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U.S. Department of State Annual Report on International Religious Freedom for 2003 - Botswana

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 18 December 2003
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Annual Report on International Religious Freedom for 2003 - Botswana , 18 December 2003, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3fe81542a.html [accessed 22 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Released by the U.S. Department of State Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor on December 18, 2003, covers the period from July 1, 2002, to June 30, 2003.

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice.

There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom during the period covered by this report, and government policy continued to contribute to the generally free practice of religion.

The generally amicable relationship among religions in society contributed to religious freedom.

The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government in the context of its overall dialog and policy of promoting human rights.

Section I. Religious Demography

The country has a total area of 227,344 square miles, and its population is 1.67 million. Approximately half of the country's citizens identify themselves as Christians. Anglicans, Methodists, and the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa--formerly the London Missionary Society--claim the majority of Christian adherents. There also are congregations of Lutherans, Roman Catholics, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), Seventh-day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Baptists, the Dutch Reformed Church, Mennonites, and other Christian denominations. Most other citizens adhere to traditional indigenous religions or to a mixture of religions. In recent years, the number of new churches, some of West African origin, has increased; these churches have begun holding services and drawing good-sized crowds with a charismatic blend of Christianity and traditional indigenous religions. There is a small Muslim community – approximately 23,000 practitioners, a little more than 1 percent of the total population – primarily of South Asian origin; a Hindu population of approximately the same size and ethnic composition; and a very small Baha'i community. It is unknown whether there are any atheists in the country.

Religious services are well attended in both rural and urban areas.

Foreign missionary groups operate in the country, including Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Quakers, Baptists, Lutherans, Catholics, Mennonites, and a number of independent evangelical and charismatic Christian groups.

Section II. Status of Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice. The Government at all levels strives to protect this right in full, and does not tolerate its abuse, either by governmental or private actors. There is no state religion. The Constitution also provides for the protection of the rights and freedoms of other persons, including the right to observe and practice any religion without the unsolicited intervention of members of any other religion.

All organizations, including religious organizations, must register with the Government. To register, a group submits its constitution to the Registrar of Societies within the Ministry of Labor and Home Affairs. After a generally simple, but slow, bureaucratic process, the organization is registered. There are no legal benefits for registered organizations, although an organization must be registered before it can conduct business, sign contracts, or open an account in the local banks. Unregistered groups potentially are liable to penalties including fines up to $200 (BWP 1,000), up to 7 years in jail, or both. In 2002, 17 religious organizations were registered; 3 were denied registration on the grounds that they provided false information or information under forged signatures.

The Constitution provides that every religious community may establish places for religious instruction at the community's expense. The Constitution prohibits forced religious instruction, forced participation in religious ceremonies, or taking oaths that run counter to an individual's religious beliefs.

There are no laws against proselytizing.

Only Christian religious holidays are recognized as public holidays – Christmas Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, and Ascension Day; however, members of other religious groups are allowed to commemorate their particular religious holidays without government interference.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

Government policy and practice contributed to the generally free practice of religion.

The Constitution provides for the suspension of religious freedom in the interests of national defense, public safety, public order, public morality, or public health; however, any suspension of religious freedom by the Government must be deemed "reasonably justifiable in a democratic society." This provision of the Constitution has not been invoked since 1984 when the Unification Church was denied registration.

In 1984 the Unification Church was denied registration by the Ministry of Labor and Home Affairs on the public order grounds stipulated in the Constitution. The Government also perceived the Unification Church to be anti-Semitic and denied it registration because of another constitutional provision that protects the rights and freedoms of individuals to practice their religion without intervention. Between 1984 and 1999, the Unification Church petitioned the offices of the President and Vice President without success, but made no effort to challenge the Ministry's decision in the courts. It was unclear whether the Unification Church maintained a presence in the country during the period covered by this report.

There were no reports of religious prisoners or detainees.

Forced Religious Conversion

There were no reports of forced religious conversion, including of minor U.S. citizens who had been abducted or illegally removed from the United States, or of the refusal to allow such citizens to be returned to the United States.

Section III. Societal Attitudes

The generally amicable relationship among religions in society contributed to religious freedom.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government in the context of its overall dialog and policy of promoting human rights. During the period covered by this report, the Embassy met with Islamic leaders to expand a dialog between Americans and Botswanans on Islam in both countries. U.S. Embassy representatives maintain regular contact with leaders and members of all religious communities in the country.

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