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Diplomacy in Action

Samoa


International Religious Freedom Report 2005
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 mainly consists of two islands, has an area of 1,135 square miles, and its population is approximately 177,000. Most live on the island of Upolu, where the capital, Apia, is located. Nearly 100 percent of the population is Christian. The 2001 population and housing census revealed the following religious distribution of the population: Congregational Christian, 35 percent; Catholic, 20 percent; Methodist, 15 percent; the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), 13 percent; and Assemblies of God, 7 percent. These statistics reflect continual growth in the number and size of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Assembly of God congregations and a relative decline in the membership of the historically larger denominations. In addition, there are small congregations of other Protestant denominations such as Nazarene and Baptist. There are also members of the Baha'i Faith—the country hosts one of only seven Baha'i Houses of Worship in the world—and a few adherents to Islam. There are four theological colleges and Rhema, a bible study school that is also growing in popularity. There are no reports of avowed atheists. The distribution of church membership is reflected throughout the population, but individual villages, particularly small ones, may have only one or two of the major churches represented.

Foreign nationals and immigrants practice the same religions as native-born (Western) Samoans. There are no sizable foreign national or immigrant groups, with the exception of U.S. nationals from American Samoa.
The major denominations that are present in the country all have missionaries, as does the Baha'i Faith.

There is little or no correlation between religious differences and ethnic or political differences. Religious groups include citizens of various social and economic strata.

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 Constitution provides for the right to practice the religion of one's choice, and the Government observes and enforces these provisions. Legal protections cover discrimination or persecution by private as well as government actors, and laws are applied and enforced in a nondiscriminatory manner. Judicial remedies are accessible and effective.

The preamble to the Constitution acknowledges, "An independent State based on Christian principles and Samoan custom and traditions." Although Christianity is favored constitutionally, there is no official state religion.

There are no requirements for the recognition of a religious group or for licenses or registration. Missionaries operate freely, either as part of one of the established churches, or by conducting independent revival meetings.

The Constitution provides freedom from unwanted religious indoctrination in schools but gives each denomination or religion the right to establish its own schools; these provisions are adhered to in practice. There are both religious and public schools; the latter do not have religious instruction as part of their curriculum. Pastoral schools in most villages provide religious instruction following school hours.

Good Friday, Easter Monday, White Monday, and Christmas are national public holidays.

The Government takes steps to promote interfaith understanding by rotating ministers from various denominations who assist at government functions. Most government functions include a prayer at the opening.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

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

The Constitution grants each person the right to change religion or belief and to worship or teach religion alone or with others; however, in practice the matai (village chiefs) often choose the religious denomination of the aiga (extended family). Since 2000, there have been no reports that villages banished persons due to their practicing religion differently from that practiced by the village majority.

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.

There is strong societal pressure at the village and local level to attend church, participate in church services and activities, and support church leaders and projects financially. In some denominations, such financial contributions often total more than 30 percent of family income. A high percentage of the population attends church weekly.

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 maintains contacts with representatives of the country's various religious communities.



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