Ethiopia is officially a secular state with no state religion and theoretically strong constitutional protections for freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression. However, “scoffing” at religion or expressing anything “blasphemous… to the feeling or convictions of others or towards the Divine Being” is punishable in law.

Article 816 in the Criminal Code exceeds this goal, stating that anyone who publicly, by:

“…gestures or words scoffs at religion or expresses himself in a manner which is blasphemous, scandalous or grossly offensive to the feelings or convictions of others or towards the Divine Being or the religious symbols, rites or religious personages, is punishable with fine or arrest not exceeding one month.”

Article 492 in the Criminal Code further states:

“Whoever publicly prevents the solemnization of, or disturbs or scoffs at, an authorized religious ceremony or office; or profanes a place, image or object used for religious ceremonies, is punishable with fine not exceeding one thousand Birr, or with simple imprisonment not exceeding two years.”