The Congregational Christian Church of Tuvalu is by law the state church, and this status primarily 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 religion, which 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.” Government ceremonies at the national level, such as the opening of parliament, and at the island-council level, often include Christian prayers and clergy.
By law any new religious group with adult members representing not less than two percent of the country’s total population (at last census) must register with the government; failure to register could result in prosecution. Under the law all religious groups in the country must register with and obtain approval from the traditional elder councils, known as 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 locally judged 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 ($410) if they engaged in public meetings in violation of the law.
The law guarantees individuals’ right to worship freely within their own residences. The Ministry of Home Affairs 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 falekaupule are also required in the request. Several observers have noted the law appears incompatible with the constitution, though there has not yet been a legal challenge to the act.