Last Updated 10 November 2016

Tuvalu is a parliamentary democracy located midway between Hawaii and Australia in the Pacific Ocean.

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Constitution and government

The constitution and other laws and policies protect freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as well as freedom of expression, assembly and association. Most of these rights are protected in practice, although there are some restrictions on religious organizations.

The constitution provides for separation of church and state; however, the Church of Tuvalu is by law the state church, although the main benefit of this status is “the privilege of performing special services on major national events.” The preamble of the constitution states the country is “an independent State based on Christian principles, the Rule of Law, and Tuvaluan custom and tradition.” Government ceremonies at the national level, such as the opening of parliament, and at the island-council level, often include Christian prayers and clergy.

The Religious Organizations Restriction Act places some limits on religious organizations: any new religious group with more than 50 members must register with the government or face prosecution; all religious groups in the country must also register with and obtain approval from the traditional elder councils, known as Falekaupule, of any island on which they conduct services. The act also allows the Falekaupule to withhold permission to certain religious groups to meet publicly should they be locally judged to “directly threaten the values and culture of the island community.

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