The constitution provides for the separation of religion and state and stipulates all persons are entitled to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. It states no one shall be hindered in the exercise of these rights except as required by law to protect public safety, order, health, morals, or the rights of others. It provides for equal protection under the law and prohibits political parties that exclude citizens from membership based on religious affiliation. It also states no religious group should have exclusive privileges or preferences, and the country should establish no state religion.
The government requires all religious groups, except for indigenous ones that generally operate under customary law, to register their articles of incorporation and their organizations’ statements of purpose.
Local religious organizations register with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and pay a one-time fee of 10,500 Liberian dollars ($56) to file their articles of incorporation and an annual fee of 3,500 Liberian dollars ($19) for registration. Foreign religious organizations pay 84,000 Liberian dollars ($450) for registration annually and a one-time fee of 105,000 Liberian dollars ($560) to file their articles of incorporation. Religious organizations also pay the Liberian Revenue Authority 1,000 to 2,000 Liberian dollars ($5 to $11) to notarize articles of incorporation to be filed with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and an additional 1,000 Liberian dollars ($5) to receive a registered copy of the articles. The Ministry of Finance and Development Planning issues proof of accreditation for the articles of incorporation. There is also an option of completing the same process at the Liberia Business Registry. Some religious organizations reported being charged registration fees for each of their individual locations throughout the country.
Registered religious organizations, including missionary programs, religious charities, and religious groups, receive tax exemptions on income taxes and duty-free privileges on goods brought into the country, privileges not afforded unregistered groups. Registered groups may be sued as a single entity separately from any lawsuits brought against individual owners.
The law requires high-level government officials to take an oath ending with the phrase, “So help me God,” when assuming office. It is customary for Christians to kiss the Bible and Muslims the Quran on those occasions.
Public schools offer nonsectarian religious and moral education as part of the standard curriculum, which includes an overview and history of various religious traditions and an emphasis on moral values.
The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The government, through city ordinances, required businesses and markets, including those owned or operated by Muslims, to close on Sundays and Christmas Day for municipal street cleaning. Some Muslim business owners said they viewed the regular street cleaning as an excuse for the government to close all businesses in honor of the Christian Sabbath, and some Muslim organizations expressed worry that the practice could engender antigovernment resentment among Muslim citizens.
In March President George Weah appointed Usmane T. Jalloh as the country’s first official Muslim religious advisor, to serve alongside two Christian advisors and to advise the president on issues relating to the Muslim community. The government in June for the first time granted leave to Muslim civil servants to observe Eid al-Fitr. Muslim organizations said they welcomed the president’s appointment of a Muslim religious advisor and the granting of paid leave. The organizations, however, continued to call for official recognition or observance of major Islamic religious holidays and cited Christmas and Fast and Prayer Day, which falls near Good Friday, as examples of officially recognized Christian holidays. Muslim organizations have requested to make Eid al-Fitr a national holiday since 1995. Members of the Muslim and Baha’i communities working in government or public positions said government agencies continued to be reluctant to grant time off to observe other religious holidays.
Christian and Muslim religious leaders participated in the annual July 26 Independence Day celebrations, including the opening benediction. President Weah visited a mosque and a church as part of the Independence Day celebrations.
Muslim community leaders issued a press release during Ramadan praising Inspector General of the Liberia National Police Patrick Sudue for “exceptional leadership in protecting lives and properties.”
Religious leaders recommended the government engage religious communities in proactive dialogue on social issues, rather than calling upon religious organizations as mediators only after problems develop. On a few occasions, the Inter-Religious Council of Liberia (IRCL) called for and facilitated dialogue between the government and the organizers of high-profile protests.
According to Muslim religious leaders, the government employed a disproportionate number of Christian chaplains relative to Muslim chaplains to serve in government institutions when compared with the religious demographics of the country. The government reportedly employed only two Muslim chaplains – one in the armed forces and one in the Supreme Court. By comparison, each ministry reportedly had a Christian chaplain, while the Senate had five and the House of Representatives had two. Christian chaplains frequently read Christian prayers before starting official business.
The government continued to subsidize private schools, most of which were affiliated with Christian and Muslim organizations. The government provided subsidies based on need, through an application process. Muslim leaders continued to say the subsidies disproportionately favored Christian schools.
In July the legislature passed a new law on domestic violence that did not contain a prohibition on female genital mutilation and cutting (FGM/C), although earlier versions of the law had contained such language. Some observers said the exclusion of FGM/C from the law was a capitulation to traditional secret societies, which combined religious and cultural practices and engaged in the practice as part of their indoctrination ceremonies. In June the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the National Traditional Council agreed to suspend Sande Society activities for one year to undertake a national inventory of locations where initiation rites, including FGM/C, are practiced. Human rights organizations said Sande activities continued across the country despite the announcement.
Human rights organizations called upon the government to intervene in and investigate cases of persons injured or killed due to accusations of witchcraft, exorcisms, and trials by ordeal.