Muslim community to discuss how the government and faith groups could work together to inculcate spiritual values in Seychellois families.
Although the constitution prohibits compulsory religious education, non-Catholic students in some public schools providing Catholic instruction were not offered alternative activities during those classes, according to parents.
Various religious groups stated they continued to engage with prison authorities to carry out spiritual and religious activities in prisons.