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Palau


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 religion freedom issues with the Government in the context of its overall dialog and policy of promoting human rights.

Section I. Religious Demography

An archipelago of more than 300 islands in the Western Pacific Ocean, the country has a total land area of 188 square miles and a population of approximately 19,000 persons; 70 percent live in the temporary capital, Koror. There are 19 Christian denominations. The Roman Catholic Church is the dominant religion, and approximately 65 percent of the population are members. Other religions with a sizable membership include the Evangelical Church (with approximately 2,000 members), the Seventh-Day Adventists (with approximately 1,000), the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (about 300), and Jehovah's Witnesses (about 70). Modekngei, which embraces both pagan and Christian beliefs and is unique to the country, has about 800 adherents. There also is a small group of Bangladeshi Muslims in the country who practice their faith actively. The primarily Catholic Filipino labor force (approximately 3,100 persons) practice their faith actively. A large percentage of citizens do not practice their faith actively.

Since the arrival of Jesuit priests in the early nineteenth century, foreign missionaries have been active in the country. Some missionaries have been in the country for years and speak the language fluently. A number of groups (the Baha'i Faith, the Roman Catholic Church, the Chinese Agriculture Mission, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the Evangelical Church, the High Adventure Ministries, the Iglesia ni Cristo, Jehovah's Witnesses, the Korean Church, the Korea Presbyterian Church, the Pacific Missionary Aviation, the Palau Assembly of God, and the Seventh-Day Adventists) have missionaries in the country on proselytizing or teaching assignments. The Seventh-Day Adventist and the Evangelical Churches have missionaries teaching in their respective elementary and high schools.

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 Government does not promote or restrain religious activities; however, the Government regulates the establishment of religious organizations by requiring them to obtain charters as nonprofit organizations from the office of the Attorney General. This registration process is not protracted, and the Government did not deny any groups registration during the period covered by this report. As nonprofit organizations, these churches and missions are tax exempt.

Foreign missionaries are required to obtain a missionary permit at the office of immigration; however, there were no reports that the Government denied these permits to any group during the period covered by this report.

The Government does not require or permit religious instruction in public schools. There is government financial support for religious schools; the Government also provides small scale financial assistance to cultural organizations.

There are two religious groups with independent radio stations, the High Adventure Ministries and the Seventh-Day Adventists.

The Government recognizes Christmas as a national holiday. There is active participation by the majority of the country's religious groups in Easter and Christmas services. Even though the Government does not sponsor religious groups or promote religious activities, official ceremonies--national or state level, public and private graduations, etc.--always are conducted with a prayer to open and close the ceremonies.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

Employers have complained to the Division of Labor under the Ministry of Commerce and Trade that the religious practices of Bangladeshi Muslims interfere both with activity in the workplace and with the living arrangements of the employing families. In response the Ministry decided to deny work permits to Bangladeshi workers in the future. Workers present in the country at the time of the decision were not expelled.

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 various religious organizations are cordial and civil with each other, and the generally amicable relationship among religions in society contributed to religious freedom.

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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