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Diplomacy in Action

Cape Verde


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, 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, which consists of nine inhabited islands, has a total land area of 1,557 square miles and is situated in the Atlantic Ocean some 280 miles from the most westerly point of the African mainland. The population is estimated at 480,000. The overwhelming majority (over 90 percent) of the population are at least nominally Roman Catholic. The largest Protestant denomination is the Church of the Nazarene. Other Christian churches include the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the Assembly of God, and various other Pentecostal and evangelical groups. There are also small Muslim and Baha'i communities. There is no information available regarding the number of atheists in the country.

There is no association between religious differences and ethnic or political affiliations; however, it generally is understood that the Roman Catholic hierarchy in the country is sympathetic to the Movement for Democracy (MPD) party, which formerly ruled the country. While many Catholics once were hostile toward the Party for the Independence of Cape Verde (PAICV), which became the governing party in 2001, they have become supporters of the PAICV due to conflict within the MPD party and dissatisfaction over the MPD's performance.

There are some foreign missionary groups operating in the country, including evangelical groups from Brazil.

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 generally protects this right in full, and does not tolerate its abuse, either by governmental or private actors. The Constitution also provides for the separation of church and state and prohibits the State from imposing any religious beliefs and practices. There is no state religion.

To be recognized as legal entities by the Government, religious groups (as well as other organized groups of citizens) must register with the Ministry of Justice; however, failure to do so does not result in any restriction on religious belief or practice.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

It generally is recognized that the Catholic majority enjoys a privileged status in national life. For example, the Government provides the Catholic Church with free television broadcast time for religious services and observes its holy days as official holidays.

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

There are generally amicable relations between the various religious communities.

More than 20 cases involving the desecration of Catholic churches have been reported to the police over the years. While some cases date from 1975, after 1990 the rate of incidence increased; however, in contrast to previous years, there were no incidents during the period covered by this report. The persons responsible for the desecrations never were identified, and the topic has remained a controversial electoral issue since the MPD accused supporters of the main opposition party PAICV of involvement in the crimes; however, the courts have dismissed every formal accusation that has been brought against PAICV members, usually for lack of evidence. In August 1999, the Attorney General rejected a local prosecutor's dismissal of the case against the four individuals of the "S. Domingos Group," who were accused of desecrating a Catholic church in 1996, and no further action was taken during the period covered by this report.

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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