International Religious Freedom Report 2003
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice.

There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom during the period covered by this report, and government policy continued to contribute to the generally free practice of religion.

The generally amicable relationship among religions in society contributed to religious freedom.

The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government in the context of its overall dialog and policy of promoting human rights.

Section I. Religious Demography

The country, an island state of approximately 265 square miles, has a population of approximately 90,000. Missionaries introduced Christianity into the area in the mid-19th century. According to 2002 government statistics, major religious groups include: The Roman Catholic Church (55 percent); the Kiribati Protestant Church (KPC), formerly the Congregational Church (37 percent); the Seventh-day Adventists (2 percent); the Baha'i Faith (2 percent); and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) (3 percent). Persons with no religious preference account for about 5 percent of the population.

Missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints operate a school in Tarawa and recruit among the I-Kiribati, the ethnic majority, for missionaries to work within the country and in other Pacific island nations. The Church also sponsors a number of scholarships for I-Kiribati to attend Brigham Young University in Hawaii.

Section II. Status of Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice. The Government at all levels strives to protect this right in full, and does not tolerate its abuse, either by governmental or private actors.

There is no state or politically dominant religion. The Government does not favor a particular religion, nor are there separate categories for different religions.

There are no criteria for registering religious groups, nor are there ramifications for not registering.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

Government policy and practice contributed to the generally free practice of religion.

There were no reports of religious prisoners or detainees.

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 Attitudes

Christianity, the religion of more than 90 percent of the population, is a dominant social and cultural force, but there are amicable relations among the country's religions.

Nonbelievers, who constitute a very small percentage of the residents, do not suffer discrimination. Virtually all governmental and social functions begin and end with an interdenominational Christian prayer delivered by an ordained minister, cleric, or church official.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government in its overall dialog of policy of promoting human rights.

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