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Marshall Islands


International Religious Freedom Report 2008
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The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and other laws and policies contributed to the generally free practice of religion.

The Government generally respected religious freedom in practice. There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom by the Government during the period covered by this report.

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

The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom with the Government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights.

Section I. Religious Demography

The country is an archipelago with an area of 70 square miles and a population of 53,200. Major religious groups include the United Church of Christ (formerly Congregational), with 54.8 percent of the population; the Assemblies of God, 25.8 percent; and the Roman Catholic Church, 8.4 percent. Also represented are Bukot Non Jesus (also known as Assembly of God Part Two), 2.8 percent; the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), 2.1 percent; Seventh-day Adventists, 0.9 percent; Baptist, 0.8 percent; Full Gospel, 0.7 percent; and the Baha'i Faith, 0.6 percent. Nonreligious persons and persons who did not indicate any religious affiliation account for a small percentage of the population. The Jehovah's Witnesses were believed to have a few hundred practitioners, Jews less than 20, and Ahmadiyya Muslims fewer than 10.

Section II. Status of Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and other laws and policies contributed to the generally free practice of religion. The law at all levels protects this right in full against abuse, either by governmental or private actors. There is no state religion.

The Government observes Good Friday, Gospel Day, and Christmas as national holidays.

There are no criteria for registering religious groups, nor are there consequences for not registering.

There is no religious education in public schools, and there are no opening or closing prayers during the school day. However, most extracurricular school events begin and end with an interdenominational Christian prayer.

In September 2007 the Parliament briefly debated the possibility of altering the Constitution to define what would qualify as a religion and thus be protected. The discussion was prompted by concern about the spread of Islam into the Pacific. A small group of Senators characterized Islam as an "organization that causes terror" or stated their fears that Islam would "come and ruin" the country. An American missionary testifying in favor of the measure stated, "Islam is a violent religion whose goal is the conquest of the world."

After the hearings, lay members of the community spoke out against the measure, primarily through letters and interviews with the local newspaper, expressing their support for the values of religious tolerance. Since then no action has been taken to implement a government definition of religion.

Foreign missionaries are present and operate freely. Religious schools are operated by the Roman Catholic Church, United Church of Christ, Assemblies of God, Seventh-day Adventist Church, Bukot Non Jesus, and the Baptist Church.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

The Government generally respected religious freedom in practice. There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom by the Government during the period covered by this report.

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 no reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice. Christianity is the dominant social and cultural force. Governmental and social functions typically begin and end with an interdenominational Christian prayer delivered by an ordained minister or church official.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. Embassy discusses religious freedom with the Government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights.




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