The constitution provides for freedom of conscience, which includes freedom of thought and religion, subject to the interests of defense, public safety, order, morality, and health; and to protect other persons’ rights and freedoms. Additionally, national laws prohibit religious discrimination and allow citizens to observe their own religious practices and to change religions without interference from the government or members of other religious groups. Religious groups are required to register with the government to receive tax and other benefits. On May 29, eight police officers reportedly arrested Francis Heffner, a member of the Rastafarian community, because Heffner was smoking marijuana and reportedly beat him because he resisted arrest. On May 30, after release from police custody, Heffner died at a Freetown hospital. As of November, authorities had arrested and charged eight officers with manslaughter. On November 17, the Magistrate Court found one of the officers not guilty for lack of evidence, and referred the cases of the other seven to the High Court for a hearing date to be determined. They were granted bail in December.
Intermarriage among religious groups was common and accepted. The Inter‑Religious Council (IRC), composed of Christian and Muslim leaders, worked with associations representing Christian and Muslim religious groups to promote interfaith harmony.
The U.S. embassy promoted religious freedom through dialogue with the government and with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) such as the IRC and the Council of Imams, including at an iftar at a mosque, where the Ambassador and local Muslim clergy discussed religious freedom and tolerance.