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 law at all levels protects this right in full against abuse, either by governmental or private actors.

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 has an area of 238 square miles and a population of 165,000. Christianity is the dominant religion. According to the 2001 population and housing census, Roman Catholics account for approximately 67 percent of the population. The second largest group is Seventh-day Adventists, comprising almost 9 percent of the population, followed by Pentecostals, with nearly 6 percent. Evangelicals and Anglicans each account for approximately 2 percent of the population, while Baptists and Methodists represent smaller numbers.

The total number of non-Christians is very small. There are an estimated 350 Muslims; while some are immigrants from other Caribbean countries, the Middle East, and South Asia, most Muslims are local converts. Other religious groups include Baha'is and Rastafarians; according to the 2001 census, Rastafarians numbered approximately 3,500 members.

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 Government is secular and does not interfere with an individual's right to worship. The Government maintains a close relationship with the Christian Council, an organization comprised of the Catholic Church and mainline Protestant denominations.

The Government observes Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Whit Monday, and Christmas as national holidays.

The Government continued revising its registration policy for religious groups, which was pending at the end of the reporting period. The Government suspended all applications for formal registration as a religious group until completion of this process. This moratorium affected the Muslim community, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), and approximately 10 other organizations during this period. Official recognition allows a religious organization to have duty-free import privileges and the right to register births, deaths, and marriages within the community. Any citizen can register life events with the Government; however, registration of a religious group allows its officials to act in this capacity as well. While awaiting registration, religious groups had the freedom to meet and worship according to their beliefs.

The public school curriculum includes Christian education; however, non-Christian students are not required to participate. There also are private schools sponsored by both the Catholic and Anglican Churches.

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.

Rastafarians complained that the use of marijuana, integral to their religious rituals, was illegal.

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.

Some tension existed between the historically dominant Catholic Church and the rapidly growing evangelical groups, some of whom allegedly criticized the Catholic Church during their proselytizing efforts.

In April 2006 a man who was accused of attempting to kill the Eastern Caribbean's Catholic Archbishop was returned to custody. At the end of the period covered by this report, the preliminary inquiry had been completed, but the accused was still awaiting trial in the High Court.

Although Rastafarian leaders acknowledged that intolerance was gradually decreasing, they complained of discrimination, especially in hiring and in schools.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy

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

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