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Features of Constitution1

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


Constitution Year 2008
Last Amended not amended
Source Constitution Drafting Committee (Bhutan)
Translation Source is an English translation
Current as of May 11, 2011

Constitution Excerpts (clauses that reference religion)2

[ARDA Note: The below text has been extensively annotated by ARDA staff. Translations or explanations of selected terms were provided in the Glossary section of the constitution and have been incorporated by ARDA staff directly into the below document as bracketed text.]


We, the people of Bhutan:
BLESSED by the Triple Gem [Buddha, Dharma and Sangha], the protection of our guardian deities, the wisdom of our leaders, the everlasting fortunes of the Pelden Drukpa [Glorious Bhutan] and the guidance of His Majesty the Druk Gyalpo [King], Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck;
SOLEMNLY pledging ourselves to strengthen the sovereignty of Bhutan, to secure the blessings of liberty, to ensure justice and tranquility and to enhance the unity, happiness and well being of the people for all time;
DO HEREBY ordain and adopt this Constitution for the Kingdom of Bhutan on the Fifteenth Day of the Fifth Month of the Male Earth Rat Year corresponding to the Eighteenth Day of July, Two Thousand and Eight.

Article 2: The Institution of Monarchy

2. The Chhoe-sid-nyi [dual system of religion and politics (temporal and secular)] shall be unified in the person of the Druk Gyalpo [King] who, as a Buddhist, shall be the upholder of the Chhoe-sid [Religion and politics (temporal and secular)]. 3. The title to the Golden Throne of Bhutan shall vest in the legitimate descendants of Druk Gyalpo [King] Ugyen Wangchuck as enshrined in the inviolable and historic Gyenja [Agreement] of the Thirteenth Day, Eleventh Month of the Earth Monkey Year, corresponding to the Seventeenth Day of December, Nineteen Hundred and Seven and shall:
(a) Pass only to children born of lawful marriage;
(b) Pass by hereditary succession to the direct lineal descendants on the abdication or demise of the Druk Gyalpo [King], in order of seniority, with a prince taking precedence over a princess, subject to the requirement that, in the event of shortcomings in the elder prince, it shall be the sacred duty of the Druk Gyalpo [King] to select and proclaim the most capable prince or princess as heir to the Throne;
(c) Pass to the child of the Queen who is pregnant at the time of the demise of the Druk Gyalpo [King] if no heir exists under section 3(b);
(d) Pass to the nearest collateral line of the descendants of the Druk Gyalpo [King] in accordance with the principle of lineal descent, with preference being given for elder over the younger, if the Druk Gyalpo [King] has no direct lineal descendant;
(e) Not pass to children incapable of exercising the Royal Prerogatives by reason of physical or mental infirmity; and
(f) Not pass to a person entitled to succeed to the Throne who enters into a marriage with a person other than a natural born citizen of Bhutan.
4. The successor to the Throne shall receive dar [scarf that symbolizes the conferring of rank] from the Machhen [holy relic] of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal [who unified Bhutan in the 17th century] at Punakha Dzong and shall be crowned on the Golden Throne.
15. The Druk Gyalpo [King] shall not be answerable in a court of law for His actions and His person shall be sacrosanct.

Article 3: Spiritual Heritage

1. Buddhism is the spiritual heritage of Bhutan, which promotes the principles and values of peace, non-violence, compassion and tolerance.
2. The Druk Gyalpo [King] is the protector of all religions in Bhutan.
3. It shall be the responsibility of religious institutions and personalities to promote the spiritual heritage of the country while also ensuring that religion remains separate from politics in Bhutan. Religious institutions and personalities shall remain above politics.
4. The Druk Gyalpo [King] shall, on the recommendation of the Five Lopons [Teachers], appoint a learned and respected monk ordained in accordance with the Druk-lu [the tradition of the Drukpa Kargyu, established by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal], with the nine qualities of a spiritual master and accomplished in ked-dzog [stages of development and completion in Vajrayana practice], as the Je Khenpo [the Chief Abbot of the Central Monastic Body of Bhutan].
5. His Holiness the Je Khenpo [the Chief Abbot of the Central Monastic Body of Bhutan] shall, on the recommendation of the Dratshang Lhentshog [the Commission for the Monastic Affairs], appoint monks with the nine qualities of a spiritual master and accomplished in ked-dzog [stages of development and completion in Vajrayana practice] as the Five Lopons [Teachers].
6. The members of the Dratshang Lhentshog [the Commission for the Monastic Affairs] shall comprise:
(a) The Je Khenpo [the Chief Abbot of the Central Monastic Body of Bhutan] as Chairman;
(b) The Five Lopons [Teachers] of the Zhung Dratshang [Central Monastic Body]; and
(c) The Secretary of the Dratshang Lhentshog [the Commission for the Monastic Affairs] who is a civil servant.
7. The Zhung Dratshang [Central Monastic Body] and Rabdeys [Monastic bodies in dzongs (fortresses/administrative centers) other than Punakha and Thimphu] shall continue to receive adequate funds and other facilities from the State.

Article 4: Culture

1. The State shall endeavor to preserve, protect and promote the cultural heritage of the country, including monuments, places and objects of artistic or historic interest, Dzongs [fortresses, which are commonly used as administrative centers and traditionally are the abodes of monks], Lhakhangs [temples], Goendeys [monastic communities], Ten-sum [three types of sacred treasures comprising of images, scriptures and stupas, Nyes [sacred pilgrimage sites], language, literature, music, visual arts and religion to enrich society and the cultural life of the citizens.

Article 7: Fundamental Rights

4. A Bhutanese citizen shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. No person shall be compelled to belong to another faith by means of coercion or inducement.
15. All persons are equal before the law and are entitled to equal and effective protection of the law and shall not be discriminated against on the grounds of race, sex, language, religion, politics or other status.
22. Notwithstanding the rights conferred by this Constitution, nothing in this Article shall prevent the State from subjecting reasonable restriction by law, when it concerns:
(a) The in interests of the sovereignty, security, unity and integrity of Bhutan;
(b) The interests of peace, stability and well-being of the nation;
(c) The interests of friendly relations with foreign States;
(d) Incitement to an offence on the grounds of race, sex, language, religion or region;
(e) The disclosure of information received in regard to the affairs of the State or in discharge of official duties; or
(f) The rights and freedom of others.

Article 8: Fundamental Duties

3. A Bhutanese citizen shall foster tolerance, mutual respect and spirit of brotherhood amongst all the people of Bhutan transcending religious, linguistic, regional or sectional diversities.

Article 9: Principles of State Policy

20. The State shall strive to create conditions that will enable the true and sustainable development of a good and compassionate society rooted in Buddhist ethos and universal human values.

Article 10: Parliament

6. At the commencement of each session of Parliament, the Druk Gyalpo [King] shall be received in a joint sitting of Parliament with Chibdrel Ceremony [a ceremonial procession to receive and honor distinguished personalities]. Each session shall be opened with a Zhugdrel-phunsum tshog-pai ten-drel [traditional ceremony for the acquisition of the triple attributes of grace, glory and wealth during a formal and auspicious occasion] and each session shall conclude with the Tashi-mon-lam [prayers for fulfillment of good wishes and aspirations].

Article 15: Political Parties

3. Candidates and political parties shall not resort to regionalism, ethnicity and religion to incite voters for electoral gain.
4. A political party shall be registered by the Election Commission on its satisfying the qualifications and requirements set out hereinafter, that:
(b) Its membership is not based on region, sex, language, religion or social origin;

First Schedule: The National Flag and the National Emblem of Bhutan

The National Flag

The upper yellow half that touches the base symbolizes the secular tradition. It personifies His Majesty the King, whose noble actions enhance the Kingdom. Hence, it symbolizes that His Majesty is the upholder of the spiritual and secular foundations of the Kingdom.
The lower orange half that extends to the top symbolizes the spiritual tradition. It also symbolizes the flourishing of the Buddhist teachings in general and that of the Kagyu and Nyingma traditions in particular.
The dragon that fully presses down the fimbriation symbolizes the name of the Kingdom, which is endowed with the spiritual and secular traditions.
The white dragon symbolizes the undefiled thoughts of the people that express their loyalty, patriotism and great sense of belonging to the Kingdom although they have different ethnic and linguistic origins.

The National Emblem

Within the circle of the national emblem, two crossed-vajras are placed over a lotus. They are flanked on either side by a male and female white dragon. A wish-fulfilling jewel is located above them. There are four other jewels inside the circle where the two vajras intersect. They symbolize the spiritual and secular traditions of the Kingdom based on the four spiritual undertakings of Vajrayana Buddhism. The lotus symbolizes absence of defilements, the wish-fulfilling jewel, the sovereign power of the people, and the two dragons, the name of the Kingdom.

Second Schedule: The National Anthem of Bhutan

In the Kingdom of Bhutan adorned with cypress trees,
The Protector who reigns over the realm of spiritual and secular traditions,
He is the King of Bhutan, the precious sovereign.

May His being remain unchanging, and the Kingdom prosper,
May the teachings of the Enlightened One flourish,
May the sun of peace and happiness shine over all people.


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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