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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

St. Vincent and the Grenadines

International Religious Freedom Report 2002
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 to 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 island of St. Vincent and a chain of smaller islands, the Grenadines, have a total area of 150 square miles, and the country's population is approximately 112,000. The dominant religion is Christianity (Anglican, Seventh-Day Adventist, Roman Catholic, Methodist, and Pentecostal). The minority religions are Rastafarianism, the Baha'i Faith, and Islam.

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.

The Government is secular and does not interfere with an individual's right to worship. Christian holy days such as Good Friday, Easter, Whit Monday, and Christmas are national holidays. The Government does not take any particular steps to promote interfaith understanding.

The Constitution provides for equal treatment under the law regardless of religion, and the Government generally adheres to this provision in practice.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

Government policy and practice contributed to the generally free practice of religion. Members of the Rastafarian community continue to complain that law enforcement officials unfairly target them; however, it is not clear whether such complaints reflect discrimination on the basis of religious belief by authorities or simply enforcement of laws against the possession and use of marijuana, which is used as part of Rastafarian religious practice. Rastafarians also have complained to the press that when police arrest them, their dreadlocks are cut before their court hearing. However, according to prison officials, the law states that a person's hair or beard may not be cut unless a determination is made by a doctor that this is necessary on the basis of health or security, and that prison officials strictly follow that law. Lice are occasionally a concern and, subject to a doctor's recommendation, hair may be cut. According to officials, this regulation has been in existence for more than 10 years.

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

Relations between the various religious communities are generally amicable. However, some members of society do not regard Rastafarianism favorably because of its popular association with drug use. The Christian Council of Churches conducts activities to promote greater mutual understanding and tolerance among adherents of different denominations within the Christian faith.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. Embassy discusses religious freedom with the Government, local groups, and other organizations in the context of its overall dialog and policy of promoting human rights.


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