The constitution prohibits religious discrimination and provides for freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, including the right to worship, alone or in community with others, and to change religion or belief.
The constitution affords unwritten traditional laws and customs, which are interpreted by traditional courts, equal status with codified laws and prohibits the parliament and national courts from changing or regulating them. These traditional laws and customs allow approximately 360 chiefs working with their traditional councilors to restrict some rights of minority religious groups within their jurisdictions if the chiefs determine the groups’ practices conflict with tradition and culture.
The law requires religious groups to register with the government. Christian groups must apply through one of the country’s three umbrella religious bodies (the League of Churches, Swaziland Conference of Churches, or Council of Swaziland Churches) for a recommendation, which is routinely granted. Upon receipt of the recommendation, the ministry of justice and constitutional affairs registers the organization. For indigenous religious groups and non-Christian religious organizations, authorities consider proof of a religious leader, a congregation, and a place of worship as sufficient grounds to grant organized status. Organized religious groups are exempt from taxation, but contributions to these groups are not tax deductible. Unregistered groups report they are able to operate freely.
Religious groups are required to obtain government permission for the construction of new religious buildings in urban areas, and must obtain the appropriate chief’s and the chief’s advisory council’s permission for new buildings in rural areas.
Religious instruction is mandatory in primary school and an elective subject in secondary school. Although schools teach religion predominantly from a Christian perspective, the education ministry includes a multi-religion component in the religious curriculum. According to religious leaders and civil society organizations, the only organized religious youth clubs permitted to operate in schools are Christian. Voluntary Christian school clubs conduct daily prayer services in many public schools and are permitted to raise funds for their clubs. The constitution provides religious groups the right to establish and operate private schools and to provide religious instruction for their students.