Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
October 14, 2015

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Executive SummaryShare    

Botswana is predominantly Christian but religiously pluralistic. The constitution provides protection against religious discrimination. Some groups had difficulty securing long-term residence permits for missionaries.

There were no reports of significant societal actions affecting religious freedom.

The U.S. embassy engaged with leaders of each major faith and discussed interfaith collaboration and the establishment of an interfaith council.

Section I. Religious DemographyShare    

The U.S. government estimates the total population is 2.2 million (July 2014 estimate). According to a 2006 demographics report published by the country’s Central Statistics Office, 63 percent of citizens are members of Christian groups, 27 percent claim their religion as “God,” 8 percent espouse no religion, 2 percent are adherents of the traditional indigenous religion Badimo, and all other religions comprise less than 1 percent of the population.

Anglicans, Methodists, and members of the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa make up the majority of Christians. There are also Lutherans, Roman Catholics, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), Seventh-day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Baptists, members of the Dutch Reformed Church, Mennonites, and members of other Christian denominations. According to a 2011 study by the Pew Research Center, there are approximately 8,000 Muslims, many of whom are of South Asian origin. There are small numbers of Hindus and Bahais. Immigrants, including foreign workers, are more likely to be members of non-Christian religious groups than are native-born citizens.

Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious FreedomShare    

Legal Framework

The constitution provides for religious freedom under its broader protections of freedom of conscience. The constitution permits the government to restrict religious freedom in the interest of national defense, public safety, public order, public morality, or public health when the restrictions are deemed “reasonably justifiable in a democratic society,” but it has never done so.

The constitution provides that every religious group may establish places for religious instruction at the group’s expense. The constitution prohibits forced religious instruction, forced participation in religious ceremonies, and taking oaths that run counter to an individual’s religious beliefs.

All organizations, including religious groups, must register with the government. To register, a group must submit its constitution to the registrar of societies section of the Ministry of Labor and Home Affairs. A group must register to conduct business, sign contracts, or open an account at a local bank. Any person who manages, assists in the management of, or holds an official position in an unregistered group is subject to a fine of up to 1,000 pula (BWP) ($105) and up to seven years in prison. Any member of an unregistered group is subject to penalties including fines up to BWP 500 ($53) and up to three years in prison.

Government Practices

Although it was common for government meetings to begin with a Christian prayer, members of non-Christian groups also occasionally led prayers.

Optional religious education is part of the curriculum in public schools; it emphasizes Christianity but also addresses other religious groups in the country. There are private Christian and Muslim schools, and government regulation of private schools did not distinguish between religious and non-religious schools.

Some Christian organizations reported that some of their missionaries had difficulty obtaining residence permits for missionary work. The Department of Labor and Home Affairs attributed this difficulty to a gray area in the immigration “points system,” developed several years ago and implemented gradually, that provides greater weight to missionary work tied to development projects than to proselytizing. Some observers, however, suggested considerations outside the points system affected the awarding of visas for specific religious groups.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious FreedomShare    

There were no reports of significant societal actions affecting religious freedom.

Section IV. U.S. Government PolicyShare    

The Ambassador hosted semi-regular meetings with religious leaders representing each of the major faiths present in the country to discuss interfaith collaboration and the establishment of an interfaith council that could function in collaboration with, as well as independent of, the embassy.