The EKT is by law the state church, and the law affords its followers “the privilege of performing special services on major national events.” The constitution otherwise provides for separation of religion and state. The constitution provides for “freedom of thought, religion, and belief,” and the freedom to show and spread religious belief through worship, teaching, observance, or practice. These freedoms may be limited by law for reasons such as avoiding divisiveness; protecting the rights of others; defense; and public order, safety, morality, and health. The preamble of the constitution states the country is “an independent State based on Christian principles, the Rule of Law, and Tuvaluan custom and tradition.”
By law, any new religious group with adult members representing not less than 2 percent of the country’s total population (at the most recent census) must register with the government; failure to register could result in prosecution. The Ministry of Local Government requires religious groups seeking registration to submit a request signed by the head and supported by five other members of the organization. Information on and proof of the number of adherents, the name of the religious organization, and approval from the traditional elder councils, known as falekaupule, are also required in the request. Under the law, all religious groups, regardless of size, must register with and obtain approval from the falekaupule of any island on which they conduct services. The law prohibits joint or public worship by religious groups not approved by these councils. The law also allows the falekaupule to withhold permission from certain religious groups to meet publicly, should they be judged locally to “directly threaten the values and culture of the island community.” The law provides for unapproved groups to be fined up to 500 Australian dollars ($390) if they engage in public meetings in violation of the law.
The powers of the ombudsman include oversight of a national human rights institution to promote and protect human rights, including religious freedom. Labor law prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion.
The law guarantees the right of individuals to worship freely within their own residences.
The country is not a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Missionaries continued to practice without government restrictions on some islands, such as Funafuti. On other islands, such as Nanumanga, Niu, and Vaitupu, formal and informal bans issued by the falekaupule remained in effect on proselytizing and public worship by representatives of religious groups that were perceived to challenge traditional cultural norms. Members of dominant religious groups said that sometimes such groups did not particpate in “cultural obligations to the community,” such as church-led island cleanups. As a consequence, missionaries said they did not try to proselytize on those islands.
Government ceremonies at the national level, such as the opening of the parliamentary year, and at the island council level continued to include Christian prayers and clergy.