The constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion and provides for freedom of conscience, religion, belief, and thought. It states detainees have a right to consult with a religious counselor of their choice.
The law states that with regard to religious broadcasting, “licensees shall not broadcast any material which is…offensive to the religious convictions of any section of the population.”
Religious groups, like other nonprofit organizations, must register with the government to be recognized as a legal entity. Registered groups, like other legal entities, may own property and open bank accounts in the group’s name. Groups must submit documentation detailing the structure and mission of their organization and pay a fee of 1000 kwacha ($2). The government reviews the application for administrative compliance only. According to the government, registration does not constitute approval of religious beliefs, nor is it a prerequisite for religious activities. Religious groups may apply to the Ministry of Finance for tax exemptions regardless of registration status.
Religious instruction is mandatory in public primary schools and is available as an elective in public secondary schools. According to the constitution, eliminating religious intolerance is a goal of education. In some schools, the religious curriculum is a Christian-oriented “Bible knowledge” course, while in others it is an interfaith “moral and religious education” course drawing from the Christian, Islamic, Hindu, and Bahai faiths. According to the law, local school management committees, elected at parent-teacher association meetings, decide on which religious curriculum to use. Private Christian and Islamic schools offer religious instruction in their respective faiths. Hybrid “grant-aided” schools are managed by private, usually religious, institutions but their teaching staffs are paid by the government. In exchange for this financial support, the government chooses a significant portion of the students who attend. At grant-aided schools, a board appointed by the school’s operators decides whether the “Bible knowledge” or the “moral and religious education” curriculum will be used.
Foreign missionaries are required to have employment permits.