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Dominica


International Religious Freedom Report 2004
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 has an area of 291 square miles, and its population is approximately 70,000. Christianity is the dominant religion, and the Roman Catholic faith claims about 61 percent of the population. In recent years, many individuals have joined Evangelical churches. According to the 2001 Population and Housing Census, Evangelical churches currently represent 18 percent of the population. Seventh-day Adventists and Methodists represent the next largest denominations, accounting for 6 percent and 3.7 percent of the population respectively.

Minority religions and denominations, which range in number from 1.6 percent to 0.2 percent of the population, include Rastafarianism, members of Jehovah's Witnesses, Anglicans, and Muslims. According to the census, 1.4 percent of the population is identified as adhering to "other" religions, including Baptist, Nazarian, Church of Christ, Brethren Christian, and the Baha'i faith. Six percent of the population is identified as having no religion. The Muslim community, which consists mostly of foreign students, is financing construction of a mosque in Portsmouth.

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; however, the Government maintains a close relationship with the Christian churches. Christian holy days, such as Good Friday, Whit Monday, and Christmas are national holidays. In addition during the reporting period, the Government declared National Repentance and Dedication Day as a new public holiday to be celebrated annually on April 8. The holiday was proposed by the Dominica Association of Evangelical Churches and accepted by the Government, which recognized "the need for a certain level of spiritual consciousness among Dominicans and of the need to work and pray together for Dominica's prosperity."

The public school curriculum includes Christian education, and students are led in prayer during morning assembly. Non-Christian students are not required to participate. There are Catholic, Methodist, and Seventh-day Adventist schools, and the Government subsidizes teachers' salaries at religiously affiliated schools.

All religious organizations are required to register with the Government. Organizations must register their buildings through an application to the government registrar, and then must register as non-profit organizations with the Attorney General. Non-profit status is outlined in the Companies Act 21 of 1994. Any organization denied permission to register by the Attorney General has the right to apply for judicial review.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

Government policy and practice contributed to the generally free practice of religion.

In one instance, a church claimed to have applied for permission in September 2003 to operate and proselytize, but the request had not yet been approved by the Attorney General's office. Such recognition affects a church's status as a nonprofit organization, its ability to hold public meetings, as well as the work status of the church's missionaries. The church has pursued the matter through legal channels; however, there was no conclusion by the end of the reporting period. According to the church's law firm, the church wrote letters on the matter and met with the Attorney General in April, seeking to rebut unfavorable reports concerning the church that the Attorney General had received from outside sources, including the police.

There were no reports of religious prisoners or detainees.

Forced Religious Conversion

There were no reports of forced religious conversion, including of minor United States 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 Dominica Christian Council and the Dominica Association of Evangelical churches conduct activities to promote peace, greater mutual understanding, and tolerance among adherents of different denominations within the Christian faith.

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 discusses religious freedom issues with local groups and other organizations.



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