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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 as part of its overall policy to promote human rights.

Section I. Religious Demography

The country, which consists of 9 inhabited islands, has a total area of 1,557 square miles,and itspopulation is approximately 458,000 according to the country's National Statistics Institute. The overwhelming majority, more than 85 percent of the population, is at least nominally Roman Catholic according to an informal poll taken by local churches. The largest Protestant denomination is the Church of the Nazarene. Other churches include the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), the Assemblies of God, the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, and various other Pentecostal and evangelical groups. There also are small Muslim and Baha'i communities. The number of atheists in the country is estimated at less than 1 percent.

There is no association between religious differences and ethnic or political affiliations; however, it generally is understood that the Roman Catholic hierarchy is sympathetic to the Movement for Democracy (MPD) party, which ruled the country from 1991 to 2001. While many Catholics once were hostile toward the Party for the Independence of Cape Verde (PAICV), which again became the governing party in 2001, some 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 and the United States.

Section II. Status of Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

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

Violation of religious freedom is a crime subject to a penalty of between 2 and 8 years' imprisonment.

There is no state religion. The Constitution provides for the separation of church and state and prohibits the State from imposing any religious beliefs and practices.

It generally is recognized that the Catholic Church enjoys a privileged status in national life. For example, the Government provides the Catholic Church with free television broadcast time for religious services. Also, the Government observes Christian holy days, such as Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, Easter, All Saints Day, and Christmas, as official holidays. Furthermore, each municipality has a holiday to honor its patron saint. The Government does not observe any other religious holidays.

The Constitution provides for freedom of association. All associations, whether religious or secular, must register with the Ministry of Justice to be recognized as legal entities.

Registration is mandatory under the Constitution and the country's Law of Associations. The purpose of mandatory registration is for the government to keep track of and discourage the formation of any possible illegal associations. The Constitution states that associations cannot have illegal objectives or be involved in illegal activities. For example, it is illegal for a group to organize for the purpose of persecuting others. There are no special incentives for registering an association. Failure to register has not previously resulted in penalty or prosecution. One disadvantage of not registering is the inability of unregistered groups to apply for government or private loans and benefits as an association.

To register, a religious group must submit a copy of its charter and statutes, signed by the members of the group, to the Minister of Justice. The Constitution sets forth the criteria for all associations, including religious ones, and states that the association may not be military or armed; may not be aimed at promoting violence, racism, xenophobia, or dictatorship; and may not be in violation of the penal law. Failure to register with the Ministry of Justice does not result in any restriction on religious belief or practice.

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.

Abuses by Terrorist Organizations

There were no reported abuses targeted at specific religions by terrorists organizations during the period covered by this report.

Section III. Societal Attitudes

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

In 1999 four Adventists were accused of desecration of a Catholic Church on Boa Vista Island. The case initially was tried and dismissed in the lower court; however, on the Government's appeal, the Supreme Court ruled that the case should be retried on the grounds that pertinent evidence was not considered in the first trial. The case was retried by the lower court and was once again dismissed. Pursuant to a second appeal, the case was referred to the Supreme Court where it is currently awaiting a decision.

The 2001 trial of four individuals of the "Sao Domingos Group," who were accused of desecrating a Catholic Church in 1996, is still pending. There have been no new reports of desecration since 2000.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights. The U.S. Embassy's dialogue with the Government focused on the importance of religious freedom in an open society and the need to maintain the present levels of religious tolerance.



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