The constitution and other laws and policies protect religious freedom.
The constitution’s provisions for freedom of conscience, thought, and religion have consistently been interpreted to mean that any religion may be practiced or propagated as long as it does not interfere with the freedom of others. The predominance of Christianity is recognized in the preamble of the constitution, which refers to “our noble traditions and the Christian principles that are ours.” However, there is no state religion.
The Department of Community Development, Religion, and Family Affairs has a nominal policy-making role that has largely been confined to reiterating the government’s respect for church autonomy.
In general, the government does not subsidize the practice of religion. Churches continue to run most schools and many health services, and the government provides support for these institutions. Upon independence, the government recognized that it had neither the funds nor the personnel to take over these institutions and agreed to subsidize their operation on a per pupil or per patient basis. The government also pays the salaries of national teachers and health staff. The education and health infrastructures continue to rely heavily on church-run institutions. Some schools and clinics closed periodically because they did not receive promised government support; these problems were due in part to the government’s endemic financial management problems.
Immigrants and noncitizens are free to practice their religions, and foreign missionary groups are permitted to proselytize and engage in other missionary activities. The Roman Catholic Church is the only traditional church that relies to a large extent on foreign clergy.
It is the policy of the Department of Education to set aside one hour per week for religious instruction in the public schools. Representatives of Christian churches teach the lessons, and the students attend the class operated by the church of their parents’ choice. Children whose parents do not wish them to attend the classes are excused. Members of non-Christian religious groups are not numerous, and they use family and group gatherings before and after school for religious lessons. Christian groups such as Seventh-day Adventists and Mormons also teach religious lessons in schools.
The government observes the following religious holidays as national holidays: Good Friday, Easter Monday, and Christmas.