The constitution provides for freedom of conscience and of religious belief and observance, including worship. It recognizes the existence of basic fundamental human rights and freedoms without discrimination by reason of religion.
The law prohibits acts of sedition and seditious intent, defined as engendering or promoting feelings of ill will towards, hostility to, or contempt for any class of inhabitants, including on the basis of religion.
A fine of up to 1,000 Trinidad and Tobago dollars (TT) ($156) may be levied for expressions of hatred directed specifically against a person’s religion, including any “riotous, violent, indecent, or disorderly behavior in any place of divine worship,” or attacks, ridicule, or vilification of another person’s religion in a manner likely to provoke a breach of the peace.
Judicial review is available to those who claim to be victims of religious discrimination. An anti-blasphemy law is not enforced.
To receive tax-exempt donations or gifts of land, or to perform marriages, religious groups must register with the government, which requires them to demonstrate they are nonprofit organizations. To register, groups must be in operation for at least one year, and must submit a request for charitable status to the Ministry of Finance and the Economy. The request must include a certificate or articles of incorporation, the constitution and bylaws of the organization, and the most recently audited financial statements. Religious groups have the same rights and obligations as most legal entities, regardless of their registration status. They may, for example, own land and hire employees, and are likewise liable for property taxes and government-mandated employee benefits.
The government permits religious instruction in public schools, allocating time each week during which any religious group with an adherent in the school may provide an instructor at the parents’ request. Attendance at these classes is voluntary, and the religious groups represented are diverse. The law states no persons shall be refused admission to any public school on account of their religious beliefs, and no child shall be required to attend any religious observance or receive instruction in religious subjects as a condition of admission or continued attendance in a public school. While parents may enroll their children in religiously affiliated private schools as an alternative to public education, the law does not permit homeschooling.
Missionaries must meet standard requirements for entry visas and must represent a registered religious group. Permits are valid for a maximum period of three years, at a cost of TT 500 ($78) per year. Missionaries may not remain longer than three years per visit, but may re enter after a year’s absence.