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 has a land area of 170 square miles, and its population is approximately 76,000. A significant proportion of the population is comprised of citizens of other Caribbean nations, and there is a growing percentage of citizens from China. The dominant religion is Christianity, and the Antigua Christian Council represents the religious beliefs practiced by slightly over 70 percent of the population. The members are the Anglican, Methodist, Moravian and Roman Catholic churches, and the Salvation Army. The Anglican Church is by far the largest, accounting for an estimated 35 percent of the population. The Methodist and Moravian churches account for approximately 15 percent each, while the Catholic Church estimates that its membership is 6 percent of the population. Religious freedom for others is not restricted, and evangelical churches, along with several small, independent churches, have flourished in recent years. Jehovah's Witnesses have approximately 400 members. The United Evangelical Association, an organization that includes most independent evangelical churches, claims an estimated 25 percent of the population. Recently more than 200 ministers from across the country met with Prime Minister Spencer to provide their suggestions for the Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs.
The total number of non-Christians is small. They include adherents of Islam; the Baha'i faith, with approximately 50 members; and Rastafarianism, with an estimated 1,000 to 1,500 adherents.
Section II. Status of Religious Freedom
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. However, the Government maintains a close relationship with the Antigua Christian Council. The Prime Minister recently assumed responsibility for the Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs. This previously obscure portfolio within the Ministry of Home Affairs was established upon independence in 1981. Under the new administration, the Prime Minister has raised this portfolio to prominence, indicating that his government "strongly advocates the involvement of the Christian community in every aspect of nation building and believes that the church and its leaders have a meaningful role to play." The Prime Minister is developing a new mission statement for the Ministry, which is expected to be released in the fall. Until now, the role of the Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs has been to coordinate and facilitate greater interaction between churches, religious organizations, and the Government, and to facilitate the free movement of pastors into the country.
The Christian holy days of Good Friday, Easter Monday, Whit Monday and Christmas are national holidays.
Currently, ministers of religion are prohibited constitutionally from running for elected office. This is being examined by the new government, which is considering proposing an amendment to allow them to run.
Religious groups are not required to register with the Government; however, groups must incorporate in order to own property. Tax and duty-free concessions, especially for building and development, are available for groups that register.
Public schools are secular; religious education is not part of their curriculum.
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 terrorist organizations during the period covered by this report.
Section III. Societal Attitudes
The generally amicable relationship among religions in society contributed to religious freedom. The Antigua Christian Council conducts activities to promote greater mutual understanding and tolerance among adherents of different denominations within the Christian faith. The council, along with a number of other churches, successfully promoted peace during the recent national elections. Prior to voting on March 23, the council prepared a "Code of Ethics," which denounced violence, incitement to violence, name-calling, and character assassinations; the code was signed by every candidate.
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 also discussed these issues with local religious groups.