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Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Government Practices

The government stated it would consider allowing nonregistered religious groups to have land for a place of worship if they applied to register, but none had done so.

In practice, authorities did not disband unregistered religious groups as illegal and deport their members. The government continued to permit adherents of unregistered religions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and the Bahai Faith, and unregistered small Christian congregations, to worship privately in rented villas, their homes, workplaces, and with others.

Hindus, Buddhists, Bahais, and other unregistered religious groups continued to lack authorized facilities in which to practice their faiths. The director of the Department of Consular Affairs within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated the ministry was open to considering the creation of dedicated worship spaces for Hindus, Jews, and Buddhists, and that any organized, non-Muslim religious group could use the same process as Christians to apply for official registration. No non-Christian groups were known to have applied to register.

The Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs reported it continued to hire clerics and assign them to specific mosques. The ministry continued to provide thematic guidance for Friday sermons and reviewed content but did not require clerics to obtain prior approval of their sermons. The government reserved the right to take judicial action against individuals who did not follow the guidance. There were no reported instances of clerics failing to adhere to the guidance or of judicial action against them.

The government continued to issue a decree during Ramadan describing its view of the correct way for Muslims to perform their religious duties. The decree also stipulated that non-Muslims seen eating or drinking during daylight hours were subject to arrest.

The emir again personally financed the Hajj for some citizen and noncitizen pilgrims who could not otherwise afford to travel to Mecca.

Although the law prohibited Christian groups from advertising religious services, Christian churches posted details on hours of services and other information on publicly accessible websites.

The government maintained its policy of reviewing foreign newspapers, magazines, and books for “objectionable” religious content. Journalists and publishers reportedly practiced self-censorship about material the government might consider contrary to Islam.

The government continued to permit non-Muslim religious groups and individuals to import holy books, such as Bibles, and other religious items for personal or congregational use, provided they first applied for and received written approval.

The Mesaymeer Religious Complex known as “Church City” continued to provide worship space for the eight registered Christian denominations. The government allowed unregistered churches to worship there as well, but only under the patronage of one of the eight recognized denominations. The Anglican Center within Church City housed a number of other smaller denominations and offered space to 76 different congregations of different denominations and languages.

Christian leaders continued to report government cooperation to facilitate the construction of new worship space, provide security, and improve highway infrastructure in and to the Mesaymeer complex. The government continued to enforce additional security measures at Church City, including closing parking lots, setting a curfew on church access, and using metal detectors.

The government prohibited the slaughter of animals outside of licensed facilities; a measure it said was designed to ensure hygienic conditions. In practice, individuals were able to conduct ritual slaughter in private. For example, Nepali Hindus reported they were able to perform animal sacrifices in housing accommodations.

Church leaders and religious groups said individuals practiced self-censorship when expressing religious views online and relied mostly on word of mouth, church websites, social media platforms, and email newsletters to distribute information about religious groups’ activities.

The government’s policy continued to be to deport foreigners suspected of proselytizing rather than filing criminal charges against them.

An MFA-led permanent intergovernmental committee continued to meet to consider the concerns of registered non-Muslim religious groups, including the legal status of churches and contracts governing the residency of foreign religious workers in the country.

Church leaders stated their ability to collect and distribute funds for charity continued to be limited by the government’s restrictions on the number and type of bank accounts churches could hold, as well as reporting requirements on contractors doing business with the churches and on donors. Some smaller, unregistered churches continued to use the personal accounts of religious leaders for church activities.

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U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future