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Samoa


International Religious Freedom Report 2007
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
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The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respected this right in practice.

There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom by the Government during the period covered by this report, and government policy continued to contribute to the generally free practice of religion.

There were no reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious belief or practice.

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 1,133 square miles and a population of 186,649. There are two main islands and seven islets in the group, with the majority of the population residing on the island of Upolu, where the capital, Apia, is located. Nearly 100 percent of the population is Christian. The 2001 census revealed the following distribution of Christian groups: Congregational Christian, 34.8 percent; Roman Catholic, 19.6 percent; Methodist, 15 percent; the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), 12.7 percent; Assemblies of God, 6.6 percent; and Seventh-day Adventist, 3.5 percent. These statistics reflected continual growth in the number and size of Mormons and Assemblies of God and a relative decline in the membership of the historically larger denominations. The following groups constitute less than 5 percent of the population: Nazarene, Anglican, Congregational Church of Jesus, Worship Centre, Jehovah's Witnesses, Full Gospel, Peace Chapel, Elim Church, Voice of Christ, and Baptist. There are also members of other religions such as Islam and the Baha'i Faith-the country hosts one of only seven Baha'i Houses of Worship in the world. Although there were no official data, it is generally believed that there are also some practicing Hindus, Buddhists, and Jews in the capital city.

All religious groups are multiethnic; none is exclusively comprised of foreign nationals or native-born (Western) Samoans. There are no sizable foreign national or immigrant groups, with the exception of U.S. nationals from American Samoa. Missionaries operated freely within the country.

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

Section II. Status of Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respected this right in practice. The Government at all levels sought to protect this right in full and did not tolerate its abuse, either by governmental or private actors.

The Constitution provides for the right to choose, practice and change 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.

The preamble to the Constitution describes the country as "an independent State based on Christian principles and Samoan custom and traditions." Although Christianity is favored constitutionally and public ceremonies typically begin with a Christian prayer, there is no official state religion. In practice village chiefs often choose the religious denomination of their extended families.

There are no requirements for the recognition of a religious group or for licenses or registration.

The Constitution provides freedom from unwanted religious indoctrination in schools but gives each religious group the right to establish its own schools. There are both religious and public schools; the latter do not have religious instruction as part of their curriculum. Church-run schools in most villages provide religious instruction following school hours.

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

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

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

In February 2007 a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses attending a public high school, Vaimauga College, was rebuked by a teacher for not singing the national anthem at school assemblies because of his religious beliefs. The Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture accommodated the student's religious convictions by ruling that the student had to be present for assemblies but was not required to sing or otherwise participate.

In February 2007 the Lands and Titles Court ordered a native Samoan Seventh-day Adventist in the village of Safa'atoa Lefaga to suspend services in a church he had established on land held jointly with members of his family. The Court forbade him from holding weekly services on Saturdays (but not family evening devotional services) in his house on the family-owned property. The Court ordered that before conducting worship services, the individual must receive agreement from "some" of the family leaders or village chiefs, most of whom had opposed his request to allow services. The judgment passed by the Court in this particular case took into account the traditional practices (the Fa'a Samoa or "Samoan Way") oriented towards communal and family rights with some reference to constitutionally protected individual religious rights.

There were no reports of religious prisoners or detainees in the country.

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.

Section III. Societal Abuses and Discrimination

There were few reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious belief or practice.

The Seventh-day Adventist case in Safa'atoa Lefaga is an example of the limited tension between Fa'a Samoa (Samoan Way) and individual religious rights. Most religions, and especially Christianity, have embraced and incorporated Fa'a Samoa protocols and customs.

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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