Saint Lucia

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
Report
May 29, 2018

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Executive SummaryShare    

The constitution provides for freedom of religion as well as the right to change, manifest, and propagate the religion of one’s choice. Starting in January the government officially recognized marriages conducted under Rastafarian rites. Rastafarians said they continued to be reluctant to use marijuana for religious purposes because the government prohibited it and imposed fines for any use. The police stated that the number of Rastafarians arrested for possession of small quantities of marijuana significantly declined during the year. Rastafarians stated they continued to face discrimination in the school system because the Ministry of Education required vaccinations for all children attending school. Government officials and Rastafarian community members said some Rastafarian families decided to vaccinate their children or to homeschool.

According to the Islamic Association, some male and female members of the Muslim community said individuals occasionally harassed them when they wore head coverings and clothing identifying them as Muslim. The Catholic Church and the Evangelical Association of the Caribbean continued to hold interfaith meetings to promote respect for religious diversity and tolerance.

U.S. embassy officials raised the Rastafarian community’s general perception that police and education officials discriminated against them with government officials from the Ministry of Equity, Social Justice, Empowerment, Youth Development, Sports, and Local Government. Embassy officials also discussed with representatives from the ministry what Rastafarians said was government discrimination against them, including requiring immunizations for children to enter school and the government’s nonrecognition of Rastafarian traditional doctors. Embassy officials met jointly with government officials and leaders of the Rastafarian community to discuss cases of discrimination and the importance of freedom of religious expression. The embassy employed social media to spread messages about religious freedom and tolerance in the Eastern Caribbean, including for the November 16 International Day for Tolerance.

Section I. Religious DemographyShare    

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 165,000 (July 2017 estimate). The 2010 Population and Housing Census, the latest available, reports Roman Catholics account for 61.1 percent of the population; Seventh-day Adventists, 10.4 percent; Pentecostals, 8.8 percent; evangelical Christians, 7.2 percent; Baptists, 2.1 percent; and Rastafarians, 2 percent. Other groups, together constituting less than 2 percent of the population, include Anglicans, members of the Church of God, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Methodists, Muslims, Hindus, and Bahais. Nearly 6 percent of the population claims no religious affiliation. According to a televised interview on local media with the Islamic Association of St. Lucia, approximately 400 Muslims, mainly Sunni, live in the country.

Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious FreedomShare    

Legal Framework

The constitution states “a person shall not be hindered in the enjoyment of” freedom of conscience, including of thought and religion, and in the manifestation and propagation of religion or belief through practice, worship, teaching, and observance. It protects individuals’ rights to change their religion and prohibits religious instruction without consent in schools, prisons, and military service. An antiblasphemy law is not enforced.

The government requires religious groups to register with the Ministry of Equity, Social Justice, Empowerment, Youth Development, Sports, and Local Government if their membership exceeds 250 individuals. To register, groups must provide contact information, organization establishment date and history, declaration of belief, number of members, location of meeting place, and income source. The government “incorporates” registered groups, which are eligible to receive associated benefits, while it treats unregistered groups as for-profit organizations for taxation purposes. After the religious group registers with the ministry, it may apply for concessions, including duty-free import privileges and exemption from some labor requirements.

Ministry of Education regulations require the vaccination of all schoolchildren, regardless of religious beliefs, before they enter public or private school. The public school curriculum includes religious studies; the Ministry of Education does not require students to participate in these classes. The classes familiarize students with the core beliefs of world religions, rather than promoting the adoption of any particular faith. The constitution grants religious groups the right to establish and maintain schools and provide religious instruction at their own expense. The Catholic, Seventh-day Adventist, and Anglican Churches all sponsor private schools, where they teach their respective religions to their students. The government provides approximately 50 percent of the funding for these schools. All students may attend private religious schools regardless of belief or nonbelief.

The government’s registration policy defines the process for missionary work and labor permits. Immigration authorities grant work permits for individuals entering the country to conduct missionary work. As long as an individual is law abiding, there are no restrictions on any category of foreign missionaries.

The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Government Practices

Officials from the Ministry of Equity, Social Justice, Empowerment, Youth Development, Sports, and Local Government stated they engaged in constructive dialogue and outreach with the Rastafarian community. The ministry said it did not receive formal complaints from other religious groups.

In January the government approved the Rastafarian Nyahbinghi House to conduct marriages under Rastafarian rites, thereby legitimizing Rastafarian children under the law and granting them inheritance rights.

Rastafarians stated the government’s prohibition of marijuana and accompanying fines for its use made members of the Rastafarian community reluctant to use marijuana, thereby preventing them from carrying out some of their religious practices. The police stated that the number of Rastafarians arrested for possession of small quantities of marijuana significantly declined during the year, although the police did not provide specific numbers of arrests made. Rastafarians also stated that Ministry of Education regulations requiring the vaccination of schoolchildren to enter school was a problem because Rastafarians do not believe in vaccinating their children. Some Rastafarians said they decided to vaccinate their children so they could attend school. Others chose to homeschool.

The government regularly consulted with the Christian Council, comprising representatives of the Catholic Church and some Protestant denominations, on issues of pending legislation or policies. It also consulted with members of the Rastafarian community on pending legislation and policies, including recognizing marriages and issues surrounding school attendance.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious FreedomShare    

Members of the Muslim community reported they were occasionally harassed in public spaces when they wore Muslim religious attire. Harassment included name calling and inappropriate questioning by members of the public.

The Catholic Church and the Evangelical Association of the Caribbean continued to hold interfaith meetings to promote respect for religious diversity and tolerance.

The national and local governments celebrated Indian and Hindu heritage during the annual October heritage month. During the commemoration, the national and local governments recognized the presence of the Indian/Hindu community on the island since the 19th century, attending celebrations and providing some financial support.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy and EngagementShare    

U.S. embassy officials raised with government officials from the Ministry of Equity, Social Justice, Empowerment, Youth Development, Sports, and Local Government the Rastafarian community’s general perception that police and education officials discriminated against them.

Embassy officials engaged with religious group leaders and civil society, including with the leadership of the Rastafarian community, the Evangelical Association of the Caribbean, the Catholic Church; gender-based nongovernmental organizations, and the Red Cross, on the importance of promoting freedom of religious expression and combating discrimination. The religious groups and civil society organizations said they were collaborating to further social dialogue and conduct outreach programs in the community that addressed freedom of religious expression, tolerance, and discrimination. The embassy employed social media such as Facebook to spread messages about the value of religious tolerance in the Eastern Caribbean, including for the November 16 International Day for Tolerance.