International Religious Freedom Report 2008

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and other laws and policies contributed to the generally free practice of religion.

The Government generally respected religious freedom in practice. There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom by the Government during the period covered by this report.

There were no reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice.

The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom with the Government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights.

Section I. Religious Demography

The country is an archipelago with an area of 10,985 square miles and a population of 552,000. Approximately 92 percent of the population is affiliated with one of the following Christian churches: Anglican, 35 percent; Roman Catholic, 19 percent; South Seas Evangelical, 17 percent; Methodist, 11 percent; and Seventh-day Adventist, 10 percent. The Solomon Islands Christian Association (SICA) dominates most religious activities. An estimated 5 percent of the population, consisting primarily of the Kwaio community on the island of Malaita, practice indigenous animistic religions. Groups that together constitute less than 5 percent of the population include Islam, the Baha'i Faith, Jehovah's Witnesses, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), Unification Church, and indigenous churches that have broken away from the major Christian denominations. There are believed to be members of other religious groups within the foreign community who were free to practice, but they are not known to proselytize or hold public religious ceremonies. According to the most recent reports, there are approximately 350 Muslims scattered in small numbers around Honiara, Malaita and Rusell Island. Two branches are represented in Honiara. Ahmadiyya is based at Kolaridge, and Sunni is based at Mbokonavera.

Section II. Status of Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and other laws and policies contributed to the generally free practice of religion. The law at all levels protects this right in full against abuse, either by governmental or private actors.

The Department of Home Affairs has a nominal policymaking role concerning religion. It characterized its role as keeping a balance between constitutionally protected rights of religious freedom, free speech, and free expression on the one hand, and maintaining public order on the other. All religious institutions are required to register with the Government, and there were no reports that registration was denied to any group. There are no organized meetings with the Government on religious freedom issues.

In general the Government does not subsidize religion. However, several schools and health services were built and continue to be operated by religious organizations. There are schools sponsored by the Catholic Church, the Church of Melanesia (Anglican), the United Church (Methodist), the South Seas Evangelical Church, and the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Upon independence, the Government recognized that it had neither the funds nor the personnel to take over these institutions and agreed instead to subsidize their operations.

The public school curriculum includes an hour of daily religious instruction, the content of which is agreed upon by the Christian churches. Students whose parents do not wish them to attend the class are excused. The Government subsidizes church schools only if they align their curriculums with governmental criteria. Although non-Christian religious instruction may be taught in the schools for practitioners of those religions, there was no such instruction during the period covered by this report. Government oaths of office are taken customarily on the Bible. The Constitution forbids religious tests for public office.

Western missionaries representing several denominations brought Christianity to the country in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Some foreign missionaries continue to work in the country. Except for the Catholic Church, whose clergy is approximately 30 percent foreign, the clergy of the established churches is nearly entirely indigenous.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

The Government generally respected religious freedom in practice. There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom by the Government during the period covered by this report.

There were no reports of religious prisoners or detainees in the country.

Forced Religious Conversion

There were no reports of forced religious conversion, including of minor U.S. citizens who had been abducted or illegally removed from the United States, or of the refusal to allow such citizens to be returned to the United States.

Section III. Societal Abuses and Discrimination

There were no reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice. Joint religious activities, such as religious representation at national events, were organized through the SICA, which is composed of the five major churches of the country. In previous years, decisions made by some villages to mandate only Sunday worship for Christians have marginalized Seventh-day Adventists. The society in general, however, is tolerant of different religious beliefs and activities.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. Government, through the U.S. Embassy in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea and its consular agency office in the Solomon Islands, discusses religious freedom with the Government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights. Meetings were held with the Catholic Archbishop, the Assemblies of God Church Superintendant, and the Representative for the Evangelical Churches.

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