Muslim communities and the media reported plainclothes police officers attended and monitored Friday prayer sessions in mosques.
During a people’s parliament held at a royal residence, male Rastafarians who wanted to participate in the discussions and make submissions on issues of national interest were required to uncover their heads in order to enter the residence, which they stated was against their religious beliefs.
In August the Times of Swaziland reported that a presiding judicial officer ordered a defendant to remove a pin from his jacket symbolizing his affiliation with the Zion Christian Church. After the defendant removed the pin, the officer allowed him to take the witness stand and proceeded with the trial.
Religious leaders said the government protected the right of Muslim workers to close businesses in order to attend Friday afternoon prayer sessions at mosques despite the government mandated business operating hours. Businesses owned by members of the Bahai community were allowed to close shops in observance of Bahai religious holidays. Public schools, however, did not allow Muslim pupils early departure to attend Friday prayers.
According to local religious leaders, unwritten traditional laws and customs allowed approximately 360 chiefs and their councilors to restrict some rights of minority religious groups within their jurisdictions if the chiefs determined the groups’ practices conflicted with tradition and culture. Some chiefs continued to state they would not allow the operation of businesses in their jurisdictions by individuals who appeared to be associated with Islam.
According to religious leaders and civil society organizations, only Christian religious youth clubs were permitted to operate in public schools by the schools’ administration. Other non-Christian religious clubs were prohibited from meeting in the schools. The voluntary Christian clubs conducted daily prayer services in many public schools. The schools’ administration permitted the Christian clubs to raise funds and at times the clubs received funding from the school or from the general public.
Non-Christian groups reported the government provided some preferential benefits to Christians, such as free transportation to religious activities for Zionists and airtime on state television and radio for Christians, which the government did not make available to them. Government-owned television and radio stations broadcast daily morning and evening Christian programming. The government provided each of the three Christian umbrella religious bodies with free airtime to broadcast daily religious services on the state-run radio station. Non-Christian religious groups stated they did not receive airtime despite their repeated calls for inclusion in state-run television and radio programs.
The monarchy, and by extension the government, aligned itself with Christian faith-based groups and also supported many Christian activities. The king, the queen mother, and other members of the royal family commonly attended Zionist programs, including Good Friday and Easter weekend services, where the host church usually invited the king to preach. Official government programs generally opened with a Christian prayer and several government ministers held Christian prayer vigils, which civil servants were expected to attend, to address social issues such as crime and increases in traffic accidents.
In April the government indicated its intent to regulate the operation of religious groups following a 2014 parliamentary call for a national policy to control the rapidly growing number of religious groups in the country.