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Features of Constitution1

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


Constitution Year 1994
Last Amended not amended
Source International Constitutional Law (ICL)
Translation Source is an English translation
Current as of May 11, 2011

Constitution Excerpts (clauses that reference religion)2


We, the Nations, Nationalities and Peoples of Ethiopia:
Strongly committed, in full and free exercise of our right to self-determination, to building a political community founded on the rule of law and capable of ensuring a lasting peace, guaranteeing a democratic order, and advancing our economic and social development;
Firmly convinced that the fulfillment of this objective requires full respect of individual and people's fundamental freedoms and rights, to live together on the basis of equality and without any sexual, religious or cultural discrimination;
Further convinced that by continuing to live with our rich and proud cultural legacies in territories we have long inhabited, have, through continuous interaction on various levels and forms of life, built up common interest and have also contributed to the emergence of a common outlook;
Fully cognizant that our common destiny can best be served by rectifying historically unjust relationships and by further promoting our shared interests;
Convinced that to live as one economic community is necessary in order to create sustainable and mutually supportive conditions for ensuring respect for our rights and freedoms and for the collective promotion of our interests;
Determined to consolidate, as a lasting legacy, the peace and the prospect of a democratic order which our struggles and sacrifices have brought about;
Have therefore adopted, on 8 December 1994 this constitution through representatives we have duly elected for this purpose as an instrument that binds us in a mutual commitment to fulfill the objectives and the principles set forth above.

Article 3: The Ethiopian Flag

(1) The Ethiopian flag shall consist of green at the top, yellow in the middle and red at the bottom, and shall have a national emblem at the center. The three colors shall be set horizontally in equal dimension.
(2) The national emblem on the flag shall reflect the hope of the Nations, Nationalities, Peoples as well as religious communities of Ethiopia to live together in equality and unity.
(3) Members of the Federation may have their respective flags and emblems and shall determine the details thereof through their respective legislatures.

Article 11: Separation of State and Religion

(1) State and religion are separate.
(2) There shall be no state religion.
(3) The state shall not interfere in religious matters and religion shall not interfere in state affairs.

Article 18: Prohibition against Inhuman Treatment

(1) Everyone has the right to protection against cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
(2) No one shall be held in slavery or servitude. Trafficking in human beings for whatever purpose is prohibited.
(3) No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labor.
(4) For the purpose of sub-article 3 of this article the phrase "forced or compulsory labor" shall not include:
(a) Any work or service normally required of a person who is under detention in consequence of a lawful order, or of a person during conditional release from such detention;
(b) In the case of conscientious objectors, any service exacted in lieu of compulsory military service;
(c) Any service exacted in cases of emergency or calamity threatening the life or well-being of the community;
(d) Any economic and social development activity voluntarily performed by a community within its locality

Article 21: The Rights of Persons Held in Custody and Convicted Prisoners

(1) All persons held in custody and persons imprisoned upon conviction and sentencing have the right to treatments respecting their human dignity.
(2) All persons shall have the opportunity to communicate with, and to be visited by, their spouses or partners, close relatives, friends, religious councilors, medical doctors and their legal counsel.

Article 25: Right to Equality

All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In this respect, the law shall guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection without discrimination on grounds of race, nation, nationality, or other social origin, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, property, birth or other status.

Article 27: Freedom of Religion, Belief and Opinion

(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include the freedom to hold or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and the freedom, either individually or in community with others, and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.
(2) Without prejudice to the provisions of sub-article 2 of Article 90, believers may establish institutions of religious education and administration in order to propagate and organize their religion.
(3) No one shall be subject to coercion or other means which would restrict or prevent his freedom to hold a belief of his choice.
(4) Parents and legal guardians have the right to bring up their children ensuring their religious and moral education in conformity with their own convictions.
(5) Freedom to express or manifest one's religion or belief may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, peace, health, education, public morality or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others, and to ensure the independence of the state from religion.

Article 34: Marital, Personal and Family Rights

(1) Men and women, without any distinction as to race, nation, nationality or religion, who have attained marriageable age as defined by law, have the right to marry and found a family...
(4) In accordance with provisions to be specified by law, a law giving recognition to marriage concluded under systems of religious or customary laws may be enacted.
(5) This Constitution shall not preclude the adjudication of disputes relating to personal and family laws in accordance with religious or customary laws, with the consent of the parties to the dispute. Particulars shall be determined by law.

Article 38: The Right to Vote and to be Elected

(1) Every Ethiopian national, without any discrimination based on color, race, nation, nationality, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion or other status, has the following rights:
(a) To take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly and through freely chosen representatives;
(b) On the attainment of 18 years of age, to vote in accordance with law;
(c) To vote and to be elected at periodic elections to any office at any level of government; elections shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors.
(2) The right of everyone to be a member of his own will in a political organization, labor union, trade organization, or employers' or professional association shall be respected if he or she meets the special and general requirements stipulated by such organization.
(3) Elections to positions of responsibility with any of the organizations referred to under sub-article 2 of this article shall be conducted in a free and democratic manner.
(4) The provisions of sub-articles 2 and 3 of this article shall apply to civic organizations which significantly affect the public interest.

Article 78: Independence of the Judiciary

(1) An independent judiciary is established by this Constitution.
(2) Supreme Federal judicial authority is vested in the Federal Supreme Court. The House of Peoples' Representatives may, by two-thirds majority vote, establish nationwide, or in some parts of the country only, the Federal High Court and First-Instance Courts it deems necessary. Unless decided in this manner, the jurisdictions of the Federal High Court and of the First-Instance Courts are hereby delegated to the State courts.
(3) States shall establish State Supreme, High and First-Instance Courts. Particulars shall be determined by law.
(4) Special or ad hoc courts which take judicial powers away form the regular courts or institutions legally empowered to exercise judicial functions and which do not follow legally prescribed procedures shall not be established.
(5) Pursuant to sub-article 5 of Article 34 the House of Peoples' Representatives and State Councils can establish or give official recognition to religious and customary courts. Religious and customary courts that had state recognition and functioned prior to the adoption of the Constitution shall be organized on the basis of recognition accorded to them by this Constitution.

Article 90: Social Objectives

(1) To the extent the country's resources permit, policies shall aim to provide all Ethiopians access to public health and education, clean water, housing, food and social security.
(2) Education shall be provided in a manner that is free from any religious influence, political partisanship or cultural prejudices.


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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