The constitution prohibits religious discrimination and provides for freedom of conscience, religion, and worship and its public manifestation even when the government declares a state of emergency. Exercising these rights may be subject to limitations in order to ensure respect of others’ rights and good morals, public order, and social welfare. The constitution bars political parties based on religious affiliation. The penal code stipulates religious discrimination is punishable by five to seven years in prison and fines of 100,000 to one million Rwandan francs ($135 to $1,347).
Under the law governing religious groups, all groups “whose members share the same beliefs, cult, and practice” must register with the Rwanda Governance Board (RGB) to acquire legal status. According to the law, a religious‑based organization must submit the following in order to register: an application letter addressed to the chief executive of the RGB; authenticated statutes governing its organization, including provisions stipulating its activities; general information including the location of its head office and the names of its legal representative, his/her deputy, their duties, full address, curricula vitae, and criminal records; a document certifying the legal representative and his/her deputy were appointed in accordance with its statutes; a brief statement describing its major doctrines; the minutes of the group’s general assembly which approved the statutes of the organization; an action plan for the fiscal year; and an endorsement letter issued by the district mayor.
The law that covers religious groups does not cover nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) associated with religious groups. Domestic NGOs associated with religious groups are required to register with the RGB, but under a different law governing NGOs. The law details a multi‑step NGO registration process, and requires annual financial and activity reports and action plans.
The government grants legal recognition only to civil marriages.
New public servants are required to take an oath of loyalty “in the name of God almighty.” Touching the flag while reciting the oath is mandated by law. The law does not make accommodations for religious minorities whose faith does not permit them to comply with this requirement.
The law establishes fines of 20,000 to one million Rwandan francs ($27 to $1,347) and imprisonment from eight days to five years for anyone who hinders the free practice of religion; publicly humiliates rites, symbols, or objects of religion; or insults, threatens, or physically assaults a religious leader.
The law regulates public meetings, including assemblies for religious reasons, that may disturb public order or are deemed politically sensitive, and establishes fines of 100,000 to five million Rwandan francs ($135 to $6,735) and imprisonment of eight days to three years for unauthorized public meetings. Competent authorities are required to respond within 15 days to requests by religious‑based organizations to hold special meetings in public.
For night meetings, including religious meetings, local authorities often require advance notification, particularly for ceremonies involving amplified music and boisterous celebrations. Laws prohibit excessive noise that disrupts neighborhoods and undermines property values and impose fines for violations ranging from 10,000 to 100,000 Rwandan francs ($13 to $135). Nighttime noise disturbances can be punished by imprisonment of eight days to two months and/or a fine of 50,000 to one million Rwandan francs ($67 to $1,347). Religious organizations are required to conform to laws protecting public security, public health, good morals, and human rights.
All students in public primary school and the first three years of secondary education must take a religion class that discusses various religions. The curriculum is established by the Ministry of Education. The law does not specify either opt‑out provisions or penalties for not taking part in the class. The law allows parents to enroll their children in private religious schools.
The law prohibits religious groups from engaging in activities designed to achieve political power, defined as supporting political organizations or candidates for public office.
Every foreign missionary must have a temporary resident permit and a foreign identity card. Specific requirements to obtain the permit (valid for two years and renewable) include a signed curriculum vitae, an original police clearance from the country of residence, an authorization letter from the parent organization, and a fee of 100,000 Rwandan francs ($135).