Papua New Guinea
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Features of Constitution1

Is there a constitution? Yes
Does the constitution provide for freedom of religion? Yes


Constitution Year 1975
Last Amended not amended
Source World Intellectual Property Organization
Translation Original was written in English
Current as of May 11, 2011

Constitution Excerpts (clauses that reference religion)2


Adoption of Constitution
- united in one nation
- pay homage to the memory of our ancestors—the source of our strength and origin of our combined heritage
- acknowledge the worthy customs and traditional wisdoms of our people—which have come down to us from generation to generation
- pledge ourselves to guard and pass on to those who come after us our noble traditions and the Christian principles that are ours now.
By authority of our inherent right as ancient, free and independent peoples
WE, THE PEOPLE, do now establish this sovereign nation and declare ourselves, under the guiding hand of God, to be the Independent State of Papua New Guinea.

WE HEREBY PROCLAIM the following aims as our National Goals, and direct all persons and bodies, corporate and unincorporate, to be guided by these our declared Directives in pursuing and achieving our aims:–
…2. Equality and participation
We declare our second goal to be for all citizens to have an equal opportunity to participate in, and benefit from, the development of our country.
(1) an equal opportunity for every citizen to take part in the political, economic, social, religious and cultural life of the country; and
…(5) equal participation by women citizens in all political, economic, social and religious activities; and…

…5. Papua New Guinean ways
We declare our fifth goal to be to achieve development primarily through the use of Papua New Guinean forms of social, political and economic organization.
(1) a fundamental re-orientation of our attitudes and the institutions of government, commerce, education and religion towards Papua New Guinean forms of participation, consultation, and consensus, and a continuous renewal of the responsiveness of these institutions to the needs and attitudes of the People; and

…Basic Rights.
WE HEREBY ACKNOWLEDGE that, subject to any restrictions imposed by law on non-citizens, all persons in our country are entitled to the fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual, that is to say, the right, whatever the race, tribe, places of origin, political opinion, color, creed or sex, but subject to respect for the rights and freedoms of others and for the legitimate public interest, to each of the following:–
(a) life, liberty, security of the person and the protection of the law; and
(b) the right to take part in political activities; and
(c) freedom from inhuman treatment and forced labor; and
(d) freedom of conscience, of expression, of information and of assembly and association; and
(e) freedom of employment and freedom of movement; and
(f) protection for the privacy of their homes and other property and from unjust deprivation of property,

7. Oath of Allegiance

Where a law requires an Oath of Allegiance or Affirmation of Allegiance to be made, it shall be made in the following form:–
"Oath of Allegiance.
I,..., do swear that I will well and truly serve and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Her heirs and successors according to law.
Affirmation of Allegiance.
I,..., do promise and affirm that I will well and truly serve Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Her heirs and successors according to law."

32. Right to Freedom

(1) Freedom based on law consists in the least amount of restriction on the activities of individuals that is consistent with the maintenance and development of Papua New Guinea and of society in accordance with this Constitution and, in particular, with the National Goals and Directive Principles and the Basic Social Obligations.
(2) Every person has the right to freedom based on law, and accordingly has a legal right to do anything that–
(a) does not injure or interfere with the rights and freedoms of others; and
(b) is not prohibited by law,
and no person–
(c) is obliged to do anything that is not required by law; and
(d) may be prevented from doing anything that complies with the provisions of paragraphs (a) and (b).
(3) This section is not intended to reflect on the extra-legal existence, nature or effect of social, civic, family or religious obligations, or other obligations of an extra-legal nature, or to prevent such obligations being given effect to by law.

38. General Qualifications on Qualified Rights

(1) For the purposes of this Subdivision, a law that complies with the requirements of this section is a law that is made and certified in accordance with Subsection (2), and that–
(a) regulates or restricts the exercise of a right or freedom referred to in this Subdivision to the extent that the regulation or restriction is necessary–
(i) taking account of the National Goals and Directive Principles and the Basic Social Obligations, for the purpose of giving effect to the public interest in–
(A) defense; or
(B) public safety; or
(C) public order; or
(D) public welfare; or
(E) public health (including animal and plant health); or
(F) the protection of children and persons under disability (whether legal or practical); or
(G) the development of under-privileged or less advanced groups or areas; or
(ii) in order to protect the exercise of the rights and freedoms of others; or
(b) makes reasonable provision for cases where the exercise of one such right may conflict with the exercise of another, to the extent that the law is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society having a proper respect for the rights and dignity of mankind.
(2) For the purposes of Subsection (1), a law must–
(a) be expressed to be a law that is made for that purpose; and
(b) specify the right or freedom that it regulates or restricts; and
(c) be made, and certified by the Speaker in his certificate under Section 110 (certification as to making of laws) to have been made, by an absolute majority.
(3) The burden of showing that a law is a law that complies with the requirements of Subsection (1) is on the party relying on its validity.

45. Freedom of Conscience, Thought and Religion

(1) Every person has the right to freedom of conscience, thought and religion and the practice of his religion and beliefs, including freedom to manifest and propagate his religion and beliefs in such a way as not to interfere with the freedom of others, except to the extent that the exercise of that right is regulated or restricted by a law that complies with Section 38 (general qualifications on qualified rights).
(2) No person shall be compelled to receive religious instruction or to take part in a religious ceremony or observance, but this does not apply to the giving of religious instruction to a child with the consent of his parent or guardian or to the inclusion in a course of study of secular instruction concerning any religion or belief.
(3) No person is entitled to intervene unsolicited into the religious affairs of a person of a different belief, or to attempt to force his or any religion (or irreligion) on another, by harassment or otherwise.
(4) No person may be compelled to take an oath that is contrary to his religion or belief, or to take an oath in a manner or form that is contrary to his religion or belief.
(5) A reference in this section to religion includes a reference to the traditional religious beliefs and customs of the peoples of Papua New Guinea.

55. Equality of Citizens

(1) Subject to this Constitution, all citizens have the same rights, privileges, obligations and duties irrespective of race, tribe, place of origin, political opinion, color, creed, religion or sex.
(2) Subsection (1) does not prevent the making of laws for the special benefit, welfare, protection or advancement of females, children and young persons, members of underprivileged or less advanced groups or residents of less advanced areas.
(3) Subsection (1) does not affect the operation of a pre-Independence law.

233. Content, Operations, etc., of Emergency Laws

…(3) An emergency law–
(a) may not alter–
(i) Section 35 (right to life); or
(ii) Section 36 (freedom from inhuman treatment); or
(iii) Section 45 (freedom of conscience, thought and religion); or
(iv) Section 50 (right to vote and stand for public office); or
(v) Section 55 (equality of citizens); or
(vi) Section 56 (other rights and privileges of citizens); and
(b) may provide for internment only in accordance with Division 5 (internment); and
(c) may alter Section 37 (protection of the law) or Section 42 (liberty of the person) only to the extent allowed by paragraph (b).


1.  Data under the "Features of Constitution" heading are drawn from coding of the U.S. State Department's 2008 International Religious Freedom Reports conducted by researchers at the Association of Religion Data Archives. The article by Brian Grim and Roger Finke describes the coding of the International Religious Freedom reports. A dataset with these and the other international measures highlighted on the country pages can be downloaded from this website. Used with permission.

2.  The constitutional excerpts shown above are reproduced from the websites given in the "Source" field; the links to these websites were active as of May 2011. Where the constitutional text shown on these websites was provided in a language other than English, this text was translated to English by ARDA staff with assistance from web-based translation utilities such as Google Translate and Yahoo! Babel Fish. Constitutional text was converted to American English where applicable. Constitutional clauses were judged to contain religious content based largely on the standards used in the construction of the Religion and State Constitutions Dataset collected by Jonathan Fox. Emphases were added to the text by ARDA staff to highlight religious content in articles that also contain content that does not pertain to matters of religion. The data on this page were correct to the best of the knowledge of the ARDA as of the date listed in the "Current as of" field shown above. Please contact us at if you are aware of any incorrect information provided on this page.

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