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Jamaica


International Religious Freedom Report
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
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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. Members of the Rastafarian community have complained that law enforcement officials unfairly target them; however, it is not clear whether such complaints reflect discrimination on the basis of religious belief or are due to the group's illegal use of marijuana, which is used as part of Rastafarian religious practice.

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 has a total area of 4,243 square miles and its population is approximately 2,652,700.

According to official government statistics compiled during the 1991 census (the latest available figures), 21 percent of the population identify themselves as members of the Church of God, 9 percent as Seventh-Day Adventists, 9 percent as Baptist,

8 percent as Pentecostal, 6 percent as Anglican, 4 percent as Roman Catholic, 3 percent as United Church, 3 percent as Methodist, 2 percent as members of Jehovah's Witnesses,

1 percent as Moravian, 1 percent as Bretheren, 1 percent unstated, and 9 percent as "other." (The category "other" includes Hindus, Jews, and Rastafarians.) Of those surveyed,

24 percent stated that they had no religious affiliation. The majority of those who reported no religion were children.

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. There is no state or dominant religion. However, Rastafarianism is not a recognized religion under the law.

Legal recognition of a religion is facilitated by an act of Parliament, which can act freely to recognize a religious group. Recognized religious groups receive tax-exempt status and other attendant rights, such as the right of prison visits by clergy. In 1983 Rastafarians unsuccessfully lobbied for recognition by Parliament. In December 2000, the Public Defender's Office (newly created to deal with cases for individuals who have had their constitutional rights violated) said that it would bring a case to the Constitutional Court to gain government recognition of Rastafarianism as a religion; however, it had not yet done so as of June 30, 2001. The Public Defender's Office believes that the court's recognition that Rastafarianism fills several criteria for a religion may help the group gain recognition and various rights.

There are religious schools; they are not subject to any special restrictions and do not receive any special treatment from the Government. Foreign missionaries are subject to no restrictions other than the same immigration laws that govern other foreign visitors.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

Government policy and practice contributed to the generally unrestricted practice of religion; however, members of the Rastafarian community have complained that law enforcement officials unfairly target them.

Abuses of Religious Freedom

Members of the Rastafarian community have complained that law enforcement officials unfairly target them; however, it is not clear whether such complaints reflect discrimination on the basis of religious belief or are due to the group's illegal use of marijuana, which is used as part of Rastafarian religious practice. It is alleged that the police force Rastafarian detainees to cut their hair and surreptitiously give them food that they are forbidden to eat. Rastafarians have no right to prison visits by Rastafarian clergy.

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 Government's refusal to allow such citizens to be returned to the United States.

Section III. Societal Attitudes

The country has a well-established tradition of religious tolerance and diversity. Relations among the various religious communities are generally amicable. However, members of the Rastafarian community reported isolated incidents of discrimination against them in schools and the workplace.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy

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



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