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Grenada

Executive Summary

The constitution protects freedom of conscience, including freedom of thought and religion.  The criminal code prohibits the publishing and sale of blasphemous language; however, the code is not enforced.  The government continued to fund public schools administered by long-established Christian groups, including the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Seventh-day Adventists, and Mennonite communities.  Denominational and ecumenical Christian worship services continued to form part of official festivities on national holidays.  In March the government moved its Religious Affairs Unit to the Ministry of Education.

The Conference of Churches, an ecumenical body, continued to serve as a forum to promote mutual understanding among religious organizations.

The Ambassador and the Principal Officer engaged the government on the importance of respect for religious freedom, diversity, and tolerance and participated in government events that promoted respect for these values.  Embassy officials also met with members of the various religious communities to discuss their views on respect for religious diversity and tolerance in the country.  The Principal Officer participated in denominational, ecumenical, Muslim, and Jewish community events to emphasize U.S. government commitment to these issues.

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 112,000 (July 2017 estimate).  According to the U.S. government (2011 estimate), 49.2 percent of the population identifies as Protestant (includes Pentecostal 17.2 percent; Seventh-day Adventist 13.2 percent; Anglican 8.5 percent; Baptist 3.2 percent; Church of God 2.4 percent; evangelical Protestant 1.9 percent; Methodist 1.6 percent; and other 1.2 percent).  Approximately 36 percent identifies as Roman Catholic; 1.2 percent as Jehovah’s Witnesses; 1.2 percent as Rastafarian; 5.5 percent as other; 5.7 percent as none; and 1.3 percent as unspecified.  Smaller groups include Brethren, Baha’is, Hindus, Moravians, Muslims, Mennonites, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the Salvation Army.  There is a small Jewish community.

Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal Framework

The constitution protects freedom of conscience, including freedom of thought and religion.  It guarantees the right to change one’s religion and to manifest and propagate it.  The constitution prohibits forced participation in any religious ceremony or instruction.  The criminal code prohibits written blasphemous language; however, the government does not enforce the law.

To qualify for customs and tax exemptions, a religious group must obtain recognition from the government as a nongovernmental organization (NGO).  The group must also register with the Corporate Affairs and Intellectual Property Office (CAIPO) and with the Inland Revenue Office in the Ministry of Finance and provide a letter of request to the ministry.  The attorney general grants final approval and the ministry grants the applications for tax exemptions.  Applications are routinely granted.  Recognition as an NGO requires the group to submit details to CAIPO regarding the organization, including information about its directors, as well as a description of the NGO’s general activities and the location of these activities.

The government allows religious head coverings of certain types, including the hijab and the Rastafarian head wrap, in photographs for national identity documents, provided the face is clearly visible.

The government subsidizes all existing denominational schools, managed by a board of directors and staffed by the associated faith-based organization, including those of the Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Seventh-day Adventist, and Mennonite communities.  There are no non-Christian denominational schools.  In accordance with the constitution’s protections for freedom of conscience and religion, students at such schools may attend religion classes and may use credits from those classes towards completion of the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate.  Students from religions other than the one associated with a school may also attend these schools and are not obligated to attend religion classes.

Foreign missionaries require a worker’s permit costing 1,000 to 5,000 East Caribbean dollars ($370 to $1,900) or a waiver costing 100 East Caribbean dollars ($37) from the Ministry of Labor.  They must demonstrate prior experience, and a registered religious group must sponsor them.

The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Government Practices

In March the government moved the Religious Affairs Unit from the Ministry of Youth to the Ministry of Education.  The government also started its review of the religious affairs program to determine appropriate resource allocation and to design a work program for 2019.

The government’s official declarations, speeches, and activities often included religious references; denominational and ecumenical Christian worship services were part of official festivities on national holidays.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

The Conference of Churches Grenada, an ecumenical body, continued to serve as a forum to promote mutual understanding among religious organizations.  The organization was active; however, unlike in previous years, it did not hold a plenary meeting inviting discussions from different faith-based organizations.

Saint Lucia

Executive Summary

The constitution provides for freedom of religion and individuals’ right to change, manifest, and propagate the religion of their choosing.  Rastafarian community representatives reported their reluctance to use marijuana for religious purposes because marijuana use was illegal and subject to punitive fines.  Rastafarians said they continued to face discrimination in the school system because the Ministry of Education required vaccinations for all children attending school; Rastafarians continued to oppose vaccination, which they stated was part of their religious beliefs.  Government officials and Rastafarian community members said some Rastafarian families decided to vaccinate their children or to homeschool.  They also reported national insurance plans did not cover traditional doctors used by the Rastafarian community.  Rastafarians said the number of targeted searches by police and immigration officers decreased during the year.  They also reported that officials from the Ministry of Equity, Social Justice, Empowerment, Youth Development, Sports, and Local Government engaged in constructive dialogue and outreach with the Rastafarian community.

According to the Islamic Association, some male and female members of the Muslim community continued to experience occasional harassment when they wore head coverings and clothing that identified them as Muslim.  The Catholic Church and the Evangelical Association of the Caribbean continued to hold interfaith meetings to promote respect for religious diversity and tolerance.

U.S. embassy officials discussed respect for religious minorities with officials of the Ministry of Equity, Social Justice, Empowerment, Youth Development, Sports, and Local Government, which is responsible for ecclesiastical affairs.  Embassy officials also met and discussed issues related to religious freedom with leaders of the Rastafarian, Christian, Muslim, and Jewish communities.

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 166,000 (July 2018 estimate).  The 2010 Population and Housing Census, the latest available, reports Roman Catholics are 61.1 percent of the population; Seventh-day Adventists, 10.4 percent; Pentecostals, 8.8 percent; evangelical Christians, 7.2 percent; Baptists, 2.1 percent; and Rastafarians, 2 percent.  Other groups, together constituting less than 2 percent of the population, include Anglicans, members of the Church of God, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Methodists, Muslims, Hindus, and Baha’is.  Nearly 6 percent of the population claims no religious affiliation.  Unofficial estimates of the Muslim population, which is mainly Sunni, range from 150 to 400.  According to the Jewish community, there are approximately 200 Jewish residents.

Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal Framework

The constitution states “a person shall not be hindered in the enjoyment of” freedom of conscience, including of thought and religion, and in the manifestation and propagation of religion or belief through practice, worship, teaching, and observance.  It protects individuals’ rights to change their religion and prohibits religious instruction without consent in schools, prisons, and military service.  A blasphemy law is not enforced.

The Ministry of Equity, Social Justice, Empowerment, Youth Development, Sports, and Local Government is responsible for ecclesiastical affairs, implements the government’s policy on faith-based organizations, and meets regularly with religious groups to address their concerns.  The government requires religious groups to register with the ministry if their membership exceeds 250 individuals.  To register, groups must provide contact information, an organization’s establishment date and history, declaration of belief, number of members, location of meeting place, and income sources.  The government “incorporates” registered groups, which are eligible to receive associated benefits, while it treats unregistered groups as for-profit organizations for taxation purposes.  After the religious group registers with the ministry, it may apply for concessions, including duty-free import privileges and exemption from some labor requirements.

Ministry of Education regulations require the vaccination of all schoolchildren, regardless of religious beliefs, before they enter public or private school.  The public school curriculum includes religious studies; the Ministry of Education does not require students to participate in these classes.  The classes familiarize students with the core beliefs of world religions, rather than promoting the adoption of any particular faith.  The constitution grants religious groups the right to establish and maintain schools and provide religious instruction at their own expense.  The Catholic, Seventh-day Adventist, and Anglican Churches each sponsor private schools, where they teach their respective religious beliefs to their students.  The government provides approximately 50 percent of the funding for these schools.  All students may attend private religious schools regardless of belief or nonbelief.

The government’s registration policy defines the process for missionary work and labor permits.  Immigration authorities grant work permits for individuals entering the country to conduct missionary work.  As long as an individual is law abiding, there are no restrictions on any category of foreign missionaries.

The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Government Practices

The Rastafarian community stated officials from the Ministry of Equity, Social Justice, Empowerment, Youth Development, Sports, and Local Government engaged in constructive dialogue with their community leaders and outreach with the broader Rastafarian community.  The primary dialogue topic was encouraging the government to legalize marijuana.

Rastafarian community representatives reported their reluctance to use marijuana for religious purposes because marijuana use was illegal and subject to punitive fines.  Rastafarians said, however, the number of targeted searches by police and immigration officers decreased during the year.  They also stated Ministry of Education regulations requiring the vaccination of schoolchildren to enter school continued to represent a barrier because Rastafarians do not believe in vaccinating their children.  Some Rastafarians said they decided to vaccinate their children so they could attend school; others chose to homeschool.  Rastafarians stated the lack of insurance coverage for traditional doctors some Rastafarians used continued to be a problem.

The government continued to consult with the Pentecostal Assemblies of the West Indies, as well as the Christian Council, comprising representatives of the Catholic Church and some Protestant denominations, on issues relevant to their communities.  It also continued its informal meetings with members of the Rastafarian community on pending legislation and policies, including recognizing marriages and issues surrounding school attendance.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Members of the Muslim community continued to report they were occasionally harassed in public spaces when they wore Islamic religious attire.  They said harassment included insulting name-calling and inappropriate questioning by members of the public.

The Catholic Church and the Evangelical Association of the Caribbean continued to hold interdenominational meetings to promote respect for religious diversity and tolerance.

The Bahamas

Executive Summary

The constitution states freedom of religion is a fundamental right; individuals have the right to practice freely the religion of their choice or to practice no religion at all.  The law prohibits discrimination based on religion.  Practice of Obeah, an Afro-Caribbean belief system with some similarities to Voodoo, is illegal.  Violators may face a sentence of three months in prison; however, according to Royal Bahamas Police Force officials, this law is inconsistently enforced.  The government continued to include Christian prayer in all significant official events.  Rastafarians said the government discriminated against them because of their use of marijuana and dreadlocks.  The government met regularly with the Bahamas Christian Council (BCC), comprising religious leaders from a wide spectrum of Christian denominations – including Baptist, Anglican, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Pentecostal, Church of God, and Brethren – to discuss societal, political, and economic issues.

There were no reports of significant societal actions affecting religious freedom.

U.S. embassy representatives met regularly with government officials, the president of the BCC, and representatives of the Muslim, Rastafarian, and Jewish communities to discuss issues of religious freedom.  Embassy representatives discussed with Jewish and Muslim groups these groups’ concerns regarding participation of their children in Christian activities offered in public schools.

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 333,000 (July 2018 estimate).  According to the 2010 census, more than 90 percent of the population professes a religion.  Of those, 70 percent is Protestant (includes Baptist 35 percent, Anglican 14 percent, Pentecostal 9 percent, Seventh-day Adventist 4 percent, Methodist 4 percent, Church of God 2 percent, and Brethren 2 percent).  Twelve percent is Roman Catholic.  Other Christians are 13 percent (includes Jehovah’s Witnesses, Greek Orthodox Christians, and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).  Five percent is listed as other, having no religion, or unspecified.  Other religious groups include Jews, Baha’is, Rastafarians, Muslims, Black Hebrew Israelites, Hindus, and Obeah, which a small number of citizens and some resident Haitians practice.

Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal Framework

The constitution provides for freedom of conscience, thought, and religion, including the right to worship and to practice one’s religion.  It forbids infringement on an individual’s freedom to choose or change one’s religion and prohibits discrimination based on belief.  Parliament may limit religious practices in the interest of defense, public safety, health, public order, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others, but there were no such actions reported during the year.  The constitution refers to “an abiding respect for Christian values” in its preamble; however, there is no state-established religious body or official religion.

The practice of Obeah, an Afro-Caribbean belief system with some similarities to Voodoo, is illegal.  Those caught practicing it or attempting to intimidate, steal, inflict disease, or restore a person to health through the practice of Obeah may face a sentence of three months in prison.  According to Royal Bahamas Police Force officials, this law is inconsistently enforced.

The publication and sale of any book, writing, or representation deemed blasphemous is punishable by up to two years in prison; however, opinions on religious issues “expressed in good faith and in decent language” are not subject to prosecution under the law.  This law is traditionally unenforced.

The law does not require religious groups to register, but they must legally incorporate to purchase land.  There are no legal provisions to encourage or discourage the formation of religious communities, which have the same taxation requirements as profitmaking companies if they incorporate.  To incorporate, religious groups follow the regulations applicable to nonprofit entities, requiring the “undertaking” of the religious organization to be “without pecuniary gain” and to maintain a building for gathering.  In accordance with VAT legislation, religious organizations seeking VAT exemptions must register with the Ministry of Financial Services, Trade and Industry, and Immigration and apply on a case-by-case basis for exemptions.

The law prohibits marijuana use, including for religious rituals.

Religion is a recognized academic subject at government schools and is included in mandatory standardized achievement and certificate tests.  Religion classes in government-supported schools focus on the study of Christian philosophy, Biblical texts, and, to a lesser extent, comparative and non-Christian religions.  Religious groups may establish private schools.  The constitution states no one shall be compelled to participate in religious instruction or observances of a religion other than his or her own.  It allows students, or their guardians in the case of minors, to decline to participate in religious education and observance in private schools.  In government schools, students may not opt out of religious education, a core part of final examinations.

The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Government Practices

The government continued to include Christian prayer in all significant official events.  It was common for government officials and members of parliament to quote religious teachings during speeches, and senior government officials in their official capacities occasionally addressed assemblies during formal religious services.

Rastafarians continued to be arrested for possessing small quantities of marijuana they used in ceremonial rituals and subjected to having their hair (locks) cut in prison.  Rastafarians stated officials required family members of Rastafarian prisoners to pay to receive a vegetarian diet while in prison.  Rastafarians also said the government discriminated against them in discussions on the legalization of marijuana for medicinal use.

In an effort to engage religious communities, which frequently comment on government social and economic policies, the government met regularly with the BCC to discuss societal, political, and economic issues.  Additionally, the government actively engaged with the Muslim community to develop opportunities for non-Muslim students to learn about Islam by having students visit the mosque to speak with local Muslim leaders.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

There were no reports of significant societal actions affecting religious freedom.

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The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future