The constitution provides for freedom of religion, including the freedom to worship and to change religion. It prohibits discrimination based on belief. A colonial-era law criminalizing the practices of Obeah and Myalism remains in effect, but it is not enforced. Rastafarians stated acceptance of their views and practices continued to improve markedly, although incidents of discrimination and profiling by police continued to occur. Rastafarians continued to state their opposition to the state-mandated immunization of children as a prerequisite to register and attend school; however, Rastafarian sources said most Rastafarian students could obtain a doctor’s note excusing them from the requirement. In April Prime Minister Andrew Holness officially apologized to Rastafarians on behalf of the government for a 1963 police operation that resulted in the deaths of at least three Rastafarians and the imprisonment of many others. He also announced the creation of a trust fund to benefit survivors and designated land for a Rastafarian heritage site.
Seventh-day Adventists stated their observance of a Saturday Sabbath continued to result in discrimination by some employers, despite a “flexi-work week” law passed by parliament in 2014 granting employees the right to negotiate working hours. Rastafarians said elements of their religious observances, such as wearing dreadlocks and smoking marijuana, continued to present barriers in private and public sector employment and professional advancement. Local media outlets continued to provide a forum for religious dialogue open to participants from all religious groups. The nongovernmental organization (NGO) Jamaica Council for Interfaith Fellowship, which includes representatives from Christian, Rastafarian, Hindu, Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (Unification Church), Bahai, Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist organizations, held events to educate the public about religious tolerance and diversity.
U.S. embassy officials met regularly with leaders of religious groups, including Christians, Muslims, Jews, and Rastafarians. U.S. embassy officials engaged senior Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade officials in August regarding the status of religious freedom in the country and in September to discuss the two governments’ respective positions pertaining to religious freedom issues in multilateral institutions. The embassy discussed the importance of religious tolerance and respect for diversity, citizen security, and fundamental human rights associated with religious freedom, including freedom of expression and assembly. The Ambassador and other embassy officials promoted religious tolerance in official remarks.