Last Updated 9 September 2019

Formerly the British protectorate of Bechuanaland, the country became Botswana after independence in 1966 and remains a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. It has a reputation as a stable representative democracy, following consecutive uninterrupted democratic elections.

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Constitution and government

The constitution and other laws mandate a secular state and protect freedom of religion or belief. The constitution also prohibits making an individual take an oath that is contrary to that persons religious beliefs. However, there are widespread state privileges for Christianity and routine bias against the non-religious.Government meetings often begin with a Christian prayer.

The Government has expressed concerns about unregulated churches coming into the country in what it sees as taking advantage of local citizens.

Education and children’s rights

Even though the constitution prohibits forced religious instruction, there is some compulsory participation in religious ceremonies, or taking oaths that run counter to an individual’s religious beliefs.

Religious education is part of the curriculum in public schools. This public education emphasizes Christianity but also addresses other religious groups in the country, while excluding humanists and other non-theists. Additionally, the constitution provides that every religious community may establish places for religious instruction at the community’s expense.

Family, Community, Society

Atheists may still face significant social pressure to profess a religion.

Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values

The constitution protects freedom of expression and freedom of association. Botswana has a free and vigorous press. The government does not restrict internet access.

In September 2016, an American pastor of the Faithful World Baptist Church was deported after appearing in a live radio interview where he was reported to have called for LGBT persons to be ‘stoned to death.’ The President of Botswana Ian Khama ordered the pastors immediate deportation saying ‘We don’t want hate speech in this country’.


“My family didn’t approve of my atheism, but they still loved me and never treated me any different from before I came out. My friends reacted in different ways. I lost two of my childhood friends; some of them stopped communicating with me. But with the rest, we still keep in touch; we still remain friends. I have never been ill-treated because of my atheism. Well maybe I don’t know… A while ago, people weren’t open about their atheism, but nowadays people are coming out. Others are still not sure of how they would be viewed by their parents and maybe they don’t want things to change. People don’t want to lose their friends, or to lose their jobs or be sabotaged because of their atheism, and since there is this narrative in christianity known as Satanism. Atheists fear they might be associated with being evil or bad and not having morals etc…”
– Jerry, interviewed by Leo Igwe

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