U.S. Department of State Annual Report on International Religious Freedom for 2006 - Botswana
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||15 September 2006|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Annual Report on International Religious Freedom for 2006 - Botswana , 15 September 2006, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/450fb09e2.html [accessed 14 March 2014]|
International Religious Freedom Report 2006
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, September 15, 2006. Covers the period from July 1, 2005, to June 30, 2006.
The constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respected 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 religious groups in society contributed to religious freedom.
The U.S. government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights.
Section I. Religious Demography
The country has an area of 224,710 square miles, and its population is approximately 1.76 million. An estimated 70 percent of the country's citizens identified themselves as Christians. Anglicans, Methodists, and the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa, formerly the London Missionary Society, claimed the majority of Christians. There were also 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. In recent years, the number of new religious groups, some of West African origin, increased; these churches have begun holding services and drawing substantial crowds with a charismatic blend of Christianity and traditional indigenous religions. According to the most recent census (2001), the country's Muslim community, primarily of South Asian origin, numbered just over 5,000. The 2001 census also listed approximately 3,000 Hindus and 700 Baha'is. Members of each community estimated that these figures significantly understated their respective numbers. Approximately 20 percent of citizens espoused no religion.
Religious services were well attended in both rural and urban areas.
Foreign missionary groups operated in the country, including Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Quakers, Baptists, Lutherans, Roman Catholics, Mennonites, and a number of independent evangelical and charismatic Christian groups.
Section II. Status of Religious Freedom
The constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respected this right in practice. The Government at all levels sought to protect this right in full and did not tolerate its abuse, either by governmental or private actors. There is no state religion. Although it is common for government meetings to begin with a Christian prayer, members of other religions are not excluded from leading non-Christian prayers at such occasions. 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 groups, 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 a local bank. Any person who holds an official position in, manages, or assists in the management of an unregistered organization is liable to a fine of up to $188 (P1,000) and/or up to seven years in prison. Any member of an unregistered society is liable to penalties including fines up to $94 (P500) and/or up to three years in prison. Ninety-four religious organizations registered from July 2005 to May 2006. No religious organization was deregistered during that period. In this time frame, 114 religious groups started the process of registration, but their applications were terminated after they failed to submit the required application forms, constitution, and fees within ninety days.
Religious education, with a primary emphasis on Christianity but that also addresses other religions in the country, is part of the curriculum in public schools. 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 proselytizism.
Only Christian holy days are recognized as public holidays. These include Good Friday, Easter Monday, Ascension Day, and Christmas Day. However, members of other religious groups are allowed to commemorate their 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."
There were no reports of religious prisoners or detainees in the country.
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 Abuses and Discrimination
The generally amicable relationship among religious groups in society contributed to religious freedom. An interfaith council exists, which includes representatives of Christian, Muslim, Hindu, and Baha'i organizations.
Unlike in the previous reporting period, there were no indications of tension between Muslim and other religious communities.
Section IV. U.S. Government Policy
The U.S. government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights. U.S. embassy representatives maintain regular contact with leaders and members of all religious communities in the country.