The constitution states the country is secular, provides for freedom of belief, prohibits religious discrimination, and makes forced impositions on conscience based on “religious fanaticism,” such as forced conversion, punishable by law. The constitution bans the use of religion for political ends, including religiously affiliated political parties.
A decree bans individuals from wearing the full-face Islamic veil, including the niqab and the burqa, in public places. The decree also bans Muslims from foreign countries from spending the night in mosques.
All organizations, including religious groups, must register with, and be approved by, the Ministry of Interior. Religious group applicants must present a certification of qualifications to operate a religious establishment, a title or lease to the property where the establishment is located, the exact address where the organization will be located, bylaws, and a document that clarifies the mission and objectives of the organization. Penalties for failure to register include fines and confiscation of goods, invalidation of contracts, and deportation of foreign group members.
The law prohibits religious instruction in public schools. Private schools may provide religious instruction. The law requires that all public and private schools respect all philosophical and religious doctrines. The constitution protects the right to establish private schools.
The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
In May the government launched an operation to ensure compliance with a 1960 law and 2017 government circular note governing the operation of cultural, religious, and other nongovernmental groups. The launch of the operation followed a briefing by Police Colonel Jean Batantout to members of COSERCO, an umbrella organization of revivalist churches, during which Batantout stated the government also intended to implement a requirement for pastors to hold a degree in theology. As of year’s end, the government had not implemented the requirement.
Media reported in May that the government closed 18 churches that were not in compliance with building, safety, and noise regulations. A spokesman for the churches acknowledged the need for inspections “in order to improve our behavior.”
As in previous years, the government granted Christians and Muslims access to public facilities for special religious events. For example, on August 22-25, members of the country’s evangelical Christian community held a National Evangelical Convention at Brazzaville’s Massemba Debat public stadium.
On a visit (his third to the country) to inaugurate a new Orthodox church in Pointe Noire, Theodore II, Primate of the Church and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa, met with President Denis Sassou-N’guesso on February 15. A newspaper article expressed the hope that the patriarch’s visit might accelerate the slow pace of cooperation between the Church and the government – cooperation that to date, noted a press item, amounted only to an orphanage and a school.