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Dominican Republic


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 occupies two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola, and has an area of 18,815 square miles. Its population is estimated at 8,716,000.

The largest religious denomination is the Roman Catholic Church. Traditional Protestants, evangelical Christians (especially Assemblies of God, Church of God, Baptists and Pentecostals), Seventh-day Adventists, members of Jehovah's Witnesses, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) have a much smaller but generally growing presence. Many Catholics also practice a combination of Catholicism and Afro-Caribbean beliefs (Santer´┐Ża) or witchcraft (brujer´┐Ża), but because these practices rarely are admitted openly, the number of adherents is impossible to estimate. Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism are practiced. There are synagogues in Santo Domingo and Sosua, and there is one rabbi in the country. Although there are no mosques, a group of foreign-born Muslims gather weekly in the capital for informal prayer services.

According to Demos 97, a population survey taken in 1997 by the Instituto de Estudios de Poblacion y Desarrollo, the population was nominally 68.1 percent Roman Catholic and 11 percent Protestant (under which category the survey grouped evangelicals, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, and traditional Protestants). In the same study, 20.1 percent of the sample said they had no religion. However, evangelical Christians claim 20 to 25 percent of the population, while the Catholic Church claims 87 percent.

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.

There is no state religion. The Government signed a concordat in 1954 with the Vatican, extending to the Catholic Church special privileges not granted to other religions. These include the use of public funds to underwrite some church expenses, such as rehabilitation of church facilities, and a complete waiver of customs duties when importing goods.

Religious groups are required to register with the Government to operate legally. Such groups other than the Catholic Church must request exemptions from customs duties from the Office of the Presidency. This process can be lengthy; however, no requests for tax exemption were denied during the period covered by this report. Evangelical Protestant leaders have lobbied the Government periodically to equalize the privileges their churches receive with those granted to the Catholic Church. Currently, Roman Catholic weddings are the only religious marriage ceremonies that the Government legally recognizes, although civil unions are legal as well.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

Government policy and practice contributed to the generally free practice of religion. The National Police strongly encouraged its members to attend Catholic Mass, but they are allowed to practice their own beliefs. The country's Catholic Cardinal is the Army Chaplain for the Armed Forces and the Police, and holds the rank of Major General. There are no chaplains that represent any other religious group.

A 2000 law required that the Bible be read in public schools, but it is not enforced. Private schools are not obliged to include Bible reading among their weekly activities.

Foreign missionaries are not subject to special restrictions. There were no reports that the Government discriminated against missionaries of any religious affiliation.

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. No religious group complained of discrimination during the reporting period.

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.



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