The constitution stipulates the state shall be separate from religious institutions and shall respect and protect legally recognized religious groups whose activities shall be subject to the law. It holds freedom of conscience and religion as inviolable, even if the state declares a state of siege, and provides for freedom of worship as long as it does not violate the fundamental principles cited in the constitution. It establishes that all citizens are equal under the law with the same rights and obligations, irrespective of their religion. Political parties and labor unions are barred from affiliating with a particular religious group. The constitution recognizes the freedom of religious groups to teach their faith.
The government requires religious groups to obtain licenses. The formal process, which is not often followed, entails providing the name, location, type, and size of the organization to the Ministry of Justice. Under the law, religious groups are recognized as associations and benefit from tax exemptions.
In accordance with the constitution, there is no religious instruction in public schools. The Ministry of Education regulates and enforces the decree against religious teaching in public schools. There are some private schools operated by religious groups.
The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
As of year’s end, the government did not act on the October 2018 request by the governor of Gabu for increased central government vigilance over activities associated with what he called stricter Islamic practices, such as women wearing full-face veils in public. The governor said these practices increased due to the influence of immigrants from the Republic of Guinea.
During the presidential election campaign in November, political leaders expressed concerns in the media about the use of religious symbols and practices by candidates. One candidate used the image of a turban traditionally worn by Muslim clerics as a symbol of his campaign. Another candidate held a campaign event that was opened by an imam reciting the Quran.